What If Happiness Was the #1 Measure of Work Success?




This sounds basic, but increasing happiness and engagement in your workplace is one of the most misunderstood, overlooked and essential changes companies can make if they want to be more successful. Do you want to see increases in profit and productivity? It’s easy: make people happy!

Happiness is famously tricky to pinpoint, and it’s often more associated with existential issues than with everyday working environments.

This post is about why happiness is so important to your business and highlights the benefits that companies get from helping individuals to be happier at work. It will then highlight 3 things you can do to increase happiness at your workplace.

How Happiness Affects Your Bottom Line

The 2016 IZA World of Labor Report shows that an increase in employee happiness directly relates to a rise in employee productivity, and studies published in The Journal of Labor Economics indicated a 12% rise in productivity when people were happy. The reason being that happy employees take less sick days, work harder and take more initiative. One study found that happy people are 20% more productive, and another found that happy employees increased sales by 37%.

People who aren’t happy also suffer from disengagement. According to the Gallup organization, disengaged employees had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects.

Happiness is clearly beneficial for individuals and organizations alike, so what can you do to increase it at your company? Here are the top 3 tips for making people feel happy about their work.

1. Recognize progress

A study of 2,044 adults conducted by the online job site, Glassdoor, stated that over 80% of employees are motivated to work harder when their boss is appreciative. Also, more than half of the respondents said that they would be willing to stay at companies longer if they felt appreciated. Recognition is great because it can be easy and inexpensive. Some effective ways to show appreciation include writing thank you notes, giving little treats, involving people in decision making processes, mentioning good work at meetings and ensuring productive career opportunities for growth and improvement.

2. Encourage a Culture of Friendship

It’s an old fashioned belief that we should keep distance from our colleagues to maintain professionality. These beliefs dictate that we shouldn’t tell people basic information about our life outside of work, and shouldn’t even be ourselves. Instead that we should present a ‘professional exterior’ that is acceptable in the business world.

There is certainly something to be said for maintaining distance from gossips or potentially toxic co-workers. As with many things in life, common sense goes a long way here. However, Studies show that actually making friends at work drastically increases engagement. According to the Harvard Business Review,

"Close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%." Moreover, "people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work."

It’s amazing how drastically workplace friendships increase engagement and thus productivity. You can’t command people to be friends, obviously. But what you can do is work on creating a culture where people are friendly and welcomed to be themselves. Allow and encourage authenticity in any environment, and it will grow. And yeah, don’t be afraid of actually making friends at work!

3. Pay Well and Offer Incentives

Limited employee benefits are one of the leading reasons that people become disengaged from work. According to SHRM’s Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement study, good pay and benefits were respectively second and third on the list of factors that most influence employee satisfaction.

Offering free lunch, extra paid vacation days, financial incentives or working holidays are all shown to make people happier. You don’t need to see this as buying people off, look at it as simply making it easier and more pleasant for people to work in your company. A Glassdoor survey also had similar results, breaking it down by employee age. Their survey found that “79 percent of employees would prefer new or additional employee benefits to a pay increase.”

Happiness=Everybody wins

You obviously want to recruit and maintain the best talent, and in many fields the competition is stiff. If you want to attract great people and keep them happy and motivated for the years to come (which is a lot less expensive than frequent turnover) then you need to offer more than just the basic minimum required.

There are other things that you can do to make employees happy, but if you can seriously assess how you are doing in the three above mentioned categories then you are already taking a step in the right direction. Of course, the most important thing that you can do is take action. Don’t be afraid of changing your current policies and finding new ways to do things.

Naturally, the size and budget of you company will dictate whether or not you can afford more paid vacation or comprehensive healthcare packages. However, notice that a lot of the ideas we mentioned here don’t cost much money. Also, notice how research consistently show that increasing these good things increases profit and productivity. Sometimes making money means spending some.

Unsure of where to start? An employee survey that asks people what kinds of benefits or cultural changes would make them happiest and most motivated is a good place to start. When was the last time you sat down and wrote everyone on your team a personalized thank you note acknowledging their hard work and success on specific projects or tasks?

Why not get on that now?