Each year, experts predict the emerging trends for workplaces. Usually they identify several different streams of trends on which to focus, but their lists almost invariably include employee stress and well-being. One important survey supporting such predictions is sponsored by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP.org).
Since 2014, SIOP has surveyed its members about the top issues they see impacting the workplace. Trends 2022, lists ten broad, complex issues that its members indicated (in October 2021) would likely impact the workplace in 2022, and all but one involve stress and well-being.
Stress and well-being have been implicated as being associated with employees’ physical health, motivation, and job satisfaction. With proper planning, leaders can reduce stress and optimize employees’ mental health and these related outcomes.
Reducing stress and improving well-being in any industry or field is important, including higher education. So, it is very exciting that our research article “Health Implications of Job-Related Stress, Motivation and Satisfaction in Higher Education Faculty and Administrators” was chosen as the Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education’s – Literati Award Winner 2021 Outstanding Paper. In summary, this paper discusses trends found in the higher-education sector concerning health outcomes and three individual level organizational outcomes: job satisfaction, motivation, and job stress. These trends suggest that lower job satisfaction, lower motivation, and higher job stress (as measured by the Organizational Effectiveness Inventory) increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, GERD, diabetes, and burnout in faculty and administrators. These risks can be reduced by implementing direct health-related activities (e.g., health fairs). Additionally, organizational initiatives such as needs assessments around culture, stress-management workshops, and job description reviews can be used to identify and eliminate work-related demands that may be crucial risk factors of illness. Indeed, the adoption of organizational and managerial styles that promote healthful outcomes apply as much to higher education as to other industries.
The topic of stress and well-being in the workplace extends beyond academic interest. For example, in November 2021, The INFORMS Roundtable—the premier destination for top-level leaders in operations research and managerial science (OR/MS) practice—dedicated a session to “Mental Health and Well-Being.” This session included Tara Davis from the American Psychological Association (APA), who discussed the steps that the association was taking in their own offices to “Create a Psychologically Healthy (Virtual/Hybrid) Workplace.” These steps addressed three organizational outcomes—job satisfaction, motivation, and job stress—and focused on mitigating negative factors, including increasing employee involvement, formal and informal; recognition; and reducing “meeting overload.” In the same meeting, I (representing Human Synergistics) and Dale Hintz, of Excellent Cultures, reviewed research indicating that Constructive cultural styles at all levels of the organization led to increased job satisfaction and motivation, and decreased stress.
However, addressing job-related stress may be elusive, as perceived stress is a function of change, and many of the changes encountered by workers are new, unprecedented, and rapid. Leaders and managers have difficulty planning for change under these conditions. To address these challenges, Dr. Robert A. Cooke, Cathleen Cooke, and Michael Kern discussed some of the factors that leaders and managers can address to prepare their organizations to adapt and thrive in the future. These factors include identifying Constructive cultural norms for hybrid organizations that promote effectiveness at all levels; creating a pervasive culture that is strong and consistently Constructive across the entire organization for both remote and onsite employees; and shaping organizational culture via levers for change such as employee involvement, goal setting, and rewards and recognition.
Optimizing employee well-being works best when you address the sources of stress, which often are under the organization’s control. Both research and practical experience support adjusting levers that impact job satisfaction, motivation, and perceived job stress, including organizational culture, managerial styles, and recognition. And while this focus may seem daunting in these turbulent times, it is these very conditions that make it necessary to address these levers. Focusing on organizational norms and expectations that promote effectiveness will promote employee well-being in the short term as well as organizational health in the long term.