Year three of a global pandemic. A war in Ukraine. Inflation in the U.S. at a 40-year high. Small talk around the watercooler (mainly the virtual one, nowadays) certainly feels heavier than it used to.
Recent Gallup data indicates that in 2022, companies and managers remain challenged by the task of raising employee engagement to pre-pandemic levels. Nearly half of global workers (44%) surveyed reported feeling “a lot” of stress in the previous day. The Great Resignation has demonstrated the power of employees to vote with their feet, and a resurgence of the labor movement in the U.S. has put pressure on even top-tier companies to improve working conditions.
Get Updates on Transformative Leadership
Evidence-based resources that can help you lead your team more effectively, delivered to your inbox monthly.
Please enter a valid email address
Thank you for signing up
Companies that have thrived amid the pandemic and worker reshuffling have focused on worker well-being from the start. Unfortunately, for many employees across the globe, this may be the exception rather than the norm. As Gallup’s Jon Clifton put it, “Improving life at work isn’t rocket science, but the world is closer to colonizing Mars than it is to fixing the world’s broken workplaces.”
To begin to fix these issues, managers must focus on two areas in particular: leadership and culture. In the first months of the year, many MIT SMR readers turned their attention to articles focused on workplace culture, talent management, and employee retention.
With many companies now adopting permanent remote and hybrid work policies, other popular articles include data-driven approaches to managing well-being on virtual teams — from scheduling meeting-free days to creating systems for supporting mental health.
The following are the 10 most popular articles of the year so far. We hope they will continue to help managers who are looking to support employee engagement and build thriving workplaces.
Donald Sull, Charles Sull, and Ben Zweig
In this article, the authors discuss the top five predictors of employee turnover uncovered by their analysis of attrition data during the Great Resignation and share four actions that managers can take in the short term to improve employee satisfaction.
Paul B. Lester, Ed Diener, and Martin Seligman
Research has found that happiness, a sense of well-being, and an optimistic outlook are powerful predictors of how well an employee will perform. Managers who consciously promote employee well-being and take steps to eliminate toxic leadership in their business units will reap the benefits.
Ben Laker, Vijay Pereira, Pawan Budhwar, and Ashish Malik
Spending too much time in meetings can detract from effective collaboration, derail workers during their most productive hours, and interrupt people’s train of thought. No-meeting policies permit team members to excel without breaking their momentum, but specific plans must be tailored to each unique organizational context to maximize the benefits. The authors suggest several ways to deploy a no-meeting policy or adjust an existing one.
Elizabeth J. Altman, David Kiron, Robin Jones, and Jeff Schwartz
Research conducted by MIT SMR and Deloitte examines the challenges companies and managers face in leading and coordinating workforces that increasingly rely on external contributors.
Donald Sull, Charles Sull, William Cipolli, and Caio Brighenti
According to research, the five most common elements of toxic workplace cultures — being disrespectful, noninclusive, unethical, cutthroat, and abusive — contribute the most to employee attrition and can damage company reputation. Being aware of these elements and understanding how they spread can help employers prevent and address them.
There’s a limit to how much mental energy is available to us on any given day, so it’s essential that we spend it deliberately and thoughtfully. This article details the process of creating a cognitive budget, using techniques from positive psychology, cognitive behavioral therapy, and behavioral economics.
Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy
When it comes to leadership, there’s a difference between demanding that employees be mentally tough and actually helping them take care of their mental health. The authors suggest five actions leaders can take to create a workplace that supports employees and fosters resilience.
Categorizing decisions by riskiness and urgency helps clarify when employees should move autonomously and when they should pull leaders into decision-making.
B. Tom Hunsaker and Jonathan Knowles
Adapting your leadership approach is necessary for achieving the change your organization requires. The authors discuss three tasks — drawing the map, establishing the mindset, and communicating the message — that are essential to becoming a contextually effective leader.
Sharon K. Parker and Gwenith G. Fisher
Work that permits autonomy and demands problem-solving can bolster employees’ cognitive skills and ongoing learning. This article looks at how organizations and managers can use good work design to strengthen their workforce’s ability to adapt to new processes, tools, and roles.