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This article was published on July 30, 2015

Satisfaction at work is not a sprint, it’s a marathon

Satisfaction at work is not a sprint, it’s a marathon
Mackensie Graham

Any runner will tell you that a satisfying race is one prepared for. Meaning, it hurt while it was happening, but putting the hard intervals in, hill sprints, multitudinous miles, and healthy diet pays off at that sweaty, glorious finish line. Similar is the winding trek toward satisfied employees.

The biggest difference is of course, that employee satisfaction is an endless feat. It requires a steadfast training-like dedication to what your company’s employees want and need. Why? People that are satisfied with their role, company policies, work environment, colleagues, and values are more likely to dedicate their bright thoughts and best selves toward the cause.

As modern industry is increasingly more reliant on human capital—ideas, innovation, creation—as opposed to physical units produced, it is essential to focus on this valuable resource. Strive to have the majority of your company satisfied at all levels across all departments and you have yourself a fierce workforce of warriors to be reckoned with. ‘

(Having a hard time visualizing this metaphor? Register for a marathon and get those sneakers to start slapping the pavement.)

dots office team
Credit: pPhoto credit: Ariel Nathanson

Satisfaction rises above and beyond a paycheck because no matter how many zeros are on that salary they cannot change the way a job and company feels. Yes, satisfaction is opinionated, individualized and personal, but there are some general tactics that can have a positive effect on the majority of your company’s workforce.

And the Winner Is…

It may seem elementary, but people like to win things and obtain free stuff. Add a simple dose of excitement and surprise by raffling on sports and entertainment tickets. Create an inter-office competition with the reward being entrance into a raffle for tickets to the movies or local restaurants. The payout doesn’t have to be big, just worthwhile.

Celebrate Good Times

Another incentive to increase employee satisfaction is to host fun events and parties both inside and outside the office. Keep an office-wide birthday calendar and encourage employees and their teams to go beyond the “white cake in the conference room” sort of shindig.

Host a summer picnic for families, hold a festive holiday party, and a monthly healthy happy hour. Break out of the office for a fun day of teambuilding! Consider activities like rock climbing, taking a nature hike, zip lining, painting a mural playing a softball game or embarking on an urban scavenger hunt.


Invite Altruism

Actively demonstrate that your business thinks beyond profits. Align the company with causes that parallel the values and mission held near and dear to the business.

Take a poll to allow employees to choose a charity or organization to support throughout the year by volunteering time and resources. Have human resources compile a database and make connections with local nonprofits that need volunteers and then connect employees with needed volunteer opportunities.

Begin a quarterly-tradition of taking one day to volunteer in the community as a team. A 2013 UnitedHealth Group study reported that 94 percent of people who volunteered said the actions of such improved their mood; 96 percent said volunteering enriches their sense of life purpose.

Volunteer work can help to build communication, time management and stronger bonds between colleagues…all in all a more satisfied employee with themselves, the company and their colleagues.


Creativity Lives Here

We’ve all been to an industry event, a friend’s office or even just seen the Pinterest boards to affirm that cool offices are, well, awesome. They are eye-catching and range in aesthetic from modern minimalist to playground primary tones.

From Google to AirBNB, Lego to Dropbox, companies are capitalizing on deconstructing the cubicle. Multi-level slides, bean bags, hammock swings, co-working spaces and flexible seating are the unofficial uniform of the post-digital companies and their upstart counterparts.

Whether or not your office is coding the next best interface or providing award-winning digital advertising, take a page out of these Silicon Valley stars’ interior design book. If the surrounding environment—the people, the mission, the culture—stinks, a swanky espresso machine or rotating conference room won’t keep people around.

But, the energy put into cultivating a comfortable, energetic environment is a worthy investment that employees can feel good, safe, and able to work to the best of their abilities in the “office.”

Keep a Clean House

It could be a bad sales call, a rejected project or an angry customer that make a bad workday, but sometimes the ultimate tipping point is the little thing. It is nothing but pure frustration when email isn’t working, the projector is broken, and a question is getting pushed off from person to person.


