There’s no escaping highs and lows in the workplace. Some individuals and organisations will experience a more intense difference between their highest and lowest points, but we will all take the rough with the smooth, in varying forms throughout our career.
However, in going through these, what we (and in many cases, our employers), don’t necessarily take into account is the difference it can make in our productivity. In its simplest form, the science behind it works like this; when we feel stressed, in ‘danger’ or threatened, this stimulates activity in the brain, that is similar to our response to physical pain. As a result, we find it very mentally taxing and it drains our energy, which can lessen our memory efficiency, analytical thinking and problem solving ability. It therefore brings about more of that well known ‘well it’s not my problem’ response, instead of the ultimately more productive ‘what can I do to improve this?’
When we’re feeling good about ourselves however, we notice information that we wouldn’t otherwise, helping us solve problems and innovate. We also feel less of the burden of comparing ourselves to others, allowing us to build better relationships through creativity and positivity, i.e. that feeling of ‘I can’t wait to get them involved’ instead of ‘well they won’t like it, why bother?’.
There are a variety of ways that employers can increase that feeling of ‘reward’ in their employees, from the light touch team-building events to more integrated approaches into company culture, which can serve to surprise and delight employees throughout their working lives. The companies that understand this and encourage behaviours and programmes accordingly, are the companies that are ahead of the curve.
Volunteering is a highly efficient means of giving people satisfaction and pride, thus raising the probability of them returning to their workplaces in a more positive and productive frame of mind. At SportInspired, we are lucky enough to work with thousands of employee volunteers every year, seeing the difference that just a day can make and even more, the difference working with a community over time and seeing the growing impact their support has. When an employee starts their volunteering experience, they are faced with a level of uncertainty, but in a controlled environment. I.e. that feeling of ‘you’ve never done this before, but you will be looked after’, which serves to build excitement and engagement in itself. Their company is presenting their employees with something new in that volunteering experience, something different that will use parts of their brain that they don’t necessarily have the opportunity to use in their day job. But they’re in a supported environment, so any feeling of stress that can come about from the unknown, is converted into excitement (which of course can bring about greater productivity).
As the volunteers go through the experience, they find it continually rewarding; they encourage a shy child to try a new activity and when they do, they love it, they help the children create a team chant and see them sing it with pride, they see the look on the children’s faces when they receive medals, they witness the development in confidence in a child when they find a sport they love. All this creates a feeling of reward which they link back to their company, increasing their pride, their enjoyment and ultimately their productivity. Therefore, before we even go into the skills and connections employee volunteers develop through their experiences, we already have a great benefit which will make a difference to bottom line. A happier workforce, makes a more profitable company and although volunteering alone isn’t the answer to this, it can play an important part in the solution.
Source: Managing with the Brain, David Rock, http://www.strategy-business.com/article/09306