Are you happy at work? Are your employees? Does it even matter?
Having insight into the thoughts and feelings of employees, and understanding how their levels of happiness are affected by workplace culture, has been seen in the past as a fringe topic. Many leaders felt that this was solely an HR issue, or that it was all a little too soft and fuzzy.
What we are seeing now, thankfully, is an increased focus on the importance of workplace culture, and its impact and interconnectedness with both individual experiences and organisational success.
How would you react ?
I once heard a story about a company manager who got angry when he heard employees laughing at work. “I pay you to work, not have fun” were his angry words to junior colleagues, and this small incident became told and retold between employee groups, the story itself becoming an embedding mechanism for a workplace culture in which fun and laughter were not acceptable.
If you were the manager in question, how would that have made you feel? That the team wasn’t taking their work seriously? That they weren’t focused on the task at hand? Or would it make you smile to yourself, thinking that a happy workplace is a productive workplace, and trusting that the work would still be done? Would you go as far as to think that being happy could actually make people more productive?
An interesting study from the University of Warwick looked at the causation between happiness in a work place and productivity. In this, researchers found that employees performed on average 12% better when feeling happy (Oswald et al, 2015). And what’s also interesting is that it really wasn’t very elaborate schemes that were set in place to increase their happiness: participants were given chocolates, fruits, juice or ten minutes to watch a comedy or movie clip. Not exactly deep or life changing!
We of course go a step further when looking at Culture Excellence, including a wide range of both small and large features of organisational culture that can impact the happiness and satisfaction of employees – from empowering and rewarding people to them understanding and believing in the company purpose.
But it’s still good to see that even these small relatively superficial things reinforce the importance of employee experiences and feelings, and provide simple yet effective ideas for those of us managing others.
Of course, things don't always have to be elaborate to be genuinely successful, and when small steps are taken within the context of broader cultural knowledge and improvement plans, we can start to see their combined power.
So, what will you do today to increase the happiness of your employees or colleagues?
It could be as simple as celebrating small successes and milestones, asking people to share positive stories from their lives outside of work, or even bringing in some cake. (Spoiler: to make me happy, it’s amazing how far a slice of chocolate cake will go).
I would love to hear what you do – whether small or large - please do share!