If you take away the economic aspect, why do people work? This question, which has guided the research of the Mexican Marisa Elizundia, a specialist and consultant in human resources and creator of the Emotional Salary Barometer, seems to have become more relevant among employees and collaborators around the world due to the pandemic.
Lockdowns and remote working have, according to Elizundia, made people more aware of the amount of time they spend each day based on their work.
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Getting up every day, getting ready to go out, spending an eternal and tedious time in traffic, working eight, ten hours or more in the company, with all its flats, and returning home with barely time and breath to finish the day while waiting a new day: “We had all of that so integrated into life, so automated, that we didn’t realize that the greatest amount of time we spent awake, a third of life, was spent on it. Remote work made us aware that we were missing out on the possibility of spending more time at home, having meals with the family, being able to finish the day and go for a walk, sunbathe, and we were giving up all of that just in exchange for a salary”, says the expert.
He adds that this is the reason why workers now expect more from their jobs and from their companies. And while having a better salary is an important foundation, it’s not always a raise they’re after. In fact, they want things that go beyond salary.
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They seek emotional salary: reasons to feel happy with their work, with their company. And aspects such as flexible hours are part of that; feel recognized, listened to, valued and respected; have programs to improve their well-being, and grow, for which training and career plans are key.
The Mexican Nancy Martínez, CEO and founder of Live 13.5°, the first consulting firm in organizational happiness in Latin America and creator of the International Ranking of Heroine Companies Happiness, points out that this feeling is no longer so alien to many companies.
“Among the changes brought about by the pandemic in terms of labor relations is not only the greater importance that employers and corporate leaders give to the well-being and happiness of workers; also, the fact that the employees became empowered and now want a change with respect to what they lived before covid”, affirms the expert.
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Martínez adds that older workers with more experience tend to accept the pre-pandemic model more. The youngest, no. “These guys now come to job interviews and inquire about the way they are going to work, if they are going to have flexibility (face-to-face, hybrid, remote), how the company is going to take care of them and what it offers them to have a quality of life, and from that they decide. We are entering a trend in which companies no longer choose their collaborators, it is the collaborators who choose the companies”, says Nancy.
Even so, many of them have a lot of work to do in this regard. It is worth saying, for example, that according to an online survey carried out last year by the British firm AON with 1,648 companies from 41 countries, 82 percent of them recognize that the well-being of workers is important and a priority; in fact, 87 percent have at least one initiative in that direction. But only 55 percent have a defined strategy, and a scant 24 percent fully integrate wellness into their corporate strategy.
And this occurs even though, according to the authors of the survey, it is fully demonstrated that “focusing on improving individual and organizational well-being performance has a direct impact on improving business results.”
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“Organizations that improve their employee wellness offerings by 3 percent see a 1 percent increase in customer satisfaction and retention; and if that improvement is 4 percent, they see a 1 percent increase in their bottom line and a 1 percent decrease in voluntary employee turnover,” the authors note.
But what signs can indicate to companies that they are not doing the job well in terms of well-being and emotional salary?
Nancy Martínez recommends observing the emotionality of the workers. It is not a good sign that they become more parsimonious, that they do not participate when meetings are called, that they have negative attitudes, that they refuse to answer when asked, that a bad organizational climate is perceived and that frequent resignations are presented. “Ultimately, it is necessary to make this diagnosis and try to establish the causes in order to start acting,” she says.
And the leaders?
Both experts agree on the determining role that leaders and bosses have in the well-being of workers. “A leader who only tells the collaborator what to do, and puts pressure on him but does not accompany him and does not recognize him, is an absent leader who, for the same reason, generates uncertainty in this worker, who is not sure if he is doing things well and does not know if he contributes with his work. Situations like these, which generate discomfort, not only push people to look for another job but also spread rumors in the company. In short, not only is there a brain drain, but also an impact on the organizational culture,” says Nancy Martínez.
And he insists: “People, today more than ever, want to have good bosses, leaders from whom they can learn and whom they can admire”.
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In this regard, Marisa Elizundia points out that the pandemic ended up putting leadership to the test, and that having migrated to remote work did not diminish the importance of bosses and leaders, but quite the opposite: “That scenario put them to the test and ended up magnifying their defects and qualities. The bosses who, for example, did not motivate and who were not interested in the personal and human aspect of their collaborators were perceived as much more absent and disinterested in a stage in which they were expected to assume their leadership more strongly”.
The expert maintains, for this reason, that the role of leader is undergoing a transformation as a result of the pandemic. And it is not for less: the “return to normality” will not really be so much, since the bosses will face working groups that will work under hybrid schemes; also, to completely virtual teams and collaborators who acquired different work dynamics during remote work.
Throughout her work with companies and as a consultant, Marisa Elizundia was always assailed by the question of why people work, beyond all economic aspects.
He noticed, for example, that some people who gave their best in their work were not always the best paid, and he also saw well-paid workers who gave their worst in their jobs. “In short, there was something beyond the salary that motivated them to do their job better or not,” he says.
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For years he took this question to different scenarios and groups of companies. After analyzing all the information and decanting it, he obtained a list of the ten factors that make it possible to measure the emotional salary of workers. These are:
Autonomy: refers to people’s perception that they can manage their own projects and their work and personal lives.
membership: it is about being recognized, appreciated and valued by the group to which one belongs.
Creativity: it has to do with being able to put a stamp, leave a mark on everything that is done; even in the most serious or routine jobs it is possible to do it.
Direction: refers to the possibility of being able to visualize a career, a professional path.
Enjoyment: These are everyday moments when people have fun at work. Those moments, missed by many in the pandemic, were replaced by more work.
Inspiration: It is the possibility of being inspired by others (and of inspiring others) through the things that are seen, done and perceived in the workplace.
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master’s degree: constant work allows perfecting skills and abilities that lead people to acquire mastery in their trade. The satisfaction of doing something well and getting better and better is priceless.
Personal development: it is the possibility, in the workplace, of developing those strengths that make people better human beings, such as humility, honesty, forgiveness, gratitude, self-control and discipline.
Professional development: the opportunity to develop job skills and competencies through spaces generated by companies, such as mentoring, training and challenges.
Purpose: feeling that the work that is done has a direction and a purpose, which at the same time is aligned with that of the company.
Elizundia points out that every worker is able to establish whether their work space fills them in terms of emotional salary: “One option is to evaluate whether these factors come true; the other is through our barometer, which allows interested parties to carry out this analysis online”.
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Finally, Nancy Martínez calls on workers to look at themselves, instead of just judging companies: “It is convenient for one to ask, for example, if I am being as collaborative, assertive and proactive as the company expects and needs to. Do I have the right attitude, am I adding value, have I been proactive, have I made an effort to stand out in order to be taken into account? Perhaps after answering these questions objectively, he finds that he can, himself, contribute a lot to the construction of his emotional salary.
Personal risks that affect companies
The ‘2021 AON Global Wellness Report’ also revealed, based on the survey, that while health and wellness initiatives are well established in companies, with 80% agreeing they are beneficial to their organizations, they do not generate a resilient workforce; in fact, the study indicated that only 30% of employees surveyed are resilient.
Resilience in the workplace means that people can better adapt to adverse situations, manage stress and stay motivated, allowing companies to better manage change.
The survey indicates that the top wellness risks affecting business results are emotional wellness issues caused by stress (67%), burnout (46%) and anxiety (37%).