In 1938, Dr. Robert Waldinger of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, began the world’s longest scientific study in search of the true ingredients of happiness. Today, the study includes three generations of people, following participants starting as early as their teenage years. What did the happiest and healthiest study participants have in common?
One key factor stood out
The participants deemed the “happiest” all cited good relationships as a central engine to their mindset. Waldinger and his co-author wrote, “If you were to make one decision to best ensure your own health and happiness, it should be to cultivate warm relationships.”
Brain scans and self-assessments determined the following results:
- Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who reported that they were “thriving” at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger.
- Those who reported they were satisfied with their relationships at age 50 were also the healthiest at age 80.
- Those participants who scored highest on “warm relationships” measurements earned significantly more money than those who scored lower in this category in their peak earning years.
The stronger your relationships, the more likely you will live a satisfying and all-around happy life. In fact, this mindset has such an impact it was referenced as the reason many people can successfully respond to and overcome obstacles that occur in all facets of life. Good relationships include social relationships—such as friendships or family relations—and relationships with oneself and your career path, hobbies, job, etc. Simply put, Dr. Waldinger’s work supports the claim that your mental well-being dramatically impacts the quality of work you produce and your motivation and productivity level.
Strategies to promote good relationships
Americans aged 25-54 spend more time working than doing anything else—underscoring the importance of workplace relationships. Here are five strategies your organization can implement to enhance employee relationships—resulting in increased happiness and retention.
- Offer flexible work opportunities
Work-life imbalance can create tension in personal and professional relationships. Therefore, today’s workforce increasingly seeks a healthy work-life balance. Due in part to the switch to remote work during the pandemic, offering hybrid, fully remote, or flexible work/schedule options shows employees that you understand their family and personal obligations outside of work. Employees who are constantly working and stressed cannot give their partners, children, or friends the time and attention they need. An unhealthy balance can also create tension in business relationships. Workers who are not well-rested may be more easily triggered and likely to lash out at coworkers or customers. Overworked employees may also not have the time to build strong work relationships and bonds.
- Strengthen the manager-employee relationship
We have all heard the saying, “employees don’t quit their job, they quit their manager.” 57 percent of unhappy employees leave their job because of their manager, and less than 40 percent of workers feel their organization enables them to build mutually trusted relationships with managers. Managers can influence employee engagement scores by at least 70 percent. Focusing on this one work relationship can significantly impact overall employee engagement and organizational performance. Ensure your managers have regular one-on-ones with employees, create a culture of continuous feedback, and empower managers to lead your employee recognition and reward program.
- Invest in DEI&B efforts
Researcher David Rock found that we are our most productive, driven, and creative selves when we feel truly connected to our work and the people we are doing it with. Promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace fosters a sense of corporate connection among employees. When employees feel connected to one another and that their work adds value to the company’s mission, they are more engaged. As a result, organizations that adopt DEI&B practices benefit greatly in business results, creativity, and enhanced corporate culture. In fact, ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to outperform their competitors. Champion DEI&B efforts by investing in minority leadership programs, obtaining employee perceptions via surveys, and working towards eliminating corporate barriers typically faced by underrepresented employees.
- Prioritize corporate culture
A key factor in creating a great corporate culture is the relationships your team builds with one another. Accenture Research states, “a culture of connection that’s fostered by omni-connected experiences produces major benefits for people and the business. We think it is critical for businesses to understand this because truly meaningful human relationships lead to truly meaningful growth for businesses.” A toxic corporate culture negatively impacts an employee’s relationship with their job and mental health, affecting them personally and professionally.
- Leverage non-monetary benefits
Investing in your workers as a whole is essential—not just as employees. Doing this will leave an emotional impression on them, as it will be viewed as a corporate investment in the employee’s mental health, happiness, and well-being. “There are many ways to supplement salary by assisting employees in other areas of their lives,” says Bobby Hotaling, President and CEO of the Hotaling Group. In fact, 65 percent of employees prefer non-monetary incentives instead of monetary rewards. Offering perks and benefits—such as mental health resources, wellness programs, and gym memberships—lets employees know they are genuinely valued beyond the “business” assets they provide in their role.
Eighty-five years of research has proven that—more than anything else—good relationships contribute to happiness. Implementing these five relationship-building strategies will help to ensure your organization keeps your most valuable employees during what has been referred to as the year of “The Great Retention.”
This blog was written by Acara Recruitment Specialist Julia Duke.