Happiness and productivity: Why a happy workforce will benefit your company

Steve Jobs said it right: ‘The only way to do great work is to love what you do.’

Over 90,000 hours. That’s the average for a career that spans 45 years and involves 40 hours of work each week. It’s a lot of time and bringing out the best in your employees throughout it is all about their state of mind.

Happiness in the workplace is important: a content and motivated team equals a healthier, more engaged and productive workforce. In 2015, research at the UK’s University of Warwick found that happy employees were 12% more productive than others – the explanation being that happiness leads to more engagement and effective use of time.

Google is a prime example of how boosting your employees’ mood can pay off. The company repeatedly ranks in the world’s top 10 best employers, largely due to its intense focus on employee wellbeing and engagement. By offering a wide range of employee staff-support initiatives such as on-site healthcare and extensive personal and professional development, employees spend more time at work and are happier and more productive.

So how can you ensure that your employees are content and therefore engaged in what they do?

The answer isn’t solely in a salary increase or even perks and freebies. Although they are certainly important, research suggests that it’s factors such as making employees feel valued and involved that really bring about significant long-term change.

Research suggests that it’s factors such as making employees feel valued and involved that really bring about significant long-term change.

So let’s take a look at the steps you can take to help create a happier workforce.

1. Prioritise work-life balance: People who achieve a good work-life balance are more likely to be happy, engaged individuals. Overworked employees are more likely to become ill, tired, stressed and take time off sick. According to a 2016 research review published by the American Psychological Association, ‘promoting work-life balance is a vital component of any effort to create a healthy and productive workplace,’ citing the fact that offering benefits such as telecommuting and childcare featured heavily among the majority of 2012 winners in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

When such benefits are tailored to the needs of your employees, they will feel both appreciated and listened to. Communicating with your staff to learn their desires and priorities is important in establishing work-life benefits that are relevant to them, and in raising happiness through making their voices heard.

2. Encourage positivity: Having a cut-throat, high-pressure culture to drive your business success may bring you short-term rewards but can harm productivity over time. Employees who work in this type of environment are more likely to feel stressed, which will inevitably lead to long-term disengagement. According to 2018 research by Gallup and the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, Canada, disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents and made 60% more errors.

Meanwhile, US happiness researcher Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, has amassed a wide range of research, showing that the brain works more efficiently when a person is feeling positive. This is when individuals tend to be more creative, have more energy, resilience and stamina.

3. Appreciative leadership: We know that positivity is vital, but it’s also important that it is demonstrated at the very top of the company. The appreciative leadership style is increasingly popular, and for good reason; it is a relationship-focused approach which strengthens trust, enhances motivation and fosters positive self-concepts.

Practically speaking, appreciative leadership can be shown through regular praise, consideration of employee opinions and needs and the honouring of achievements through awards, ceremonies and smaller gestures. Acting as a bastion of positivity regardless of whatever the situation around you may be is vital. As a leader, by embodying the positivity you desire in your business you ensure that this energy – and the principles behind it – cascades throughout your organisation.

4. Give workers choices: According to Pink, today’s workers are highly motivated by autonomy – the urge to direct their own lives. Giving people a degree of control over aspects of their work, whether it’s deciding what to work on or when to do it, can be extremely rewarding for both the employee and employer. For instance, Google allows its engineers to spend 20% of their work time on their own ideas, which has resulted in many of Google’s most famous products such as Gmail. Allowing employees scope to guide their own actions boosts creativity and promotes a feeling of being trusted and valued, encouraging loyalty.

Allowing employees scope to guide their own actions boosts creativity and promotes a feeling of being trusted and valued, encouraging loyalty.

5. Provide training and opportunities: Another hugely motivating factor, says Pink, is ‘the desire to get better at something that matters’. Providing training courses and career path development for your employees offers a clear opportunity for them to improve their skills, status and earnings. Allowing your workforce to flourish and grow will boost morale and help them achieve more at work.

6. Foster a bigger sense of purpose: People are also motivated to work when they feel what they do matters and that their efforts are helping to achieve something really important. As well as individual goals, Pink suggests making your employees aware of larger company objectives that allow them to feel they are part of the bigger picture. Knowing where the company is going, how it’s performing, what you’re planning next, and how your employees will be involved in achieving these objectives, will all help them feel part of its journey and success. Holding weekly meetings with your team is a great way to share ideas and insights.

7. Get involved in corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects: Helping others and showing empathy makes people feel good. Committing to a CSR project, which could include anything from fair trade sourcing and waste reduction through to volunteering and contributing to educational and social programmes, can help boost your employees’ corporate pride.

And younger employees in particular rate CSR highly. According to a 2016 US study, 64% of millennials said they wouldn’t take a job if a company didn’t have strong CSR values and 88% said their job was more fulfilling when they were provided with opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues.

8. Nurture relationships: Trusting and supportive relationships are important in the workplace to encourage efficient teamwork. Consider investing in team-building exercises and workshops, as well as promoting open communication by creating spaces where employees can meet. Social events, where employees can get to know each other in a relaxed atmosphere, can also help team members feel more comfortable with each other. This in turn fosters a collaborative atmosphere that encourages sharing.

9. Organise wellness programmes: By offering health and wellbeing initiatives to your employees, you demonstrate that you value and support them and care for their wider health and wellbeing. This will not only help you attract and retain the best possible candidates but you will also contribute towards employee satisfaction.

10. Boost financial wellbeing: The effects of personal financial stress may affect an employee’s overall happiness levels, taking its toll at work. A 2016 report by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development revealed that lost productivity, increased absence and employee turnover associated with personal financial stress costs UK employers in the region of GBP 120.7bn every year. Investing in workplace financial wellbeing programmes that can help your staff become more financially astute makes good commercial sense. Providing information, guidance and training tools to assist them as they work towards monetary security will help boost overall peace of mind, reduce levels of stress and enable them to stay fully focused and engaged at work.

Investing in workplace financial wellbeing programmes that can help your staff become more financially astute makes good commercial sense.

Why it pays to have happy employees

A positive, contented working environment should never be underestimated. Happy employees are more engaged, creative, healthy, collaborative, positive and loyal. With a proven correlation between workplace satisfaction and business productivity, it’s clear that promoting a happy working environment attracts staff who will be committed to doing their best for your company. So in order to boost productivity, retain top talent and gain a competitive edge, it pays to keep your employees happy at work.