As many visitors from abroad have remarked, the American work ethic is quite amazing. Highly impressive, in the eyes of many. People wake up five (or six) days a week, and many of them drive long distances, dealing with gridlock, road rage and other hurdles, to put food on the table and earn a living.
In some countries, employees are given a month off work every year, whereas in America some people fear that making liberal use of vacation days or personal time off might cost them their job. Moreover, many Americans work long days. They bring their work home with them and burn the candle at both ends in hopes of advancement or even just to make sure they can keep their job and provide for their family.
However, “all work and no play” raises stress levels, and it’s well-documented that stress not only damages health but also lowers creativity and productivity. Some may argue that stress is a motivator, but at what cost? Stress is at best a short-term motivator. But it’s also a tremendous energy suck and therefore a hindrance to long-term, high-quality productivity — to say nothing of its serious damage to quality of life. Moreover, who wants to spend eight hoursor more per day, five days or more a week, surrounded by stressed-out co-workers?
There is much a company can do to improve morale and productivity. Employers need to realize that for many workers, it’s not just about the paycheck. Studies have shown that people are often willing to trade dollars for perks and amenities. For example, let’s say a single mom is looking for a new job and has two choices: one pays $100,000 a year, the other $80,000. But the $80K job offers remote privileges so she can enjoy greater flexibility, better control her schedule and spend more time with her family. This not only improves her quality of life, it builds trust between employer and employee. It sends the message that not only does the company value her work, it trusts her. It says employees are seen as responsible professionals capable of handling their work without management constantly looking over their shoulders.
An atmosphere of trust and respect improves morale, which decreases stress and increases creativity and work flow. It also frees up the time and energy that stress sucks up and redirects it to efficient work. Bottom line: Trust and respect produce happier, healthier employees who can move freely about their responsibilities and provide higher-quality work. One might argue that some employees will take undue advantage of trusting management, and a few likely will. But that will correct itself over time. It will also be outweighed by the larger number of employees who go above and beyond to ensure that management understands that the perks it offers remain firmly in the company’s best interest.
Google is a perfect example. It provides nap pods, an all-inclusive cafeteria, a flexible work schedule, comp time for being on call, and much more. Its environment screams: “We trust you! Relax, take care of yourself, recharge your batteries and give us your best effort.” That makes Google an extremely desirable workplace that attracts highly qualified talent. It strengthens the company’s image, makes recruitment a breeze and substantially reduces turnover. Simply put, it creates happy employees, and happy employees create higher-quality output.
A recent survey conducted by employee engagement guru Adam Henderson found that 91% of millennials said flexibility was important, 92% would prefer a work-from-home option, and 0% would prefer to work exclusively from home. With numbers like that, it is easy to see why companies that provide these amenities create a welcoming, productive work atmosphere that creates happy employees who do their best to help their employers thrive!
Times are changing. Let’s change with them to build a work environment in which companies and employees can all thrive.