A happy office environment has been shown both scientifically and anecdotally to lead to more engaged and productive workers, ultimately pushing companies to greater success.
But workplace morale across Southern Nevada has been battered by the waves of layoffs, years of stagnant wage growth and general economic uncertainty brought on by the recession.
Reported levels of employee engagement and satisfaction have dipped over the past few years, but are on the rise again as the economy stabilizes.
The effects of the recession have accelerated shifts in how people view their jobs, their careers and their loyalty to a particular company, but many of the fundamentals for building a workplace that retains workers and helps them succeed remain the same, experts say.
Communication is critical, they say, as employees who feel free to voice concerns or give input on projects take more ownership in the overall success of a company.
Making employees feel appreciated, through such means as bonuses, greater autonomy on the job or work-sponsored social activities, can also build connections that help retain workers.
"There's a really compelling business reason to make a positive workplace environment," said Ron McMillan, author and co-founder of workplace consulting company VitalSmarts. "These aren't just nice things to do. They're very practical, and in fact imperative in today's environment where you have to share information, you have to come up with new ideas."
Covering the basics
Taking steps toward a more positive and productive office can sometimes be as simple as rearranging the furniture.
"The physical proximity you have to the people you need to touch base with to do your job is important," McMillan said. "We've found having people working on different floors dramatically reduces interactions. A person might feel less contacted, feel less involved and they often report much lower satisfaction."
Beyond the physical layout of an office, most employees hold certain basic expectations from their job, said Leo Gobbo, human resources manager at Titanium Metals Corporation.
"Employees want to know their basic needs are met -- that there's competitive pay and benefits," Gobbo said. "And then there's the culture. Are they being appreciated for their work? Are they being challenged and enhanced in their work?"
The risks of a disengaged workforce are stark.
Employees' level of engagement with their jobs affect "their commitment, how hard they work and how purposeful their actions are," said David Hames, a professor at UNLV's Lee Business School.
For service-related businesses, direct correlations have been shown between an employee's level of satisfaction and customer satisfaction, Hames said.
Poor workplace satisfaction and engagement can lead to excessive absenteeism and tardiness, more time spent by employees on their cellphones or surfing the Internet, and overall negativity in an office, McMillan said.
The most talented employees will pursue other opportunities if they feel unhappy at a particular organization, but employees without other options tend to stay and "quit on the job," McMillan said.
"People slow down. They don't go the extra mile," he said. "They do the bare minimum required to keep from getting fired."
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