Sometimes those tiny pinpricks of difficulty result in a darkened moods and a general air of expectation of inefficiency and lacking support on the job. Call it housekeeping or open transparency, but consistent communication and standards of operation go a long way. Make it a top priority to reduce these aggravations and set in place systems of internal service and tech support to tackle issues quickly when they do arise.

Remember: keep the long-term goal of employee satisfaction top of mind while changing the day-to-day from the get-go.

Invest in Intelligence

Provide reimbursement or sponsored continuous learning opportunities. Consider that tuition reimbursement for those looking to advance their education in relation to their career can be a shining gold star benefit that sets your company apart.

For example, television network HBO offers not only partial tuition for full-time employees but also its [email protected] program hosts a wide variety of courses for employees to learn from. If tuition reimbursement is not a possibility, offer support for development through other ways.

Consider emulating the CEO of eMarketer who shares business books and recommended reads for teams to read, discuss and learn from. Bring in a public speaking coach for a half-day class or offer payment for a management course; set up a formal mentor-mentee program and host monthly cross-company lectures from various departments on specialized topics.


People love to:

a.) Hear their name be said and

b.) Be recognized for a job well done

Please, don’t throw a parade for every employee who shows up to work, but when an employee (at any level in the organizational chart) has done something worth noting, such as pitching a game-changing idea, innovating on a process, or proving themselves during a difficult challenge, give them a pat on the back.

Whether that is at a weekly meeting or in the form of a private handwritten note, let your team know that the leadership is watching, listening and giving credit where credit is due.

Flex the Flexibility Muscle

It is well understood by now in the modern workplace that the one-size-fits-all doesn’t sit well with everyone and therefore is not the best for the business. If possible allow for early birds to begin the workday before breakfast and support the night owls in their moonlit work. Have a process for employees to communicate their needs to keep their personal interests and family strong.


Does someone teach a yoga class weekly at 4 p.m.? They should be able to start the workday earlier to make time for this. Does a father need to pick his child up from preschool before lunch? Allow him to shift his schedule to put his son or daughter first.

If a snowstorm strikes or a child is sick make it easy for the employee to work remotely. If accessible for your business and technology capabilities, host a weekly work-from-home day that employees set-up on an individual basis with their managers. In the UK, it is now mandatory for companies to allow employees to work remotely where possible. Minimizing commuting frustrations and costs can increase dedicated productivity.

This policy of flexibility is one of trust and reliability. The majority of people will rise to this expectation and will likely be able to give more dedicated time and energy. Respecting that people have lives and work is a piece of that life will allow for a paradigm of acceptance to persist throughout the organization. Ban all jumping through hoops and guilt-trips for taking days off.

Mandatory R&R

Thanks to the blessing and/or curse that is technology, employers and employees alike are always connected to email, social media, phone calls…meaning if you let it, the work never pauses. Employees looking to make a good impression or advance may work all the time or at least give the illusion that they are “always on.”

Don’t allow this to be a pervasive trend throughout employees. Encourage all in the company to take what time they feel they need (to an extent of course) for time with family and personal growth.

All-night company-sponsored hackathons, overnighted deals, 24-hours pitch prep can seem dramatic and fun even. However, if employees are constantly moonlighting without adequate hours for sleep productivity will likely decrease.

Sleep deprivation can lead to illness and general fatigue, causes employees to lose closes to eight days of working productivity; in the U.S. this translates to around a lost $63 billion in productivity.

If working too much employees will also cast off exercise as a secondary priority. Consider taking a cue from businesses like Clif Bar & Company that pay workers for 2.5 hours of workout time a week. Not unlike a factory machine our bodies are machines and they need constant care and to keep running smoothly.

cluttered paper

Provide incentive programs, gym membership discounts and support company-organized running/hiking/CrossFit/yoga groups to let it be known that a healthy body, mind and spirit will translate to focused, energetic, mindful output.

Read Next: 10 tools to help you work smarter, not harder

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