Stress is the number one cause of absence from work in the UK. 12.5 million working days were lost due to workplace stress, last year, according to a study by the Health & Safety Executive.
Most roles have some sort of stress attached to them, whether it be deadlines, conflict with colleagues or concerns about long-term job security. That stress is made easier to handle if the company you work for has the right company culture for you.
You can think of company culture as the personality of the organisation. Are they a family-oriented business who see their employees as individual members to be nurtured? Are they a creative, dynamic company who will challenge staff to come up with new ideas? Are they a huge, multi-national with volumes of policy that must be adhered to?
It’s important to know, because how you feel about the company is key to how well you will handle the demands of the job. One piece of advice commonly given to people going to job interviews is to remember it isn’t just about whether they will offer you the opportunity. It’s about whether you are the right fit for the role. That’s what company culture is all about.
We’re all individuals, and we all need different support in place to thrive in our work. If you haven’t already explored your personality, it’s probably worth doing something like a Myers-Briggs test.
When you know yourself, and your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll know better what sort of environment suits you.
It’s par for the course now to do a little research into a company before you go to an interview. Take some time to look over the company’s web presence, and see what image they are trying to portray of themselves.
Instead of just researching products or services, look for what values underpin them. Is there a section for Corporate Social Responsibility? What groups or societies do the company belong to; are they pursuing quality standards, for example?
You may be able to get a better ‘feel’ for the company if they have a social media presence. Look at what is shared via the corporate Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. The social media manager will have developed a strategy with senior management, viewing their content should be informative about the values they want to show outwardly.
While you’re visiting LinkedIn, do you have anyone in your network who has worked with this company in the past? It can be useful to drop them a link, not to ask, ‘Did you like working for this company?’ but perhaps something like, ‘Would you recommend working there?’ or ‘What do you think it needs to succeed in that company?’
You’ll get a chance to observe the company in action when you go for your interview. Try and get to the building a little early so you have time to sit and wait. How do staff treat you? How do they treat each other? How friendly are people to each other, and to you?
Your interview is another great opportunity to ask questions. Your research will probably have thrown up questions that you’d like an answer to. Try to ask them in a way that encourages your interviewer to give an example, rather than a simple yes or no. For example, if you really want to work from home, rather than asking, ‘Is there a telecommuting policy?’ you could ask, ‘Is there anyone on the team who works from home?’ followed up with, ‘How does that work?’
The good news is that cultural fit isn’t just important to you. It’s also important to the company. They know that employees who gel well with the overall aims and objectives of the company are likely to perform better, take less time off, and stay with them for longer. You’re unlikely to put anyone’s nose out of joint by asking questions about company culture.
Ultimately, finding a role in a company that is a good cultural match is the difference between liking your work and loving it. It means that when the inevitable workplace stress hits, you will meet it feeling appreciated, supported and part of a team. That makes difficult times so much easier to deal with.
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