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Employee Wellbeing

The Best Way to “Love” Your Employees Is to Set Them Free

Paul E. Terry, Ph.D.

President and CEO, Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO)

Not that long ago, offering free donuts and coffee in the morning and pizza in the evenings was a common strategy for “keeping butts in chairs.” Today, there are still organizations with over-the-top employee perks that spend money on conveniences to give employees fewer reasons to leave the office. Onsite clinics, laundry service, daycare facilities and “work-life” centers are all wonderful benefits that, coincidentally, make work an easier place to spend more of one’s life. Add to this onsite massage and e-triggers to take mindfulness moments, and the allure of the office increasingly beats the foibles of life outside.

A mutually beneficial relationship​​​​​​​

The employee benefits arms race fits well under a principle of reciprocity. Based on scales that measure “perceived organizational support,” it is well established that when employers go above and beyond what is expected to support employees, their employees offer exceptional efforts in return. I expect research will continue to show that the best predictors of employee loyalty and retention will have more to do with caring than convenience.

Among romantics it is said that if you truly love someone, you must be willing to set them free. As the movement from wellness to well-being achieves full-throttled momentum, more companies are embracing a psychologically healthy workplace that includes love, gratitude and, particularly, employee autonomy.

Love in the workplace

The concept that “companionate love” in the workplace offers competitive advantages is making the pages of business journals, as is the value of giving employees opportunities to contribute to their communities. Similarly, studies of the new and emerging workforce have shown millennials are purpose driven and want latitude in co-designing jobs that fuel their passions. Others argue that offering flexible hours, remote work options and honor-system, even unlimited, vacation time are the surest ways to attract top talent.

Employers understand that a great employee experience translates to a great customer experience. Executive leaders must balance how to satisfy the C-Suite with co-creating employee-centered well-being initiatives that soar in popularity and impact, while also bringing love and autonomy into the conversation about health and performance.

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