For most of us, the word ‘comfort’ has extremely positive connotations. We all strive to be comfortable in all aspects of our lives, whether it be at home or at work, physically, emotionally or financially. Even when employees feel discomfort – typically when they arrive at a new company, meet their coworkers and learn what’s expected of them – this gradually eases over time. And rightly so. Here, employees have adjusted to their surroundings and responsibilities, have integrated into the culture and become fully functioning members of the organization.
However, just recently, I have noticed an increase in commentary which views comfort as a negative. Those who are comfortable in their jobs, for example, are now regarded as being complacent; or that they are averse to being challenged or being presented with opportunities for growth. It seems that while constant striving for advancement is praised; comfortable employees are viewed as being on autopilot.
The reality however, is that employee comfort is critical to engagement and productivity – something that is increasingly needed in our post-pandemic workplace. Rather than viewing comfort as the enemy of ambition and achievement, I would urge HRDs to allow employees to prioritize comfort in their career.
So, let’s look at four areas employees should be allowed to focus on as they navigate their career path:
There are two kinds of respect – individual and professional. While individual respect should be shown to everyone equally, professional respect is often earned with hard work and proven results. However, consistent failure to earn either type of respect from managers or coworkers could indicate a toxic culture, poor management or a disparity between an employee’s knowledge or skills and job responsibilities. Employees who are well respected should ensure prospective employers also foster a culture of respect before considering a job change.
Just as they want respect, employees also want to feel appreciated at work. Though constant praise and reassurance shouldn’t be required to do one’s job, no one wants to feel overlooked, undervalued, or worse, have others take credit for their work. Employers that recognize workers’ contributions and celebrate their accomplishments understand that employees are their most valuable asset. Employees who are appreciated know they are fortunate enough to work for a company that doesn’t take them for granted.
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3) Job Security
Job security has taken on a whole new meaning since the pandemic, as many who thought they had it realized they never did. It can be easy for those thinking of changing jobs to deprioritize job security in favor of a higher salary or promotion. However, replacing security with uncertainty can quickly turn comfort to worry and stress. Employees should be allowed to weigh up the perks of a job with the risks of losing it, and determine if any potential worry and stress are worth the possible gains.
4) Work/Life Balance
In the past two years, many longtime office employees have switched to remote work or a hybrid model, causing the lines between work and home life to blur. As workdays became longer and daily meetings collided with parenting responsibilities, employees were reminded of the importance of taking time away from work to unplug, rest and recharge. Good employers realize this and provide a healthy amount of PTO, while encouraging workers to use it. HRDs should present to staff the work/life balance they currently have, to ensure they’re comfortable with how it may change should they accept an offer from another employer.
Those who criticize employees for being comfortable at work surely aren’t suggesting they suffer in order to excel. But the world is still learning to deal with a pandemic that has upended life as we once knew it. I say more of us should realize how important key areas of comfort are to engagement and productivity.