Maslow’s hierarchy of needs starts with the basic physiological needs for survival. To sustain life, those include food and shelter, but to sustain a satisfying career, they include stable employment, a good salary and meeting needs for security, belonging, esteem and self-actualization. Many studies show employee engagement is a big factor in productivity, and employers can improve engagement by paying attention to employee needs at work, right down to the colors on the walls.
Understand Employee Needs
To help employees be more productive, employers and managers must understand their needs as explained by Maslow. When employers ask their staff what they need and make changes to meet those needs, they help their employees stay engaged with their jobs and work to the best of their abilities. To measure the difference these changes make, ask your employees some of Gallup’s State of American Workplace questions before and after you implement changes. Some of their topics include:
- Whether they have the right tools to do their work.
- If they feel their opinions matter to their employer.
- If they recently received any recognition.
- If they feel their supervisor cares about them.
Pay Attention to Employee Engagement
Gallup’s State of the American Workplace study found that only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work, and worldwide disengaged workers outnumber engaged workers two to one. Josh Bersin, founder and principal at Bersin by Deloitte, agrees with the Gallup study, saying that employers need to pay attention to employee engagement.
Bersin explains that employees today want more from work than a place to go every day and a paycheck at the end of every week. He discusses research that shows two thirds of employees today are overwhelmed, would like to work fewer hours and are too distracted thanks to an always on lifestyle driven by sexy electronics and social media, which ultimately affects their productivity. Furthermore, these problems flow over to their personal lives and affect their overall quality of life.
Employee engagement encompasses the work employees do, the management style, work environment, flexibility, inclusion in the workplace, ability to learn and grow and trust in leadership. Bersin says that leaders are often afraid to make the radical changes needed, but they do not need to be.
Change the Work Environment
A sincere thank you for a job well done goes a long way toward making employees feel their efforts are recognized and valued. However, giving employees control over their work environment and letting them take ownership of their workspace meets a variety of the needs identified by Maslow.
Environmental psychologist Sally Augustin teaches the mechanics of color psychology, for example. She says colors create specific emotional and behavioral responses that business owners can use to benefit their workforce and their bottom line. Augustin recommends yellows and oranges to create good feelings of peace and contentment and greens to support creativity. She also cautions against red, purples and blues in the workplace. Red is related to anger and annoyance, purples conjure loathing and boredom and blue has associations with sadness and disapproval, all moods that are not conducive to productivity.
Furthermore, several studies say that changes in the work environment positively affect employees. The New Yorker’s Ben Mauk refers to the Hawthorne Experiments in the ’20s at an industrial plant as well as the University of Exeter’s study in an assisted-living home, which explain that changes and choice in one’s environment can be positive and even help with cognitive abilities.
To help your employees be happier and more engaged in the office, let them choose a color for the walls, pick accessories and décor to remodel offices and make suggestions for office layout. Open the windows and let it feel more light and homey with long curtains. Use color on the walls to create a more comfortable, appealing work environment. You can even customize the colors to the department’s needs such as green in a web design department to aid creativity or warm colors like orange and yellow to stimulate feelings of well-being and interest for your marketing team.
No matter what you do, show your employees that you care about their happiness at work and that you are willing to adjust to their needs.