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Hope-powered workplaces

As supervisors and managers across the state are rethinking in-person work and how to make meetings meaningful, it’s an opportune time to consider personal connection as a context for building hope in the workplace.

Hope is a must-have for a healthy work environment

A 2013 study revealed that “hope accounts for 14 percent of productivity in the workplace — more than intelligence, optimism or self-efficacy.” That 14 percent equates to 1 in every 7 workdays.

Gallup research has found:

  • Hope is one of four primary needs employees have of their leaders (trust, compassion, and stability being the other three).
  • Leaders who are enthusiastic about the future have employees that are significantly more engaged in their work.
Plants in a garden being watered from a watering can.

In a 2013 interview with Gallup Business Journal, hope researcher Shane Lopez, PhD, said, “It’s hard to be successful without being hopeful.” Meaningful goals, strategies, and “what if” plans help teach and instill hope in the workplace. Dr. Lopez notes elsewhere that in organizations where hope is higher, employees are included in the goal-setting process, and that “goals have to be valuable to the person pursuing them.”

Resources for team development

In a 2021 TED Talk, hope researcher Chan Hellman, PhD, shared that “Hope is a social gift. Hope is not something that happens in isolation within us; it happens in relationships with each other.” Dr. Hellman goes on to note that because connectedness “is one of the single best predictors of hope…we should learn to be a little more intentional in our social connections.”

One strategy for exploring hope with your teams can be to share a video or video clip with your teams and pose a few open-ended questions for discussion. Here’s three resources to get you started:

  • Dr. Chan Hellman on “The Science and Power of Hope,” imagination, and the impacts of trauma and stress (20 mins)
  • Dr. Kira Mauseth on the ingredients of resilience — purpose, connection, adaptability, and hope (four short videos, 15 mins)
  • Dr. Shane Lopez on the link between hope, happiness, and health; fostering hope in the educational setting; jobs of the future; and helping others chase their goals (22 mins)

Here’s a few discussion prompts to get teams thinking about hope:

  • One definition of hope is “the belief that your future will be better than today, and you have the power to make it so.” As a team, what do we believe will be better in the future? In what ways do we have the power to take action to make those beliefs a reality?
  • Research suggests that when we experience trauma or adversity, we tend to set shorter-term avoidance goals, vs. longer-term achievement goals. As a team, do we have goals that sound like achievement goals, but might actually be avoidance goals? What are we hoping to avoid?
  • Research suggests that hope is shared in social contexts. In what ways do we currently share hope at work? Going forward, where are the opportunities for intentionally sharing hope?
  • What past successes would we like to remember, to help us imagine future goals and possibilities? What is the story we’re currently telling ourselves about the future of our work?
  • What excites you about our work? How can we use what excites and inspires us to reach big goals?

Tips for supporting those struggling with feelings of hopelessness

It’s important to recognize that hopelessness (in yourself or others) can be a sign of burnout or depression and may be more common in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about these issues and take steps to increase resilience in the workplace, including managing overtime work and scrutinizing priorities. For overworked teams, consider paring away “nice to have” goals and focusing on just the essentials.

Other strategies for support include:

As you make decisions about how and when employees can return to the workplace, communicate expectations clearly and consistently. Evaluate decisions for their potential to increase or decrease “us vs. them” thinking. For more information, see “Workplace Changes” in the October 2021 Statewide High-Level Analysis of Forecasted Behavioral Health Impacts from COVID-19.

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The Washington State Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a free, confidential program created to promote the health, safety and well-being of public service employees. The EAP is available to provide confidential and expert consultation in a variety of areas. Reach out to EAP by calling 877–313–4455. To find out if the Washington State EAP serves your agency or organization, contact your supervisor or human resources department.

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