Some of the most successful companies in the world ensure happiness is part of their culture and identify. They recognise that investing in happiness gives them a 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.
At Laughology we use the science of happiness and humour to develop programmes based around workplace happiness, resilience and culture change and over the past five years we have seen 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. As company founder I spend much of my time studying research into the subject.
Happiness really does improve productivity
Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics at Warwick University and a leading authority on economics and well-being 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 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 team-building 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. So here are a few tips to help you.
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.
Step one – Greet your people before you turn on your computer. This simply means that when you come into 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.
Step two – Create time for fun, laughter and humour. It’s okay to have a laugh (when appropriate). Humour is a brilliant ice-breaker and also works incredibly well in times of stress. Workplaces that promote fun and organic laughter have happier, healthier and more productive workers and see an increase in profits and results. Laughter and humour can improve communication, build stronger relationships and diffuse tense situations. People are drawn to others who laugh. For more details see the blog ‘Should you use humour to improve your management and leadership skills?‘ 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 pining the results on staff noticeboards. It’s all about balance, using fun to de-stress when appropriate.
Step three – Encourage positive social interactions. Allow teams time to talk and encourage good working relationships between staff. As a manager and leader you should be there to guide and support, but peer support networks among employees are equally as important. There are things you can do to make sure you’re a happy manager.
Step four – 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.
Step five – Create a happy environment. This doesn’t have to mean feng shiu 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.
Step six – Encourage well-working at every point. Taking regular breaks, eating well and exercising are all good for the brain. We know the brain works best when it has had time to relax. Over-working and not taking breaks impacts on an employee’s ability to think creatively, efficiently and effectively. Research tells us that a tired brain makes more mistakes and is more likely to take short cuts and risks. If you want a team who are high-performers, make sure they take lunch breaks away from their desk, encourage them to eat and drink healthily and have a culture where there is a cut off time for answering emails outside of work. The brain needs to rest to work at its best.
Step 7 – Making happiness part of your culture. Actively doing things that promote happiness will increase team productivity. As a manager you can create your own ‘happiness manifesto’ which is your personal approach to increasing happiness and well-being in your team. For more information on what you can do to build happiness look at our blog ‘10 skill sets which will increase your emotional intelligence and happiness.’
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