If you haven't been hearing AND thinking about burn-out, change fatigue, and employee engagement problems, I want to know where you work - and if you're hiring. ;)
For the rest of us, you've read the blogs, and the books. You've read the HBR and Forbes articles. You've probably also listened to the podcats and the speakers, and maybe even created your own content on how to engage people by adding super cool perks to your employee experience. Companies are spending billions of dollars collectively on employee perks, and engagement scores are still abysmal. What's the deal???
Traditional efforts at creating or nurturing engagement tend to focus on things like creating a slick modern workplace, or having free food, or the universal arms race for salaries, gym memberships, and so on. I'm not suggesting that those are necessarily bad. Obviously your people need to be able to pay their bills and have financial stability, access to good health care, etc. And if you've already implemented programs like this, taking them away can cause a really terrible rebound effect! Most of these programs, however well-intentioned, are aimed at the wrong things.
It can be completely DEmoralizing when real challenges are surfaced, and the response from leadership is to (seemingly) ignore the underlying problems and slap a superficial mood booster on things and hope people magically become Happy & Engaged™. Now you've got unhappy employees, and management that is frustrated and thinks their people are ungrateful jerks. That's a classic lose-lose situation, and that hamster wheel of misery is bound to take you to a bad place!
Instead of looking for the next nap pod/reflexology/whatever trend to make your workplace a happier, more productive place, pause and consider how you can incorporate more opportunities for showcasing results and building and supporting relationships at work. You can probably take existing programs and tweak them to make them actually meet these basic human needs, or you can craft new engagement initiatives with results and relationships at their core.For example, if you already have a gym on site, consider hosting group gym activities that foster time for the team to work together on solving challenges, like a modified ropes course or "Ninja Warrior" type activity that is a team effort. We know that surmounting adversity as a group is a classic way to build bonds between people, and social connections are a prime indicator of success - let's celebrate that and take advantage of our basic human desires to forge stronger working relationships.
Maybe you're already bringing in breakfast one day a week. Instead of just having a basket of fruit and muffins on the counter for people to snag on their way to their desks, plan a Thursday Breakfast Happy Hour - and maybe have your leadership team serving the juice and coffee! Instead of waiting for the end of the year awards ceremony, use these regular gatherings to celebrate small wins - Somebody solved a particularly vexxing challenge last week? Somebody hit a personal development goal? A project milestone completed that gets you that much closer to The Big Prize? There are so many opportunities for recognizing all the really great stuff your team is doing, and it helps balance the inevitable headaches and hiccups that are just part of things.
"But we're all so busy! Who has time for that?" This is actually such a counter-intuitive thing in our modern society, but the the Cult of Busy-ness is not only stealing the joy from our lives, it's actually making us less productive, and less likely to reach out if we have extra bandwidth, too! We need to realize that happiness at work is serious business, and by actively focusing on happiness at work, we remove many barriers to progress, innovation and performance.