We spend approximately 90,000 hours of our lives at work. The only thing we spend more time doing than working, is sleeping.
Where an individual spends such a significant percentage of their lives working, one would assume they would ensure their work makes them happy and is something that they actively look forward to. However, it is no secret that many people do not like their jobs. Only about 40% of the world’s working population say they are happy at work according to analytics firm Great Place to Work.
But why is it important to be happy at work? Many correlate work with financial stability, status, and perks. However, the importance lies in the impact happiness can have. Not only are there benefits for the working individuals (there is a strong correlation between happiness at work and happiness in life), organisations with happy employees also have three times the revenue growth of those where that is not the case. Additionally, employee turnover in businesses with happy employees is half of that of organisations with several unhappy employees.
Essentially, happy employees will be more engaged in the organisation and are the ones most likely to drive growth, innovation and, ultimately, revenue. Despite this, most leaders do not connect the dots between happy and engaged employees, and business results.
This week is the international week of Happiness at Work, which perhaps this year is more relevant than ever. There has been ample discussion in recent years around moving towards using happiness indexes as a significant indicator of a society’s performance. A greater focus on happiness at work is one part of this shift. In the developed economies of the western world, recent years have seen many individuals re-evaluating their lives and placing a premium on happiness.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend further as people have reflected over what their priorities are. This reprioritisation is affecting people’s job choices too. Leaders need to recognise that more of the talent that is sought after, value happiness.
Against this backdrop, what is it that organisations can do to foster happiness within the workplace?
- For employees to be happy, they need to work for a company that shares their values, and with which they feel they are a good fit. Organisations pursuing a happy workplace therefore need to start with recruitment. A thorough and effective recruitment process will ensure a good job fit, a good team fit and a good culture fit. Organisations need to start by creating an intentional and embedded culture, where the organisation’s values are clear and truly lived. The culture should be evident to anyone dealing with the organisation, including prospective employees.
- Happiness must come from the top of the organisation down, and therefore, leadership style is very important. There should be an empowering leadership style, a relatively flat hierarchy and a clarity of direction which cascades through the organisation. This will allow employees to be themselves at work and to be autonomous, rather than micromanaged or over-managed. Leaders should ask themselves: do I role model happiness in the workplace, do I try to spread and share happiness and do I create opportunities for others to spread happiness in the workplace? For employees to be happy, a cohesive leadership team is needed which inspires, builds trust and genuinely cares about its employees.
- Organisations needs to be agile, with opportunities for people to grow. A lot of people are looking for growth and development in the workplace, and it is therefore important to develop a learning culture which supports employees to gain new skills and improve current skills. Creating agile teams for specific projects will help enhance engagement and increase productivity too.
- Happy employees are those that feel they are listened to, that their contribution and opinions matter, and that leadership will consider their opinions when making a decision. Employees want to know that what they say matters so much that leaders may actually change their minds as a result of hearing it. This can be demonstrated through employee feedback processes, performance appraisals and the drafting of workplace policies for example.
- Trust and respect is present in organisations with happy employees. Ask yourself: is this a team-orientated company where we trust and empower our employees? Employees must feel like they are genuinely trusted. Where employers say that their employees are trusted but then micromanage employees for example, they will not feel trusted. Good rules and guidance around behaviour are vital so that employees feel they can have dignity and respect at work, and be authentic. Your values should create the right human community to accomplish this. Leaders should celebrate employee behaviours which are healthy by awarding kindness and acknowledging respect, compassion, and selflessness.
- Finally, employers need to put the right systems and infrastructure in place to support the type of work environment that will make employees happy. Employees want systems, processes and governance which enables them to do their jobs. Systems should optimise creativity and productivity and help eliminate inhibitors or barriers. An example would be to have supportive technology in place.
Happy employees are more successful and happy companies make more money. A happy workplace is no longer about the financial perks employees receive but about self-development, workplace values and how employees are treated by their leaders and the people they work with. The future of your workplace depends on the actions taken today. Leaders need to recognise that through their actions, they can shape a happy workplace for the betterment of themselves, their staff, their organisations and society.
If leaders need assistance with the implementation of any of these tips, they can contact our HR consultancy, Forbury People, or our employment law team at Clarkslegal.