Less than a third of Americans are engaged at work. That means more than two-thirds of the people participating in the U.S. workforce would label themselves as disengaged or actively disengaged. With studies showing that engagement and productivity are closely linked, this lack of engagement is bad for business.

It's unfortunately all too easy to brush off this lack of enthusiasm with excuses: "Oh, they're just jealous of all those startups with ping-pong tables and kegs." "Everyone wants promotions, and I can't just give them to everyone!" "No one likes work ... that's why it's called work!"

Your employees, however, may have very valid reasons for not wanting to come to the office, and they may all be well within your control. Do any of these sound familiar?



1. They hate their work setup.

It's estimated that back pain costs employers nearly $35,000 per year for every 100 workers they employ. If you're asking your teammates to put in at least eight hours of work every day while sitting in stiff chairs at badly designed desks, they're probably not excited about putting in any extra time in those workspaces. And if they're spending time and money with a doctor or chiropractor to manage the pain, they're really not feeling the love.
 
Possible solution: Look at developing an active workspace with height-adjustable standing desks, treadmill desks, and similar flexible setups that allow employees to move in the ways that are most natural and conducive to getting work done. Not only will employees often physically feel better compared to sitting at a traditional workstation, they'll also be more engaged, ensuring more work gets done.

2. They hate the noise level.

According to an Oxford Economics study, 63 percent of employers think they've given their employees the tools to block noise, while only 41 percent of employees agree. Whether it's crunchy potato chips, not-so-mellow music, or endlessly gossiping co-workers, employees can get frustrated with daily noise interruptions. These loud distractions can not only make it hard to concentrate, but they can also make phone calls and meetings difficult if attendees can't hear each other.

Possible solution: Supply your team members with headphones or noise-canceling devices This space is highly competitive, so there are lots of options available, from high-end Beats headphones and AirPods to $10 sets found at your local discount store. It also makes sense to create some isolated workspaces within your office -- particularly if you have an open plan. This allows meetings to flow without interruption from weekend updates at the water cooler.

3. They hate the outdated technology.

A TECHnalysis Research survey found that 75 percent of interactions between colleagues occur via "old-school" technologies like phone calls and emails. And businesses are so married to their longtime software packages that only 8 percent of companies are using cloud-based collaboration tools internally. Employees who use more efficient technologies in their personal lives bristle at taking extra steps to do something that could be done a lot faster.
 
Possible solution: Conduct an audit of your existing processes -- you may be surprised by what you find. Are you still paying for licenses your employees aren't even using? Do they bypass steps because their importance isn't apparent? Are your processes incredibly outdated compared to your closest competitors'? An audit can help you streamline processes while also making sure your co-workers are remaining compliant with company policies and keeping data secure, so it's a win-win.

4. They hate how the office bleeds into their personal time.

The thing your employees might hate most about your office is the feeling that they never leave it. The 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey found that 23 percent of companies feel they are "excellent" at helping employees achieve work-life balance. That's a pretty measly number in an age when technology and automation have removed the need to keep factories full of bodies every moment of the day.
 
Possible solution: Create some rules that will help your employees feel that their well-being matters. Set a companywide curfew for sending emails so people don't feel the need to respond when their bosses send them an email at 11 p.m. Likewise, don't ask people to monitor their email or phones if it's not truly an emergency situation. Feeling tethered to work 24/7 leads to exhaustion and burnout, which hurt both your employees and your company's productivity.

It's true that not all of your employees will have an undying passion for the field of work they find themselves in. But it's completely achievable to have all of your employees engaged in doing that work well. Brush off the excuses and look a bit deeper to see whether you've created an office that's easy to hate. With just a few small tweaks, you could make it a place your employees love.

Published on: Mar 1, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.