When business leaders get together and wax inspirational, someone inevitably declares an organization’s staff its “most valuable asset.” In these settings, the platitude can often ring hollow.
But when you talk to Arthur Evans Jr., Ph.D., CEO of the American Psychological Association, his thoughts on the importance of staff and their well-being in the workplace seem authentic and deeply felt. Rather than speaking in vague cliches, Evans cites specific science-based policies his organization is implementing to enhance the organization’s culture and the experience of working at APA.
“We try to base everything we do at the APA on the science, especially organizational psychology,” Evans said. “One of the things that causes stress for employees is when they’re not involved in the decision making. We’re making better decisions, and we know it has a really positive psychological effect on the staff.”
Evans, who became CEO of APA in 2017, held to this philosophy during the pandemic, relying heavily on research showing that employees need flexibility to thrive and on surveys in which staff reported that flexibility was crucial to them.
“We have a two-word policy: maximum flexibility,” Evans said. “What that means is that for people who want to work virtually, they have that option. Not only can they stay in their homes and work, but if they want to move, there are actually up to 37 states that they can move to, and some have taken us up on that.”
Evans’ push to integrate employee feedback into policy has paid off, according to Tara Davis, director of internal communications and staff well-being at APA.
“On our surveys, some people said that they were having the best work-life harmony that they’ve ever had because they are now spending more time with their families and less time commuting,” Davis said. “A lot of organizations said, ‘We have to go back to the office, back to the way things were.’ But Arthur, his philosophy has always been: We’re never going back. We’re going forward.”