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The case for providing a supportive workplace

Researchers have known for several decades that providing a supportive workplace pays dividends.

Steve Elias

To be more specific, employees form an overall sense of how much their organization values their contributions and attends to their well-being. Good things happen when employees perceive they are being treated fairly and are cared for. With employees potentially feeling the effects of the pandemic and social unrest, a supportive workplace may now more than ever be perceived as a safe haven.

Local business owners are in a unique position when it comes to getting to know their employees in order to provide a supportive work environment. This is not to say large organizations do not, or cannot, provide such support. To be sure, many of them do an excellent job in this regard. However, local businesses tend to be small and provide for greater interaction between owners, supervisors and employees. In fact, some research has shown a negative correlation between staff size and perceptions of support (i.e., members of smaller staffs report higher perceptions of support).

When employees feel supported, they generally want to return the favor. As a result, they tend to work harder and be more productive when it comes to helping the company achieve its goals. Their commitment to the company increases and their attitudes toward the company grow more positive. In fact, the literature shows such employees form a healthy psychological attachment to the company. Furthermore, supported employees are far more likely to go above and beyond expectations when compared to less supported employees. For a small business, having employees feel supported can make a huge difference.

So how do we increase these perceptions of support in order to see their benefits? Here is a sampling of tips offered by the experts Bob Eisenberger, Glenn Malone, and Bill Presson. Show employees you are being supportive because you want to support them rather than have to support them. When it comes to management practices, be fair and equitable. Set realistic goals and appropriately reward employees for meeting those goals. Try to learn about, as well as treat, your employees as individuals. Support supervisors in their efforts to be supportive of their subordinates. Lastly, begin demonstrating your support prior to the start of employment.

If you are still on the fence about the benefits of providing a supportive workplace, keep in mind providing a supportive work environment makes good business sense. Recall that employees who perceive being supported typically work harder than those that do not. Employees that feel supported are also less likely to inappropriately miss work and/or quit, thus greatly reducing the costs associated with absenteeism, turnover, and training new employees.

So how does the push for supportive workplaces tie into Local First? A major part of Local First’s vision is the creation of a thriving, self-reliant and resilient community. By providing a supportive workplace, you will be doing your part to help this vision become a reality. Also, Local First strongly advocates for shopping locally. By shopping local, you will be recirculating dollars into the local economy that will provide some of the resources needed for businesses to be supportive. Now, here is our call to action: be kind, be supportive and shop local!

Steve Elias is chairman of the board of Local First in Durango. Contact him at steve@local-first.org.