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Is the Surgeon General Warning about YOUR Workplace Culture?

Move over, tobacco warnings - there’s a new issue in town. In October, the US Surgeon General issued a 30-page report titled, “Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being.” In it, he talks about the impact workplace stress and toxic culture have on mental health, physical health, and productivity.

If you’ve been paying attention, this issue should be nothing new. The Covid-19 pandemic threw into sharp focus how workplace culture and stress can have a serious effect on the quality of life, health, and mental health of workers across the globe. The ‘Great Resignation’ and “quiet quitting” are just offshoots of a widespread problem that, according to the report, includes “low pay, poor opportunities for advancement, and toxic workplace culture.”

The Connection Problem In Workplace Culture

Here at Barometer XP, we know how important culture is to the health of both a business and its employees. It’s why our company focuses on how to build strong teams and foster positive interpersonal dynamics through play.

However, something we see as a big part of having a toxic workplace and bad company culture goes beyond a micro-managing boss or an impossible schedule. According to the Washington Post article titled: “Bosses should fix toxic workplaces, surgeon general says. Here’s how,” one of the five ‘essentials’ that the Surgeon General recommends for “workplaces to ensure employee mental health and well-being” is connection and community, and that is where the whole system falls down.

Since the Industrial Revolution, workplaces have been designed to focus on productivity and efficiency, from the 1920s assembly line to today’s frantic drive to check off the almighty to-do list. Workplaces across industries have become siloed and less interactive, a tendency that the pandemic only highlighted when remote work became widely mandatory.

Because modern workplaces are siloed and efficiency-driven, they’ve engineered out the part of working that is most fulfilling - the opportunity to be collaborative and creative. Work is more satisfying when workers and employees feel that they are contributing to a group effort, building social and emotional bonds with their teammates while working towards a common goal. The feeling of being on a team, part of a community, drives both motivation and engagement, with the result that you get employees who genuinely care about each other and the project. This is where you find people going out of their way to help each other and going the extra mile on their work, which is not something you get when people are just counting down the clock and checking boxes.

What To Do About A Culture With Poor Connection

If you’ve lost employees in the Great Resignation, or find your current employees “quietly quitting,” your culture may be a significant part of the problem. This, in turn, can be fueled by the way your company and work are organized. To combat it, take a look at your projects and workflows with a new eye, and try to see where opportunities exist to increase collaboration and make people feel like they’re on a team.

No matter what steps you take to improve your company culture, remember, this isn’t a one-time deal. As the Washington Post article says, “Employers should look at such changes as an ongoing culture shift, not single steps that can be checked off and forgotten.” We’re talking about a systemic change in the way work is organized and workplace culture is developed - one that moves past the Industrial Revolution and into the Information Age.

If you’re not sure where your company and workplace culture stand, check out the Barometer XP website for our Pressure Matrix - a quick, 3-minute quiz that shows you the pressure points currently facing your own team.


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