Friday, January 22

Improving Performance: The Weekend Effect At Work?

A new study, published in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, noted that people experience better moods, greater vitality, and fewer aches and pains from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. Called the "weekend effect" by Richard Ryan, author and professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, the study found that even people with interesting, high status jobs tend to feel happier on the weekend.

"Our findings highlight just how important free time is to an individual's well-being." Ryan said. "Far from frivolous, the relatively unfettered time on weekends provides critical opportunities for bonding with others, exploring interests and relaxing -- basic psychological needs that people should be careful not to crowd out with overwork."

Among the most interesting findings from the study that tracked the moods of 74 adults (ages 18 to 62), was the distinction of whether people felt controlled or autonomous in the tasks they were asked to perform at work or on the weekend. Participants also indicated how close they felt to others present and how competent they perceived themselves to be at their activity.

The results supported a self-determination theory, which suggests that a person's well-being depends largely on autonomy, a sense of competence, and relatedness to others. The takeaway from the weekend effect for business leaders is simple. Affording employees more autonomy and nurturing emotional connections between co-workers could contribute to a greater well-being, competence in performance, and increased productivity.

The study also seems to provide real insight into why the right corporate culture can propel companies forward or how organizational leaders, internal communicators, and individuals can make a difference in the workplace.

Defining The Organizational Culture

• Organizational Clarity. Almost every successful model works toward establishing a vision, mission, and values to produce such clarity. However, where companies sometimes undervalue the mechanisms that contribute to the brand or corporate culture is that they forget to make every member of the team part of the planning process.

• Decision Making. As the study suggests, increasing autonomy across all positions can contribute to a better sense of well-being within a company. Generally, the biggest barrier for companies to overcome is eliminating the fear of failure, especially when employees are concerned about their jobs. In developing organizational charts, leaders might want to clearly define areas where employees can empower themselves within the workplace by allowing them to make decisions after any mandatories are complete.

• Organizational Communication. Earlier this week, there was an article that revealed almost 90 percent of UK councils block employee social media access (hat tip: Shel Holtz). The blocking often stems from fear that social media could reduce employee productivity. However, social media and social networks can be employed differently. With guidance, they can be used to bust silos (isolated departments) and help reestablish the free flow of information between employees.

• Management Style. We've been integrating leadership communication into the mix for the better part of two years. In doing so, many posts reinforce a concept that some companies seem to have forgotten: leadership moves people forward; management tends to regulate. In other words, authoritarian styles tend to be counterproductive, especially among younger generations that grew up with a greater sense of autonomy.

• Human Resource Development. If there are any trends that we would like to see developing out of the recession, it would be an increased effort to break down any barriers between human resources and corporate or internal communication. Whereas human resources can host development workshops, corporate and internal communication departments could develop joint communication projects that benefit workers between such sessions. The goal here, once again, would be to create a corporate culture that encourages autonomy, a sense of competence, and relatedness to others.

Of course, I don't subscribe to the concept that individuals should wait for employers to lead. So in looking over this five-point list, it seems some individuals might find ways to adopt these principles on their own.

In other words, individuals can improve their own sense of performance and well-being at work by defining their role within the company; making decisions based on how they react and respond to their environment; reaching out to colleagues in other departments when the need arrises; adjusting their own outlook to take on leadership qualities in dealing with others; and pursuing their own professional development sessions outside of work.

In that case, even if the work environment doesn't feel changed, individuals can improve their outlook or perhaps prepare themselves for a more rewarding experience at a company where such traits are admired. The choice is yours.



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