What makes work satisfying for some and drudgery for others? According to a study conducted jointly by Harvard Business Review and The Energy Project (a consulting firm), work is most rewarding when it engages us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Not surprisingly, they found that engaged workers get more done. Three times more, it turns out.
Creating a satisfied worker is not a complicated affair. Even at a desk job, regular breaks for physical activity—as simple as walking around the block—result in greater creativity and productivity. Recognition from the boss provides the emotional connection. Mentally, we’re happy when we’re in the flow and can focus deeply on the task at hand. And doing work that we care about and excel at fulfills our need for higher purpose.
Slowly, businesses are realizing that they can promote these factors and reap the benefits in the bottom line. Reluctance to spend on wellness programs, better pay (a great way to make a worker feel valued!), fitness centers, and healthy lunches is gradually being replaced by the recognition that it costs far more to recruit and train new employees when unhappy ones leave.
Costco does employee satisfaction well and not only is quite profitable, but has an enviably low turnover rate. Walmart, on the other hand, skimps on pay, cuts its workforce, and has low productivity, poor service, and falling stock prices.
Other research relates that people love their work because they have great coworkers (emotional), they’re allowed freedom and flexibility in doing the job (mental), opportunities exist for learning new skills and challenging themselves (mental), and the workplace culture aligns with their values (spiritual). Throw in a walk around the block, and whistle while you work!