Now before you get mad, please hear me out!

Why is it do you think, that treating employees respectfully and as human beings is such a challenge?

The success and sustainability of your organisation is dependent on the performance of your employees. Dependent on their engagement with your organisation; with each other as they perform their duties; their motivation and job satisfaction and dependent on them feeling valued and trusted to do their job. Add to this, their understanding of where your organisation is headed and how they contribute to achieving your business goals.  Do they work collaboratively as part of a team or in silos?  Can they speak freely, question the status quo and give honest and direct feedback without fear, or must they conform to ‘what they have been told to do?’

Your answers to the questions above will give an indication of the culture in your organisation.  So what do we mean by culture?  While there are some wonderful definitions of this, my own take on it is this:

“Company culture is the soul of the organisation. The living breathing epicenter of respect, trust, empathy, inclusiveness, integrity and accountability. Where people are put before profit, process and procedure. The driving force that develops people to be their very best version of themselves and which is the living embodiment of the collective values of both the organisation and its people.”

There will always be challenges and issues when managing people and their emotions, but in order for you to deal with them respectfully, there needs to be an absolute benchmark in terms of acceptable behaviour. This comes from your culture.

When you find yourself managing high levels of employee stress, your staff not feeling valued, being constantly and consistently overwhelmed,  feeling they are treated like ‘cogs in a wheel’, a resource to be used (and sadly, at times) abused – how do you feel?  Are you yourself under so much pressure to deliver the tangible results, that you ‘don’t have time’ to find out the cause of your employees increasing disengagement, poor morale and for so many, ultimate burnout?  Do you rush to apply a ‘sticky plaster’ to the symptom without making sure it doesn’t happen again or get worse?

Is part of the ‘sticky plaster’ approach in your organisation, an Employee Wellness program? 

I absolutely acknowledge that in this world of renewed compliance, the avalanche of deadlines and cut-off times and continuously shrinking budgets and staffing levels, the wellbeing of your employees is not always center-stage.  But, it really must be!  Your employees are the mainstay of your organisation, the people who deliver your results and on whom you rely.

Employee Wellness programs first came to prominence around the end of the 20th century.  Their purpose being to improve employees health and wellbeing, improve their morale, motivation, productivity and ultimately their overall quality of life.  Effective wellness programs can and have helped reduce sick days and leaves of absence through stress or illness, all of which ultimately reduce the operating costs of the organisation.  The supports offered vary from stress management seminars, massages, yoga and Pilates classes, increased provision of healthy food in cafeteria menus, access to an in-house gym etc.  Additionally some organisations provide support from counselors through their employee assistance programs (EAPs) which help their employees when they are in difficult emotional or physical situations which affect their health and their work.

In a lot of cases employee wellness programs have been successful, but my question is this – what caused the need for these programs?  Is it the poor working environments, the lack of adequate staffing, disrespectful management and leadership, undervaluing and overwhelming your employees, especially those who go the extra mile for the sake of your clients? Are the stressors in-house, do the EAPs provide sustainable support or does the thinking ‘well now you are back on the floor, you are better’ apply, pushing your employees right back into the stressful nightmare they are trying to leave?  In short, does your employee wellness program try to solve the problems created by your organisation in the first place?

The cost of employee wellness programs is not insignificant, could this budget not be used to:

  • employ additional staff, thus reducing the pressure and stress on your existing employees;
  • invest in in-house training for your management and leadership teams on how to build and maintain a culture of respect and trust and on how to really value your employees;
  • invest in in-house training, mentoring and coaching for your employees to develop them to be the best they can be, to become more assertive, self-confident; resilient and to have a better sense of their self-worth;
  • build an in-house relief team, who are fully competent and trained to provide cover when employees are unwell, on sabbaticals, secondments, annual leave external training programmes etc;
  • improve their physical working environment to promote a healthy and balanced workplace?

It really is crucial, that your people are treated respectfully at all times, by all your employees at all levels and to be made feel they are way more than ‘a means to an end’ in your organisation.

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