Is happiness really something we should be taking seriously?
Some of the most successful companies in the world ensure happiness is part of their culture and identity. They recognise that investing in happiness gives them return on investment. Companies like Google, Virgin, Apple and South West Airlines understand that their people are the most important part of their business and, if their people are happy, they perform better overall. It’s not rocket science.
But what is happiness at work? Is it a vague concept? Not according to the smart, forward-thinking employers waking up to the reality that a happier workforce is more productive.
Over the past five years there has been a real awakening within businesses as they begin to understand the economic, social and psychological benefits of creating happy workforces and how this feeds the bottom line.
Happiness really does improve productivity.
Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics at Warwick University and a leading authority on economics and wellbeing, found that positive emotions appeared to invigorate human beings, while negative emotions had the opposite effect.
His team conducted a range of exercises which promoted happiness within selected groups. Among subjects who reported higher happiness levels, productivity was significantly higher. Professor Oswald noted: “Happier workers were 12% more productive. Unhappier workers were 10% less productive.”
This is all very well as a concept I hear you say but a common question often asked is: “How do you convince CEOs and leaders that happiness is important?” The answer is a no-brainer. Would you prefer a happy workforce or an unhappy one? No one has ever replied “an unhappy one”. It’s common sense that happier people are more positive and perform better. If people have the skills to be positive, they are better problem solvers, are able to motivate others and take less time off.
Despite the fact based evidence, talk about happy workforces can still sound wishy washy and fluffy. However the skill sets behind happiness in the workplace are attributes such as resilience, emotional intelligence, communication skills, and motivation; all vital and tangible. Add to this qualities such as problem solving and teambuilding and you can start to see how happiness is a vital component of success. We also know that happy workers are more likely to stay in an organisation and build a career within it.
I’m also often asked by business leaders: “How do I make my team happy?”
Quick happiness wins – what can you do?
There are some very easy steps you can take in the first instance to create a happy environment.
Turn on your people before you turn on your computer. Don’t worry HR, this isn’t as dodgy as it sounds. It simply means that when you come in to the office. Say hello to your team. Ask them how they are. Have a chat. It doesn’t have to take ages but it lets everyone know that they are viewed as human beings first and foremost and it helps bond a team.
It’s okay to have a laugh (when appropriate). Humour is a brilliant ice-breaker and also works incredibly well in times of stress. So it’s ok if people laugh and have fun. If the office becomes one big laugh factory then perhaps things have gone too far and I’d definitely draw the line at staff photocopying their privates and pinning the images on the noticeboard. It’s all about balance, and fun can de-stress when appropriate.
Encourage positive social interactions. Allow teams time to talk and encourage relationships between workers (platonic obviously). As a manager and leader you should be there to guide and support, but peer support networks among employees are equally as important.
Take time to say thank you. Recognition is a huge motivator. It doesn’t have to come in the form of financial reward. Just the simple act of saying thanks and letting someone know their efforts have been noticed goes a long way.
Create a happy environment. This doesn’t have to mean feng shui and brightly coloured furniture. As a leader, set the tone. Make people feel comfortable. Be approachable. And allow people to personalise their workplaces where appropriate and within reason. You’ll be amazed how such a small thing helps promote creativity and positivity.
Hopefully you’ll agree, these aren’t earth-shattering changes but taken together they start to create an atmosphere that lends itself to happiness. As the saying goes, it’s the little things that matter.
Over the past 15 years, Stephanie Davies has gained an unsurpassed reputation for designing and delivering interventions for top-performing teams in various settings and is recognised as one of the UK’s leading voices in happiness humour and laughter.
Company founder and CEO, Stephanie has developed Laughology into the nations most talked about training and development provider. In the past 15 years she has worked on innovative projects and events in the private and public sector. Her wide sector knowledge and consulting experience on all levels means she’s in high demand. Stephanie’s creative and rounded approach to engagement, happiness at work, continued development, culture change and customer loyalty drives success not only with the organisations she works with but at Laughology too.