Dr. Chris Laszlo of the Weatherhead School of Management recently published a book, “Flourishing Enterprise: The New Spirit of Business,” showing that if businesses play a more positive role in society, they will increase their productivity.
In the United States, 50 percent of workers report feeling disengaged at work, while another 18 percent are actively disengaged. According to Laszlo, this disengagement leads to a lower productivity rate among workers. It can also lead to distrust between the workers and the company, especially for companies who have been known to engage in negative practices, such as harming the environment or fraud.
Laszlo compares the disengaged workers to the characters seen on the sitcom “The Office.” He says that the characters are extremely relatable to many American workers, who find themselves bored or disinterested at work.
“That’s probably why [the show] was so successful,” he joked.
According to Laszlo, businesses can work to remedy employee disengagement by creating policies that are beneficial to the public and to their workers. One of the primary ways to do this is to create sustainable and responsible policies that are still ambitious.
Laszlo says that businesses should actively search for local and global problems and then work to find a solution to them. Instead of simply avoiding harm, he encourages businesses to work to create benefits for society.
Laszlo also says that paying attention to employee’s personal needs is vital for a successful company. Companies can do this by creating areas for social interaction and allowing employees places for meditation or journal writing.
Google is a prime example of this, giving employees days off to follow their own interests and providing meditation rooms and classes. General Mills also provides meditation rooms, a practice that they have been doing for over a hundred years.
Although these facilities cost money to build and maintain, Laszlo found that having them made companies more profitable in the long run. Businesses that focused on employee well-being had lower turnover rates and an increase in productivity. They also became more authentic and creative by attracting more talented workers and giving them more motivation to work hard.
“People feel as if they are part of a greater community,” said Laszlo.
Laszlo first became interested in economics in high school, when he gave a presentation on the growing national debt and the importance of helping the world’s poor. He became invested in the topic, and chose to study economics for his undergraduate and graduate degrees, before coming to teach at CWRU in 2007.
Laszlo works in the Fowler Center at Weatherhead School of Business, where he and his colleagues study how businesses affect society. Laszlo’s research is aimed at helping businesses improve both themselves and their communities.
“[Workers] don’t really feel treated as human beings,” said Laszlo. “It’s transactional. We pay you and you do x task. That’s not a recipe for a productive workforce.”
Through his new book, Laszlo hopes to show companies the benefits of being proactive when it comes to employee well-being and sustainable business practices.