Workplace Trends: The Manager’s Role in the Psychological Well-Being of Employees

a blog by Rachel Permuth-Levine, Ph.D., sr. director, research for toLive by Sodexo and Stephanie Andel, a Sodexo intern from Bradley University.
Feb 23, 2012 8:30 AM ET

The Manager’s Role in the Psychological Well-Being of Employees

Wellness in the workplace; what does that really mean? To answer that question, it is necessary to distinguish between the concepts of organizational well-being and psychological well-being. Organizational well-being involves a collective wellness within the organization that is driven by concepts such as collaboration, respect for diversity, and fairness. Psychological well-being, on the other hand, involves the wellness and health of specific individuals in the workplace. While organizational well-being is vital to the success of organizations, it is virtually impossible to attain without fostering psychological well-being among employees.

Richmond and colleagues (2006) explain that job-related stress and job dissatisfaction is evident in those who work in environments with little managerial support.  In fact, in a survey of over 90,000 employees, management’s interest in the well-being of employees was one of the main factors for motivation (Gallup, 2011). The question then becomes: how do we cultivate a workplace filled with enhanced psychological well-being? What can managers do to ensure that their employees are happy and healthy?
  There are many ways that managers can approach this issue. The 2012 Sodexo Workplace Trends Report outlines various methods in which management can focus upon employee wellness, such as (1) clearly stating expectations, (2) allowing flexibility in the workplace, (3) recognizing employees for their efforts, and (4) providing opportunities for personal development within the workplace can have a serious impact on employees’ motivation and job satisfaction.  All of these components tie into the psychological well-being of employees   Clearly Stating Expectations Gallup (2002) explains that basic health begins with employees simply knowing what is expected of them. It is important to make sure that expectations are clearly defined. This can enhance the credibility of the organization to the employee, and assures that employees will not have to spend so much time trying to figure out their basic duties and tasks.   Creating a Flexible Workplace Environment A flexible environment makes life a bit more manageable. Allowing employees to adjust work hours if necessary or to work outside of the office (may it be from home or the local coffee shop) will help so that one’s work experience is more manageable and realistic. In fact, a study recently conducted by Moen and colleagues (2011) demonstrates that a flexible workplace can enhance well-being through allowing employees to enjoy increased sleep and increased work/family balance. Therefore, as employees continue to battle the constant pressure of needing to fulfill other non-work responsibilities and demands, this extra flexibility will absolutely benefit employees.   Recognizing and Rewarding Employees for Their Efforts Interestingly enough, it is not just monetary rewards that will engage employees. Rather, providing rewards that will enhance employees’ lives outside of the workplace--such as tickets to a sporting event or free childcare for a night—can be just as beneficial. "Once the monetary and environmental needs of an employee have been satisfied - reasonable salary, physical comfort and security - other factors become important, such as the need for recognition, opportunities for development, creativity, and so on," notes Jennifer Tekin of Sodexo Motivation Solutions. "In the past 'carrot and stick' incentives worked towards organizational goal attainment. But today, using stress as a motivator is counterintuitive to aligning the workforce with the company's mission. Managers now focus on empowerment, flexibility, and well-being to achieve a culture of recognition and high employee engagement."     Fostering Employee Growth David Ballard, PsyD,  of the American Psychological Association explains that one other concept that is important to integrate into the workplace is providing opportunities for employees to gain new skills and grow in their career. If workers feel that they are “stuck” and that there is no chance for improvement, they are not likely to be as motivated to be productive. However, if employees are given opportunities for their personal growth and development within the company-- whether it is through opportunities to travel, attend seminars, or assignments to new tasks--they will have increased motivation to work hard and stay productive.   Ultimately, there is no “cook book” recipe for how to create a productive and satisfactory work environment. Each company exudes a very different culture and atmosphere, and therefore it is absolutely necessary to make wellness initiatives that are compatible with your specific corporation. Regardless of what these initiatives might be, however, there is no doubt that multiple ways exist in which supervisors can successfully foster psychological well-being in the workplace.