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Dr. Matt Grawitch: January 2010 Archives

I came across a couple of interesting articles this week. One was on gainsharing, and the other was on creating a  flexible workplace. On the surface, there appears to be no real similarity between the two topics. However, when you start to drill down a little deeper, there is one key theme that ties the two articles together.

In the gainsharing article, the author discusses gainsharing as a practice that, for all intents and purposes, ties employee involvement practices to employee recognition practices. In the flexible workplace article, the author ties work-life balance practices to health and safety practices. There are likely numerous other examples in which practices from the five psychologically healthy workplace practice categories (which also include employee growth and development) are integrated to create more comprehensive organizational programs.

All too often, it seems that organizations want to emphasize what they have accomplished in one area, rather than looking to see how the five areas overlap and influence each other. For example, many organizations hold up their wellness programs, with an emphasis on health risk assessments, weight loss and smoking cessation, as a sign that they care about the health and well-being of their employees, but they then do little to give employees more autonomy in the workplace, input into decision making, opportunities for career development, recognition for their accomplishments or opportunities for workplace flexibility.

Each of the five workplace practice categories can have a positive contribution to employee health and well-being and organizational effectiveness. However, each also meets a specific set of needs that employees have. Employee involvement practices meet employee needs for autonomy and input, and work-life balance practices meet employee needs for personal resource allocation (especially in allocating resources to work and non-work life). Recognition practices meet employee needs to feel accomplished and valued, while health and safety practices meet physical and mental health needs. Employee growth and development practices meet employee needs to expand one’s professional repertoire and advancement options.

The five categories of practices all meet different types of employee needs, so excelling in one type of practice is insufficient in creating a comprehensive psychologically healthy workplace. As we move into a new year, I hope that more organizations will take a systemic approach to creating a psychologically healthy workplace. This approach requires combining individual practices from each of the five categories and aligns them with them organization’s vision, structure and culture. There is no better way for an organization to create sustainable competitive advantage than by creating practices, processes and programs that leverage the uniqueness of that organization.