Posts Tagged ‘employee well-being’

What makes social workers happy and what keeps them in the field?

April 6th, 2011

Social workers experience higher than average levels of attrition, stress and burnout than other helping professions such as nursing and teaching. Whereas 6 per cent of American nurses and 8 per cent of teachers left their occupations in any given year from 1992 to 2001, the figure was 15 per cent among social workers. Researchers at the University of Calgary suspect similar findings in Canada.

Common issues faced by social workers include scope of practice, perceived freedom and flexibility, work-life balance, support mechanisms in their workplaces, the physical workspace itself, as well as their relationships with clients and colleagues, including supervisors.

“Social workers, by their very nature, care about people,” says John Graham, a U of C social work professor. “People in human services . . . suffer from high caseloads (and) need the support to do their jobs.”

Given this concern, Graham, along with PhD Candidates Andrea Newberry and Micheal Shier teamed up to investigate what made social workers happy and what kept them in the field. This positive and affirmative approach is in high contrast to the traditional problem-based approach such as studying sources of stress and burnout.

Surveys were sent to 2500 social workers in Alberta. Of the 700 returned, the researchers completed in-depth interviews and job shadowing with the 13 “happiest” social workers.

The happiest social workers reported higher levels of fulfilment in areas such as flexible work schedules, better work-life balance and a stronger sense of engagement.  Having a high degree of freedom built into their jobs gave them the flexibility to manage the demands of their jobs with their personal lives including the opportunity for “self-care.”  This behind-the-scene support made a big difference and enabled them to do their jobs well.

“We’re much better at helping others when we’ve learned to find satisfaction and happiness in what we do, and to develop organizational cultures that reinforce these principles,” says Graham.

Their findings have implications for a variety of career fields. Our experience and research tells us that when employees get to the heart of what matters about their work, when they feel like they are making a difference, and they feel like they are part of a community, employee spirit at work –that sense that we are fully engaged and fulfilled by our work – increases. When employers create the conditions to foster spirit at work, the effects can only multiply.

We have demonstrated that not only can you increase spirit at work, as it increases so too does personal well-being, job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Client service and productivity goes up. And absenteeism and turnover goes down.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our monthly newsletter where we will explore spirit at work and its contributing factors in more detail. Read the book Rethinking Your Work and learn how to create spirit at work.

Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and inspirational speaker, she helps renew employee wellness and increase performance and retention by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com.

Follow ValKinjerski on Twitter
Bookmark and Share

Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Attracting and Keeping Employees, Creating organizational conditions, Employee Engagement and Spirit at Work, Employee Wellbeing: Refilling the Cup, Getting to Spirit at Work | Comments (0)

Be Happier and Live Longer

March 9th, 2011

My last blog asked if you were happy at work. I listed several reasons as to why we should be interested in increasing our happiness and why organizations should jump on board – quickly.

I received a request for research that would substantiate this claim. My first recommendation is to pick up a copy of the How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky, 2007. Penguin Books. Sonja cites tons of research (including her own) and includes 40+ pages of notes. I am so impressed with this book that I created a home study based on it.

The second book is called Positivity. Here is the reference: Barbara Frederickson, PhD. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive, Crown Publishers, New York.  Barbara’s research has shown that in order to flourish, we need a positivity ratio of 3 positives to 1 negative.  (Even more at work!)

Last week, I came across a news article called, “Don’t worry, be happy – and live longer.” Researchers Ed Diener and Micaela Chan reviewed more than 160 studies on the connection between a positive state of mind and overall health and longevity. They found “clear and compelling evidence” that happier people enjoy better health and longer lives.

Here is the abstract for the article. The reference follows.

Seven types of evidence are reviewed that indicate that high subjective well-being (such as life satisfaction, absence of negative emotions, optimism, and positive emotions) causes better health and longevity. For example, prospective longitudinal studies of normal populations provide evidence that various types of subjective well-being such as positive affect predict health and longevity, controlling for health and socioeconomic status at baseline. Combined with experimental human and animal research, as well as naturalistic studies of changes of subjective well-being and physiological processes over time, the case that subjective well-being influences health and longevity in healthy populations is compelling. However, the claim that subjective well-being lengthens the lives of those with certain diseases such as cancer remains controversial. Positive feelings predict longevity and health beyond negative feelings. However, intensely aroused or manic positive affect may be detrimental to health. Issues such as causality, effect size, types of subjective well-being, and statistical controls are discussed.

Here is the reference: Diener, E. and Chan, M. Y. (2011), Happy People Live Longer: Subjective Well-Being Contributes to Health and Longevity. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3: 1–43. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-0854.2010.01045.x

Enjoy . . . and be happy.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our monthly newsletter where we will explore this topic in more detail. Read the book Rethinking Your Work and learn how to create spirit at work.

Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and professional speaker, she helps companies and organizations increase employee retention and boost productivity by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com.

Follow ValKinjerski on Twitter
Bookmark and Share

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Employee Wellbeing: Refilling the Cup | Comments (0)

Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

December 2nd, 2009

Remember the days when we were all sent to time management courses? We were under the impression that all we had to do to be effective was better manage our time. Today, the message is managing your energy, not time is key to high performance and renewal.

The impact of the recession has resulted in most organizations expecting higher performance, but with fewer employees. The usual method – working harder and putting in more time – is no longer working. Many of us are exhausted, disenchanted and disengaged. And we are getting sick.

It is time to rethink work and how we do it.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz wrote an excellent book: The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. Although it was written in 2003, the concepts are still valid today – maybe even more so.

The central thesis is that performance, health and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy. The authors remind us that managing time efficiently is no guarantee that we will bring sufficient energy to whatever it is we are doing.

To be fully engaged – and I would say to have spirit at work – we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused, and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.

We know that energy diminishes with overuse. Too much energy expenditure and insufficient recovery leads to burnout and breakdown. The authors remind us that, “It is not the intensity of energy expenditure that produces burnout, impaired performance and physical breakdown, but rather the duration of expenditure without recovery.” We need to balance our energy expenditure with recovery time.

Here are a dozen tips to help you manage your energy:

Physical energy

  1. Take a recovery break every 90 to 120 minutes.
  2. Enhance your sleep by going to bed early and waking up early.
  3. Notice signs of energy flagging: restlessness, yawning, hunger and difficulty focusing and concentrating.

Emotional energy

  1. Use deep abdominal breathing to diffuse negative emotions such as impatience, anxiety, frustration, and irritability.
  2. Express appreciation and gratitude to yourself and others on a regular basis.
  3. Access pleasant and positive emotions such as enjoyment, adventure and opportunity.

Mental energy

  1. Perform high-concentration tasks away from the phone and email and respond to emails and phone messages at designated times during the day.
  2. Incorporate visualization and positive self-talk into your daily living.
  3. Give your conscious thinking mind a rest.

Spiritual energy

  1. Reconnect to your sense of purpose and live your deeper values.
  2. Find ways to do more of what you are passionate about and brings you intrinsic reward.
  3. See your work as an act of service. Remind yourself that work is not about you, but about the people you are serving.

Everything we do – thinking, interacting with others, making decisions – requires energy. It is time to rethink how we manage our energy and not just our time. Balancing our energy expenditure and energy recovery is key to our wellbeing and spirit at work.

What are the things you do to manage your energy? If you changed one thing, what would it be?

Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and inspirational speaker, she helps companies and organizations increase employee retention and boost productivity by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com and www.amazon.com .

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Employee Wellbeing: Refilling the Cup | Comments (9)