female business colleagues gossiping in officeThe truth about workplace culture is that there’s a super bug going around that exists within almost every organization. This super bug either acts for the greater good of all employees still engaged, or it brings the entire system down. The longer it floats around and is left unmaintained the more resistant it becomes to treatment (engagement). And ultimately, it can take control of your organization and crush any hope there was of developing a unique culture.

But how we do we find this super bug? What are the symptoms? What’s the treatment? Is it possible to eradicate it, before it’s too late?

Like atoms, workplace culture is all around us. It’s in the air we breathe at work. It’s felt within our emotions at work. It brings life to culture or it brings its demise.

And why should we even care that it exists? What harm can it possibly do, even if the dough is still rolling in? Well, funny that I should mention that because actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year. Here’s another fun fact from the Bureau of National Affairs, which estimates that employee turnover is costing businesses $11 billion annually. Now, once you’re done processing all that, try to imagine any great structure of our modern-day time. If not maintained, time will eventually wear it down and it will crumble. Try and look at workplace culture as a structure. Structures are only as strong as the materials inside and the constant planning of maintenance to ensure structural integrity.

Symptoms of an Ill Workplace Culture

One obvious sign that your culture is suffering from a super bug is when workplace productivity starts to go down, more and more employees are taking sick days, and the number of gloomy and tired faces filled with stress begin to multiply. According to research from Officevibe, it’s costing organizations $300 billion per year to deal with issues that are stress-related health care and missed work. The research reported that 48 percent of its respondents lie awake at night, due to stress. And employees that are unhappy are 10 percent less productive. Here’s a statistic from the report that many of us can relate to: Seventy-five percent of employees cited money and work as the leading cause for their stress. Perhaps some of these issues relate to the global uphill battle organizations are facing with employee engagement. Globally, only 13 percent of employees are engaged, according to a Gallup study.

Treatment for a Sickly Workplace Culture

How do most people go about bettering themselves? Most of us start by taking the road that leads to self-discovery. Obviously, with a group of employees this creates a far more complex solution. The difference is that instead of taking the road to self-discovery, organizations must go down the path of people-discovery. Organizations must journey beyond their financial earnings and take the time to understand the people they have around them. Think about the Millennial workforce that’s going to start shaping business and workplace cultures in years to come. In a recent 2014 Millennial Impact Report, it was discovered that 94 percent of millennials like using their skills to benefit a cause. The report also learned that 77 percent of millennials prefer working with groups of fellow employees rather than working on independent service projects. This group of workers will need to be managed differently, just like any other generation of workers that has come before them.

But what’s the real solution for creating a great workplace culture? Can it be done by using values-based leadership? Should it focus on multi-generational workforce management? How about we take a look at three simple things that everyone can appreciate and look forward to:

  • Offer an employee wellness program – 62 percent of participants in a LifeWorks study reported being more productive.
  • Offer a workplace flexibility program – 70 percent of managers experienced productivity increase.
  • Offer a volunteer program – 78 percent of people who volunteered reported lower stress levels.

When organizations take the time to care for their workplace culture, if done right, then the rewards can be mutually beneficial. If companies can take the time to show employees they care about their well-being and feel-good attitudes, then perhaps a healthy workplace culture can begin to take shape. It’s not worth letting your culture catch a super bug that crushes employee morale. Show employees you care about them because they’ll remember that and want to stick around a lot longer.

Learn to Take Workplace Culture Seriously

If you don’t believe in improving workplace culture, then what else can be said? People are not drones; they don’t just turn on and off at will. Taking the time to build a workplace culture and maintain it is like growing a garden. It takes time, requires effort, and diligence to maintain its growth and nourishment. The way organizations build workplace culture has to change. More effort needs to be put into caring for employees and the organizational culture that is provided to them.

According to a Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company) study, 96 percent of people believe culture change is needed in their organization. Not to mention, 51 percent also felt that organizations need a major culture overhaul. Sometimes it takes positive results to prove change is necessary. If a workplace culture experiment is necessary to prove that it’s worth the investment, start by looking around the office to see if you find any tired and gloomy faces.

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