By Alexa Thompson
A number of studies have shown that a workplace promoting positive psychology among employees and clients can increase innovation, loyalty and pride among those who work with the organization. The goodwill promoted when companies focus on their human capital as opposed to the cold, impersonal bottom line often creates conditions that allow businesses to grow profits and thrive for the long term. However, the scope of a company’s socially conscious efforts can reach much further than the office walls. The positive effects of corporate social responsibility can often ripple throughout a community, impacting interaction between neighbors and human interaction with the natural environment.
For years, the goal of employers in industrialized nations was to squeeze as much productivity as possible out of every employee at all times. In the early part of the 20th century in the US, the rise of mass production and industry created a steep hierarchy that relied on relatively unskilled labor and low wages. This mindset continued with only gradual change through the 1950s, when psychologists such as Harry Levinson began to find that a pleasant and encouraging environment could lead to more engaged employees and thus more productive, quality work. Over the next few decades, these findings began an incremental change of tide in the working world, with many businesses focusing on creating pleasant workplace atmospheres and a new concept, “corporate social responsibility,” inspiring the organizational structure of many companies.
“CSR and innovation go hand in hand by opening doors and creating opportunities for others to innovate while consistently forcing us to look within for ways that we can bring new value to the business,” says Sarah Coles, senior vice president of a growing corporate social responsibility practice. “CSR…can actually become a catalyst in fostering and creating innovation through change.” The innovation can be seen at organizations like Accenture, an information technology and services company, which names increasing the environmental awareness of its employees as a major priority. By launching the Smart Work program, Accenture has helped employees reduce noncritical travel. The company is also working with Xcel Energy to launch the world’s first “smart grid city” in Boulder, Colorado, pairing the entire city’s electric grid with technology to use energy more efficiently. Recently, Accenture was listed by Newsweek as one of the most “Earth-friendly” companies doing business today.
In yet another example of big businesses getting involved in community outreach, Microsoft has received a great deal of good press for offering a fully paid 40 hours to employees who want to take time off to work on community service projects. Studies show that people with greater well-being invest more hours into volunteer service work; in turn, volunteer work promotes positive well-being. For businesses looking to capitalize on their employees’ individual skill sets, the benefits to creating a positive work environment focused on socially conscious ideals are clear. For employers concerned with the bottom line as well as individuals interested in positive, sustainable change, community outreach can offer rich, long-term rewards.
image: thetaxhaven via Flickr cc (some rights reserved)
Alexa Thompson is a freelance writer and contributor to PsychologyDegree.net. She particularly enjoys writng about the changning nature of the workplace and technology and is considering applying to graduate school