- The Great Resignation is seen as a push back against an unhealthy working culture where stress, unhappiness and burnout have become the norm.
- On the flip side, healthy organizations prioritize the health of their workers – physical and mental—as opposed to prioritizing business outcomes.
- While the importance of adopting the healthy organization model is clear, few adopt it. Here’s why making people your top priority makes solid business sense.
Traditionally, work is not necessarily something one should enjoy. Rather, work was seen as a duty – something you had to do, both for purposes of will-power and necessity – after all, if you didn’t work, you wouldn’t have money to eat or pay your bills!
That message – thankfully — is changing. There certainly is merit to will-power – without it, we probably wouldn’t work at all. However, we ought to take a note from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and declare that any virtue in excess is bound to be detrimental.
And the culture surrounding traditional work is full of these excesses.
These excesses often manifest into workers giving precedence to their work over their own well-being. Interestingly, this excess of will-power often manifests into a peculiar deficit of it. For instance, remote workers report working to such extents that burnout has become the norm. If anything, will-power needs to be directed towards not working as much, rather than working yourself into a state of hardly manageable tension.
It isn’t a matter of being totally against work.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was quite right when he stated that “A profession is the backbone of life.” If we are lucky and play our cards right work can be a profound source of purpose in our lives. The worry here, however, is that instead of facilitating meaningfulness, work can easily slip into reducing our sense of purpose.
It’s fair to state that the degree to which you’re engaged in your work can heavily mirror the degree to which one is fulfilled by it. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to say that someone has a meaningful job, but they can’t for the life of them feel engaged with it.
While workplace engagement is improving, according to Gallup, only a minority (36 percent) of workers feel engaged in their workplaces. And while only 15 percent report being “actively disengaged” in their work, what about the remaining 64 percent? Perhaps they’re “passively” disengaged or are simply neutral about their job status. In any case, these are discouraging numbers. But what can be done about them?
The Healthy Organization
Work takes up a great deal of our waking lives. So, it’s important to consider its impact on our well-being. When the general consensus is that work has negative effects on our well-being, something clearly needs to be done about it. Having a populace of unsatisfied and disengaged workers can have negative consequences beyond the world of work.
The concept of the “healthy organization” is an alternative concept to the traditional model. The traditional model of work has certain ends at the forefront of its mission, which translates over to what workers have to do on a day-to-day basis.
These ends are fundamentally related to business outcomes. ‘How much revenue is the business bringing in?’ ‘Are we innovating effectively?’ ‘How can we cut costs to improve our ability to reach financial targets?’ ‘Are we making customers or clients happy?’ These are the sorts of questions which inform how traditional work operates.
Healthy organizations, by contrast, focus on people-oriented outcomes.
Questions such as, ‘how can we increase worker engagement and retention?’ and ‘how can we become recognized as a great place to work?’ guide the primary goals of such organizations.
That is, Healthy Organizations prioritize the health of their workers – physical and mental— as opposed to prioritizing business outcomes.
Given the Great Resignation and Gallup’s findings, the necessity for healthy organizations should be quite straight forward. Without workers, businesses can’t function – and increasingly, without a healthy work environment, workers simply won’t put up with it anymore.
This isn’t to say that the importance of business outcomes simply vanishes in these organizations. But rather, they’re one rung below worker well-being on the hierarchy of importance.
Luckily, this reprioritization of values does not undermine business outcomes. Research suggests that worker performance and worker well-being work in parallel – if worker well-being diminishes, so too does their performance.
The features of a healthy organization consist of manageable workloads, a sense of control, flexibility, job security, benefits, a culture of continued learning, and an overall sense of organizational coherence. That’s to say that physical, social, community and mental health take precedence in a ‘healthy organization.’ Having ready access to the tools one needs to facilitate these ends is what characterizes a true healthy organization, according to a recent report from the Josh Bersin Company.
What is crucial to note is that a healthy organization must have its basis on listening to the needs of employees. Hence, creating a healthy organization – let alone maintaining one—is not something a company can do over night. It must be a day-to-day long-term effort.
At least this is the ideal scenario for a healthy organization, as research shows its definition widely varies depending on whose using it. And quite often, organizations use a definition that doesn’t put employee well-being first, but instead uses it as a means to the end of promoting their business’s well-being.
The Current State of Healthy Organizations
While the importance of adopting the healthy organization model is clear, most companies are, for the most part, not adopting it.
Now, this doesn’t mean most companies are doing absolutely nothing for their workers apart from providing an income. 77 percent prioritize worker safety and 75 percent “are thinking purposefully about the experience in which health, benefits, and wellbeing offerings are delivered to employees.”
What companies are failing to do, however, should be concerning – for both workers and businesses, as healthy organizations are genuinely a win-win for both parties:
- Most companies are not listening to the needs of their employees, even though doing so would improve profitability and customer experience. For instance, only 13 percent of companies are reported to actually assess the financial health of their workers.
- Most companies do not make accessing tools for facilitating well-being local to their business. 15 percent report locally cultivating the well-being of their workers.
- Only 19 percent of managers ensure that employee workloads are manageable.
Companies need to consider these decisions in light of the facts about healthy organizations. For instance, “companies that pay fairly, create strong communities, give employees tools to grow, and foster a culture of helping each other are” 20 times “more likely to be recognized as a great place to work”, 11 times “more likely to have high levels of engagement and retention,” and 6 times “more likely to attract new talent.” That is, when worker well-being is given top priority, business outcomes improve along with person-centered outcomes.
In light of the Great Resignation, more companies ought to adopt a healthy organization model.
Its worth goes beyond improvements in a business’s outcome: it makes workers feel like their work has a purpose, and that their humanity matters. And insofar as companies fail to deliver on adopting such a model, it becomes much less certain just how current labor shortages will come to an end.