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Important studies:

Workplace practices affect employee engagement and health

The federally funded research group, Work, Family & Health Network, studies how employers can keep their employees healthier, engaged in their work, productive and less likely to quit. Their initial findings underscore how change in the workplace can benefit employees’ health and an employers’ bottom line. These changes revolve around three key factors:

  • Increasing employees’ sense of control over the time and timing of their work
  • Improving supervisor support for work and family balance
  • Changing the culture to focus on the results of the work that matter most for business

While employers have cut back in many areas during this challenging economy, over 80% maintain the workplace flexibility they offer and many are increasing it during the recession. Training supervisors to be supportive of employees’ family and personal lives is key to higher job satisfaction, better physical health and lower turnover, according to the researchers.

Training focused on providing emotional and structural support, modeling healthy behavior and working with other managers. Emotional support can be as simple as showing an interest in an employee’s life and recognizing outside responsibilities. Structural support can involve applying policies creatively to meet the individual’s needs, such as avoiding work/life-scheduling conflicts. Working with other managers might involve interdepartmental cross training as a way to address work/life issues.

Workers’ engagement levels drop

While productivity levels have improved, a May 2009 survey by Watson Wyatt and WorldatWork found that the cost cutting actions by employers have contributed to a sharp decline in the morale and commitment of their workers, especially top performers. The 2009/2010 U.S. Strategic Rewards Survey found that engagement levels for top performers plunged almost 25% since 2008 and 29% are less confident in management’s ability to grow the business.

Take away
Engaged and committed workers contribute most to long-term profitability. Monitoring morale and understanding the needs of the workforce boosts productivity and employee health.