Is there a work-life balance in the pharmacy?

Many companies overlook the impact that workplace culture can have on employee well-being and instead focus relentlessly on financial metrics.

Since its onset, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased working life challenges for many homeworkers as the lines between work and personal life have been blurred. These trying times have highlighted the reality that we need to make a living, but also make sure we are still “alive” to avoid burning out.

To address these challenges, many organizations are increasingly focusing on employee well-being and have linked work-life imbalance to excessive work demands. Efforts to improve wellbeing include initiatives like bringing your pet to work, wellness days, hiring consultants to coach employees on work-life balance, promoting healthy eating, and practicing yoga and mindfulness.

However, these approaches address the symptoms of work-life imbalance and ignore the root causes of employee burnout. Most of the time, it is not the demands of the job that lead to burnout, but a lack of passion for what we do on a daily basis and psychological security.

The Wall Street Journal notes that more than half of American workers are dissatisfied with their jobs. According to Gallup’s World Poll, 63% of the global workforce is “checked out” and “sleepwalking through their workday.”

Additionally, 78% of Americans report work-related anxiety and panic attacks, while 48% are actively seeking alternative employment opportunities. In American companies, there is a huge gap between what employees expect from work and their actual work experiences. This disparity has resulted in a workforce where approximately 88% of workers are not passionate about what they do every day.

Gallup’s World Poll found that the most common reasons employees are demotivated are a lack of development opportunities, a lack of connection to the company’s purpose, and a lack of a strong relationship at work. In the United States alone, loneliness has increased by 300%.

Loneliness has a mortality risk comparable to obesity or 15 cigarettes a day. According to Harvard’s Very Happy People’s Study, deep social connections have a 0.7 correlation with job satisfaction.

Work-related stress and burnout stem from a lack of passion for our work. A lack of passion often occurs when employees are assigned projects and work tasks, not because it serves the greater cause, but because it brings more revenue to the company. Over time, this lack of passion leads to boredom and unhappy employees who act out their dissatisfaction at work with their colleagues and those they serve.

Many companies overlook the impact that workplace culture can have on employee well-being and instead focus relentlessly on financial metrics. We humans will never be part of these financial ratios.

We can only be part of the culture that was created for us. As a social species, a positive culture can be deeply soothing to our human bodies. It creates a sense of belonging and harmony with those we work with.

When we feel included at work, we feel that our contributions have value and meaning. So many companies fail to understand that regardless of their rank, their team is the greatest asset they have to help them hit their financial metrics. Money or financial gains should not be the end result, but should instead be a resource or fuel to take the company one step closer to fulfilling its mission.

Another cause of work stress and burnout is a lack of psychological security. Perhaps the best way to explain psychological safety is through the circle of safety – an idea suggested by Simon Sinek. Leaders who create a cycle of safety develop an environment where people can be their natural best.

Through this cycle of security, leaders foster a positive work culture in which employees feel safe working together and develop a sense of belonging. This cycle of security breeds innovation, growth and ultimately success for the company and its employees.

Innovation requires risk, experimentation and failure. If an employee fears that they could lose their job or their place in the work community if they take a risk and fail, then they are unlikely to take the risk, resulting in a lack of success for the company and the employee.

In order to ensure psychological security, managers have two tasks. First, they must decide who to add to their security circle. For example, when hiring, employees should be selected to enhance the company’s culture, those who can be trusted, who share and support the company’s values.

Second, they must ensure that the circle they create is expanded to ensure the safety of the company’s youngest member. The strongest companies are those with the largest circle of security.

Weak companies have a security circle that extends only to those in the boardroom. In other words, when the company fails to meet the financial metrics, they sacrifice the low-level managers first to protect themselves.

With an expanded circle of security, junior executives feel equally secure, investing their energy in their work, trusting their peers and supervisors, and cooperating against outside threats. As the circle expands, leadership sends a message that in difficult times we are all in this together.

It also sends a message that we will not sacrifice people for financial gain, regardless of the severity of the external threat or competition. Unless the circle is widened to protect young talent, they shift their energies from innovation and collaboration to self-preservation, and valuable employees end up leaving the company.

In other words, as a leader, you can’t demand trust, innovation, and collaboration, but you can create a culture that encourages trust, collaboration, and innovation.

The importance of psychological safety is best explained by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a psychological theory of motivation proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943. His theory states that there are 5 categories of human needs that determine individual behavior: physiological needs, security needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs.

A humanist, Maslow believed that people are born with a desire to be self-actualizing or to be all that they can be in life. As you can see, our need for security follows our immediate basic physiological needs. Physiological needs include protection, security, justice, stability, and security for our loved ones.

In order for people in an organization to reach their full potential, basic psychological security needs must first be met. When we look at these hierarchical needs related to working in a toxic work environment, instead of self-actualization, employees worry about their safety and whether they will be next in line for mass layoffs if the company fails to meet financial metrics.

In essence, there is no balance between work and personal life if we do not feel psychologically secure at work and are not working towards a higher cause. It is the responsibility of leadership to create a culture in which employees feel safe and belonging and which can motivate everyone to work for this higher cause.

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