Last April, Amazon Prime Video distributed a new Italian comedy show that soon became popular. During the show, one comedian plays a scene dressed up as a funny superhero that he names “Patman.”
“What is your superpower?” the other comedians ask.
“I give pats.”, he replies. “I just give comfort.”
“Well, it’s a wonderful superpower!” one says.
Besides being hilarious, one could detect some truth in that. Although technological development has improved living standards, stress, loneliness, and unhappiness are spreading in the digital era. The outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic has exacerbated distress. No wonder people nowadays seek comfort.
25% of employees consider their jobs as the number one source of stress in their lives.
40% of surveyed workers report that their job is extremely stressful, while 26% declare to be often burned out (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Can you imagine how much such unease can influence your life? You might have an idea, but research findings are remarkable:
- 70% higher probability of dying for people with poor social relationships. Note: it is “only” 50% higher if you are a smoker (HBR, 2015).
- More than 75% of doctor visits are due to stress (AIS).
- Chronic stress can induce a long list of disorders, including respiratory problems, headaches, and weakened immune system (APA, 2018).
On top of health costs, companies that promote or neglect a stressful work environment face a disengagement toll.
In turn, disengagement is associated with higher absenteeism, turnover, quality defects, and lower productivity and profitability, as the Gallup poll reveals.
These findings suggest that impaired employee wellbeing can be harmful not only to individual health but also to business success.
Fostering social connections at work becomes a relevant lever to tackle the issue. Evidence shows that employees tend to be happier and healthier when they can benefit from positive, strong relationships at work. These contribute to their motivation, engagement, and energy, which turn into performance improvement (Forbes, 2018).
Expressing recognition and gratitude is a recommended good practice to connect employees.
Celebrating employees’ success lets them know that their work is meaningful. Praising them makes them feel valued. Appreciation boosts their motivation. Although constraints that prevent employees from socializing do exist (especially during a pandemic), recognition and gratitude can be easily applied to start building a connected work environment.
However, recognition is rare. Companies seem to suffer from a “recognition deficit,” with 82% of American employees not feeling recognized enough for their contributions (HBR, 2016). One possible reason is the human bias discussed in prospect theory: weighting losses much more than gains. Negative information attracts our attention much more than a positive one (Gallup, 2007). Hence, with leaders facing different problems, celebrating success takes a back seat.
Using recognition to strengthen social connections and build a positive work culture appears to be an untapped resource for business growth.
At the same time, it can reduce toxic stress, making us live a healthier and longer life. It is just up to leaders to grasp the opportunity and introduce a culture of recognition in their company. Maybe employees could find in their work community a supportive superhero, like Patman.