Lots of companies talk about the importance of “bringing your whole self to work,” but when it comes down to it, how many people actually do?
The sad reality, according to The Next Generation Workplace, a survey by software firm 15Five, is that only 34% of the workforce feels engaged. That means that a whopping 66% feel disconnected in an environment where they spend most of their waking hours.
A big part of the problem is that companies are not doing everything they can to make you feel appreciated and fulfilled in your work. Shane Metcalf, 15Five’s chief culture officer, says that companies “need to create a more human-centric culture and a deep sense of belonging for employees.”
To determine whether your company is treating you as a whole person or just as a worker, ask yourself these five questions:
1. Do I feel engaged?
Are you among the fortunate minority of workers who feel engaged? According to 15Five, you’ll feel engaged if you have “a culture of support where human connections flourish.” Such a culture encourages workers to “become the best possible version of themselves.”
Companies should want your engagement. “No longer do businesses need you for repetitive tasks,” says Metcalf. “The world is fundamentally changing. Creativity and innovation are now paramount for companies. Having employees become their best selves is essential for business success.”
2. What does the word “work” bring to mind?
15Five’s survey showed that the top three words that people associate with the word “work” are “money,” “stress,” and “busy.” Less than 1% think of “happy” and less than 0.5% think “rewarding.”
If your response fits with these findings, then what does that say about your emotional well-being at work? No job will be perfect, of course, but it’s not a great tribute to your employer if you are generally not happy and don’t find your work rewarding.
3. Do I want emotional support?
If your time at work is not personally fulfilling, ask yourself whether you want greater emotional support from your company.
According to 15Five’s study of 1,000 U.S. workers and 500 managers, the new generation of employees do want an emotionally satisfying environment and they “need to feel emotionally supported in order to perform at their best.” According to Metcalf, “employees are challenging conventional ideas around work-life balance and are asking for more than just a paycheck and two weeks of vacation.” 15Five discovered that 90% of employees surveyed said they performed better “when their company supports their emotional wellness.”
4. Can I be open with my boss?
A key benchmark of emotional satisfaction at work lies in your relationship with your boss. It’s not just a matter of whether you two “get along” and don’t argue. It’s also important that you can be open with your boss. Yet, more than half of employees never bring up a personal matter with their manager.
I know how that feels. When I was 35, I developed Hodgkin’s Disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes. I had to go for radiation treatments every afternoon at 4 p.m. Did I bring it up with my boss? No. I was afraid to. I simply told him I needed to go out every afternoon and it had been approved by HR. The loneliness I felt intensified the medical challenge I faced.
Today according to 15Five’s survey, over half of employees still keep their personal life secret. While there are times when it’s fine to keep parts of your life outside the office private, how can you feel emotionally fulfilled—treated as a whole person—if companies encourage you to stay silent about important aspects of your existence?
5. Does my company listen to me?
How would it feel to have weekly conversations with your manager—and know that she is truly listening to you? It would feel like someone is there for you and respecting you as a whole person.
A solution to creating emotional wellness in the workplace, according to 15Five, is for companies “to support their employees by creating a culture of human connection.” And this can be achieved by genuine conversations, check-ins, and one-on-ones between employees and managers.
The company also provide software that allows employees to provide regular feedback to their managers on the week’s events and how they’re feeling about the week. They answer questions like “Where did you find joy this week?” and “Do you feel you have enough decision-making authority to serve your customers?” They even answer probing questions like “If you were the CEO, what would you do differently?”
Each week, employees get “hundreds of thousands of high fives for their honesty and their performance,” says Metcalf. Unsurprisingly, 15Five’s employee retention rate is high. Only five employees have left in the past eight years, he says.