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Timing Is Everything

The Sequence for Communicating Dignity, Wellbeing, and Efficiency at Work

Understanding when and how we integrate dignity and wellbeing into our workplace is essential. The timing of communicating our core values, culture, and knowledge will determine our commitment and passion for our work. Traditionally, the workplace has been viewed as an environment for efficiency and success where we later add key features such as safety and health, and more recently, wellbeing. This sequence is understandable as companies strive for solvency and profit. The sequence may initially succeed during the short-term. However, it is not sustainable. The goal of short-term efficiency and productivity can create an attitude of efficiency-at-all-costs, resulting in potential stagnation or decline.

Previous and current research guides us toward a new and more human work environment. The Whitehall II Study highlights the negative effects of rigid hierarchy and structure. Coping distance describes how workers’ effectiveness decreases as people adapt to work practices that are not natural or supportive. Contrary to the view that people who are successful become happy, we now know that the opposite is true — people who are happy become successful. The use of functioning magnetic resonance imaging allows us to understand how the human brain works — how we are wired primarily as emotional machines that happen to think. Through these and other studies, we see the importance of responding first to our core human values — shared values of respect, dignity, and relationship.

As a result of these insights, the timing for communicating and implementing dignity and wellbeing at work becomes crucial. This communication is integrated through a variety of media including video, print, Internet, and social media. This communication is also part of every work relationship and conversation. Establishing dignity, respect, and wellbeing for the entire individual creates an environment where workers can thrive, allowing for personal commitment and passion. This environment eventually leads to good work, which includes safe work, greater efficiency, and greater productivity. Here, efficiency and productivity arise organically from worker values, ownership, and commitment, and not from an environment of just-do-what-I-tell-you.

Communicating core human values must come first. Multiple forms of media and management style effectively convey the importance and timing of dignity and wellbeing at work. For example, a new American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) video first establishes industrial hygiene as the right thing to do, addressing the human values of family and friends; only within this context does it later address productivity and cost savings. Indeed, expressing core values first honors what it means to be human at work and our potential to flourish.