Of the many jobs I have worked over the years, there have been only a handful in which I actually didn’t mind going to work and my productivity was great.
What was it about these jobs that made them different from the others? These jobs happened to be the ones where I shared a close kinship with some of my co-workers. It was this feeling of belonging, of being part of a family, that made the work feel less daunting and mundane. Having someone to confide in or share a funny story with helped ease the tension and stress. I didn’t feel alone with the task at hand, and this did wonders to reduce my stress level and to help the time pass quicker. Perhaps you have felt the same way in some of your previous jobs.
The Connection Between Morale and Productivity
Have you ever noticed how some employees who rarely connect with any of their co-workers seem overly stressed? Don’t they come across as tense and agitated when you have to interrupt their solitude with a question about something? The reason why these people are so tightly wound isn’t hard to understand. It mostly has to do with the fact that there is no emotional release for them at work. These people feel they must always be on guard with how they interact with the people around them. They may fear ridicule, judgment, or even confrontation.
If they could have someone or a group of people to share their thoughts or concerns with, it would most likely make the work day increasingly more productive. Their stress levels would be reduced and the days would go by so much faster.
How can camaraderie increase productivity?
To many managers it may seem counter intuitive to increase productivity by increasing camaraderie. Most managers, in fact, go out of their way to reduce employee interaction during work hours with the belief that it is interfering with their duties. But the opposite is actually true.
- Increased camaraderie results in happier employees. And the better mood a person is in, the more work that person is likely to get done. A good way to think of it is to imagine Snow White working as a poor servant girl in the dark and dreary underbelly of the castle singing “Whistle While You Work” with her band of friends while they all happily skip around completing their tasks. Although this is not a real world example, it illustrates the point quite well. It is only natural that if a person is generally happy at work, then he will be more apt to take interest in his assignments instead of grudgingly doing the bare minimum to just get a paycheck. If work feels meaningless or uninspiring, an employee is unlikely to give it his all. But if an employee’s mood is elevated, a corresponding increase in productivity is the result.
- More stress for employees equates to more frustration. Unfortunately, many employers can’t see beyond the data presented to them on a spreadsheet. Numbers don’t lie, right? So when employee productivity goes down, the first response from many managers is often to push their employees harder. However, this response can actually backfire. This often results in employees doing only just enough to collect their salary. What do captains of ships do when morale is low? They offer shore leave, give extra days off, whatever it takes to bolster sailors’ morale. So instead of pushing their employees harder, perhaps managers should take a different approach and find out if creating better work environments could work for them instead.
Creating a Better Work Environment
Many employers are beginning to see the benefits of creating a work environment that fosters a more relaxed and open atmosphere. Companies are doing this in a variety of ways.
- Flex time: One of these ways is flex-time work where employee schedules are highly flexible. This gives employees the chance to make doctors’ appointments during the week and even have the necessary time to attend their children’s extracurricular activities. Flex-time arrangements are very easy for many companies to implement and they go a long way towards improving morale.
- Work from home: Another way that companies are improving work environments is by allowing many employees the option to work from home. This is perhaps the ultimate morale booster since it allows employees to be near their families (camaraderie with their families). With this work arrangement employees also get to avoid long commutes through congested traffic and in many cases they can even work in relaxed attire (sweatpants and t-shirts).
Flex-time and work-at-home arrangements, of course, aren’t possible for all work situations. In these cases employers need to take steps to make their places of work more open to the idea of camaraderie. Sometimes it doesn’t take much.
In many cases just a few small things can make a big difference:
- Allowing employees to listen to a radio while working, for example, is a good way to reduce stress.
- Celebrating employee birthdays is another thing that is very easy to do.
- But perhaps the most important thing that management can do to foster employee camaraderie is to allow employees to interact with each other in a casual way while working.
Don’t discourage it. Just let it happen naturally…..and then watch and see what happens to productivity. The natural belief is that it will decline. But in nearly all cases the opposite proves to be true. Productivity increases.
There are many other things that companies can do to increase camaraderie and improve morale. Some companies hold sports tournaments (the company softball team). Companies can also provide catered lunches on occasion where employees can go outside and enjoy a bit of fresh air, almost like a company picnic. These types of activities take the employee out of the mindset of just being an employee and gives them the opportunity to relax and enjoy the company of their coworkers.
Leaders Leading the Way
In recent years a shift in management strategies has been occurring in many business sectors. Many businesses no longer “manage” the workforce. Many companies are now training their managers to be leaders instead of the old-school managers who rigidly drive their employees to constantly increase their productivity.
What’s the difference in a manager and a leader? A leader tends to work with the employees instead of just telling employees what they should be doing. The difference between leaders and managers can be felt in large companies and if you ask employees which one they prefer to work with, the majority will always say the leader.
The shift in management style from that of manager to leader has also resulted in a change of perspective on the role of allowing camaraderie in the workplace. No longer is the workplace a rigid, dark place of unhappiness. Thankfully, like the evolution of the manager to the leader, we are now seeing an evolution from a workplace that adheres to strict rules and performance quotas to ones that understand the importance of employee morale.
It’s a change that is long overdue.
Images: Author’s Own
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