Why Going Back to the Office Isn’t the Magic Bullet for Building Employee Morale
When will things return to “normal?” It’s a question we’ve all been asking since early 2020 and one that has particularly been challenging for managers. They’re grappling with turnover and a people shortage because of the pandemic and now must decide if they’ll reopen offices or let work from home continue.
Finding answers requires a review of the latest health and safety advice as well as a sense of what’s the right thing to do. One CEO recently wrote about how she worries “about the erosion of office culture with more remote work.”
To add data to the conversation, we conducted a first-of-its-kind survey that provides a surprising insight: Location doesn’t matter. “How Pride Drives Business Value for Organizations” discovered no statistically significant difference in employee pride between those working from home and those located on-site.
The data show that proud employees are the result of a culture of consistent recognition. And that culture, in turn, produces satisfied customers and shareholders. The research highlights the importance of new approaches for helping employees feel proud of their work and their companies, but just sitting together in a shared space isn’t enough anymore as businesses make strategic decisions about what the workplace should look like.
The report’s authors, Dr. Bob Nelson and Dr. Rick Garlick, conducted an online survey of over 1,000 U.S. full-time employees who were neither self-employed nor independent contractors. Sixty-four percent were on-site workers, 30% had transitioned to remote work and 6% were already working from home before the COVID pandemic began. The study sample and predictive modeling exercises had good representation across genders, age groups, industries, management/non-management status, length of tenure and other factors that could potentially influence workplace pride.
Overall, 43% indicate they have the highest level of pride in their work while about half as many (20%) indicate low pride in their work. Company pride is more divided, with approximately one-third (33%) indicating high company pride, while another one-third (30%) had low company pride with the other third (37%) somewhere in the middle.
The research found company pride is driven primarily by company culture. The factor analysis showed that 18 separate items predicted company culture and included such diverse ideas as generating high trust and respect for leadership; having a strong mission, vision and values; maintaining a positive corporate reputation for ethics; consistently displaying considerate treatment of employees; and having a high profile for corporate contributions to social, environmental and governance causes.
Employee Recognition Matters
The researchers found pride to be essential to employees feeling more energized in the workplace and equated to more people wanting to come to work and put in their best efforts. The report says, “When people feel pride in their workplace, morale is high and people feel positive about being part of the larger team, doing something that makes a difference in both their own lives as well as for the greater good.”
The authors say that when the quality of employee recognition is consistently high, it’s associated with strong work pride 82% of the time and with strong company pride 75% of the time. Whether the opportunity for recognition drives pride or if employees with strong pride tend to receive greater amounts of recognition, it’s clear there’s a hand-in-glove relationship between the two.
The researchers say the findings show the need for companies to check what they’re currently encouraging in their culture and confirm that it aligns with creating positive workplace pride in their employees.
The results from this study are irrefutable: No matter how much monetary incentive you throw at employees, if you do not put in the due diligence to address non-monetary, intrinsic drivers such as pride and engagement, the goal of a high-performing business culture will remain elusive.”
The data show that receiving any type of recognition (e.g., public, private, written, digital) has a positive relationship with pride. When none of these types of recognition are received, only 26% indicated strong personal pride in their work and 17% had strong personal pride in their companies.
The researchers note that digital praise was ranked slightly higher than other forms of recognition examined in impacting workplace pride, counterintuitive to the traditional recognition programs organizations use such as years-of-service awards, end-of-the-year award programs, employee-of-the-month programs, holiday parties, lotteries and gift cards.