Love Your Job? Your Co-Workers, Flexible Options May Be Why

Feeling valued also contributes to employees’ sense of satisfaction

By Kathy Gurchiek Mar 2, 2016
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Love your job?

Maybe it’s the pantry full of granola, fresh fruit, and veggies that are free for employees to nosh on at work. Or telecommuting options that allow you to spend more time with your family than your steering wheel. Maybe you feel you’re making a difference with the work that you do. But chances are it’s not just one thing that contributes to that lovin’ feeling.

“Loving your job really has to do with the intersection of the work you’re doing and the context you’re doing the work in,” said David Ballard, head of the Washington, D.C.-based American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) Center for Organizational Excellence. During February, the APA collected submissions for its fourth annual I Love My Job campaign to learn what fuels people’s passion about their jobs. “It’s a combination of what you’re actually doing on the job and the environment you’re doing it in.”

Alena Callaghan, senior manager for marketing operations at software company Opower in Washington, D.C., ticked off a long list of what she loves about her job, including a dog-friendly environment, workplace flexibility and a culture of trust.

“We’re treated like adults,” she said in her APA submission. “I'm able to flex my hours to take care of deliveries, appointments and more. My managers trust me to get my work done without requiring me to clock in at a specific time.”

That points to an environment that conveys trust between employees and the organization, where employees are valued, involved in meaningful ways and not treated merely as capital, Ballard said. A sense that employee voices are heard and having several channels to provide feedback were some of the reasons Callaghan touted for loving her job.

“When several people raised concerns about lack of diversity, they formed a committee to come up with concrete plans, such as having a consultant come in to one of the company meetings to teach about unconscious bias,” she said.

For Kate Whidden, believing her job makes a difference in another person’s life is an important factor for loving what she does. She is the director of leadership and governance for Momentous Institute, an organization in Dallas that provides therapeutic and education services for children, as well as parent education.

“It’s not just a job. I’m glad to earn pay and benefits for sure, but it’s bigger than that,” Whidden said in the video she submitted to the APA in 2015 and which remains highlighted on its website. “We focus on strengthening social and emotional health so kids can achieve their full potential.” She’s been at the institute for 15 years and she still loves her job, she told SHRM Online.

Co-Workers Are Important

A collegial environment also is important, Ballard said, noting that having favorable relations with co-workers has been linked to reduced job stress, more positive emotions and lower rates of burnout. And while it’s not an organization’s responsibility to make sure employees become best friends or lunch buddies, it is important to have a work environment where people are civil and bullying is not tolerated.

“It’s about having a positive work experience ... Having close relationships with co-workers, doing something meaningful. It doesn’t always have to be fun and games.”

The people Whidden works with are the No. 1 reason she said she loves her job.

“The people who make time to say hello, to ask how it’s going, to share news from their lives—this is important to me,” she said in the video.

Ashley Uhl, senior association manager at Meeting Expectations, a meeting planning and association management company that is headquartered in Atlanta, loves coming to work every day nearly two years into her job in the company’s Falls Church, Va., office.

“I have fun with my co-workers and we work hard,” she said. She also likes being able to volunteer for new opportunities and learn new skills with other client teams, she told SHRM Online in an e-mail. “And as is the case with people who work hard, we also play hard.” That includes an annual summer retreat in Georgia that draws remote workers and those from the company’s four offices.

“It takes the focus off of work and deadlines and lets you get to know other people you’ve never worked with before. And maybe throw someone in the pool.”

There can be a downside, though, for workers who have a strong positive connection to their job, Ballard said.

“These people tend to be highly committed and strongly identify with what they do, and that can leave them more open to stressors. When something goes wrong or poses a threat [to their job], it’s a bigger deal. People who have a strong identity with their jobs ... [have a higher] risk of burnout.”

How Can HR Create a Workplace to Love?

Ballard recommended three strategies for HR in helping to create an environment that fosters love for one’s job:

  • Focus on ways to enrich job activities, defining and altering jobs so all of the tasks in any one job are not too routine, monotonous or meaningless.
    “Every task doesn’t have to be meaningful; with any job there are going to be aspects that are not interesting,” Ballard acknowledged, but he advised building in duties that are challenging or fulfilling.
  • Look at programs and policies around work/life balance and flexible work arrangements, health and wellness activities to keep people healthy and performing at their best and offer opportunities for training and development.
  • Create an environment where there is good two-way communication and employees have an opportunity to be involved in day-to-day decisions that affect them on the job.

“You can’t make someone love their job,” Ballard said, “but you can create an environment that is conducive to it.”

 Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News. Follow her @SHRMwriter.

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