Despite research showing the significant link between employee happiness and productivity in the workplace, it seems that very little effort is being made by organisations to instil a happy and positive working environment. Perhaps the idea of focusing on employee well-being or happiness feels like a soft and fuzzy thing which is leaders believe is the employee’s duty to manage. Either that or they think that it’s a modern fad that will hopefully soon pass. The reality is that employee happiness and well-being is here to stay and its voice will become louder and louder in years to come. If they haven’t done so already, employee well-being and happiness are going to become strategic agenda items that will need to be taken serious by board members, and senior and executive leaders.
People spend a lot of their time at work, and have the right to be happy and in a positive vibrant working environment that brings out the best in them. Also, happy employees are statistically known to be more productive, engaged, and motivated, which has a direct impact on an organisation’s bottom line. So, it’s a win-win situation for the individual and the organisation. But we struggle to make the mind shift to instil this positive concept. Why do you think this is the case?
Four key reasons spring to mind: (1) organisations are stuck in their comfort zones, and lack the know-how to roll out this cultural change process. (2) they lack the clarity on how the change will be tangibly measured. (3) they don’t have the budget set aside to engage in this philosophy. (4) they don’t have the time to focus on implementing and training people. Like the saying goes: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
I’m going to address the second point immediately because we can tangibly and easily measure employee happiness and well-being through things such as job satisfaction, volunteering, career development, talent retention, minimal absenteeism, low employee turnover, culture fit, motivation, employee engagement, and many more. The list is endless. On second thoughts, perhaps the terms happiness and well-being are causing confusion, because we’re not clear on what they mean.
What is Happiness?
Happiness is a construct most of us have experienced in some parts of our lives, and most people are mildly happy for the majority of their life span. Philosophers and social humanistic researchers have defined the term happiness in many ways so that not one agreed definition exists. The reason for the disagreement lies in the fact that happiness has two components to it. We speak of hedonic and eudamonic happiness. Hedonic happiness is the happiness most people are familiar with, which is to experience pleasant emotions and situations. We pursue positive events and activities to forego negative experiences, hence pleasure over pain is the motto. Eudamonic happiness is more intense, and requires personal commitment. It is engaging in activities in which one finds meaning, pursues growth and self-actualisation, and is virtuous by being naturally and morally right. Hedonic happiness focuses on the individual and has a selfish component to it, whereas eudamonic happiness is focused on the collective social well-being and is performed for the higher good of society. For organisations, there is a balancing act because both forms of happiness need to be integrated into the workplace. Events such as monthly pizza lunches will be fleeting and will tick the box of hedonic happiness because they disburse positive emotions and experiences, but aren’t long-lasting so we need to do them more often.
How to Kick-Start Happiness
To assist you to introduce the concept of happiness in the organisation, I’m going to share five practical steps to kick-start your process.
Step 1: Design a bespoke happiness survey for your organisation and then distribute it to all employees electronically
Honestly, this is more difficult than it sounds because you’ll want to ensure that you’re asking relevant happiness questions that will give you a true indication of how happy people are at work. Perhaps you’ll even bundle questions into sub-categories that you can use as measurement tools – things like job satisfaction, workplace trust, social relationships, working environment, safety, job crafting, etc. You need to set a substantial amount of time aside to establish what information you want to collect from your staff. Phrase questions in a simple and open-ended manner so that everybody, regardless of their position in the organisation, can effortlessly answer them. Have a look at our free happiness at work assessment to inspire you:
Step 2: Brief people about the happiness survey
If you want to get a significant amount of people participating in your happiness at work survey, you’ll need to brief people accordingly. Writing one email is not going to be enough for people to willingly spend time on the survey. Leaders will have to verbally communicate why the organisation is doing the survey, what the intention behind it is, what happens with the results, who sees them, what type of feedback they’ll get, as well as when they will receive it. The survey has to guarantee confidentially and be anonymous if you want truthful answers.
Step 3: Create readiness through positive language
You may not notice, but most language used in an organisation, regardless of whether it is written or spoken, is negative and has a deficit tone to it. Start by rephrasing words like “problems” with “challenges” or “opportunities”. Speak of “strengths” instead of “weaknesses”. Break the traditional corporate lingo, and be a bit more light-hearted and positive in your terminology. Bring in simple human appreciation concepts of being kind, considerate, and caring towards one another. Be mindful that what you hear consciously and subconsciously impacts on your performance, mindset, and attitude.
Step 4: Overcome resistance
Not everybody is going to be excited about this new concept. Perhaps your organisation has tried something like this before and you weren’t successful. People will remember that. Maybe they’re scared of the changes because they’re not sure how it will impact either them personally or their work. To reduce resistance, include the people affected by the change from the outset. Communicate often, answer their questions, and address their concerns. Listen to them and make an effort to understand where their fear is coming from.
Step 5: Do it in bite-sized chunks
It’s totally common that once you’ve assessed the data from the survey, analysed it, and interpreted it, you’ll be ready to jump into action. You’re going to have lots of things that you want to change immediately, but you need to be mindful of going slowly. Take a step back and find two or three activities that you can work on. Choose something that will get quick results, something a little bit more medium term, like in four to six months’ time, and then something that will take a full twelve months. Focus on three things only. Once you’ve accomplished one goal satisfactorily, give feedback to the entire organisation, and then choose a new thing on your list.
Making Happiness Permanent
Instilling a positive and happy culture in your organisation takes time and continuous practice. If you want to make this an effective and permanent part of the organisation’s culture, you’ll need a dedicated person to focus on this full time. Depending on the size of the organisation it may be part of the HR department’s role, but in a larger organisation you’re likely to employ an internal happiness officer or use an external consultant. Should you feel overwhelmed with the task of implementing a happy work culture in your organisation, please speak to one of our consultants for a free one-hour consultation.