This week marks International Week of Happiness at Work.
We spend a lot of time at work and when we are happy at work, we are also likely to be happier in the rest of our life. Every day this week, we will feature an article looking at differing aspects of happiness at work.
But what’s it all about? Is happiness at work simply having a positive, cheery attitude? Smiling all of the time, when we should instead be focusing on productivity and profits? Many studies have taken place and what we know is that happiness at work is more than job satisfaction and can be measured at multiple levels, with important consequences for both individuals and organisations.
The Impact of Happiness at Work
Often overshadowed by the pursuit of productivity and profits, studies show time and again that happiness at work has a positive impact on productivity.
It not only benefits employees but is the true catalyst for organisational success.
Happiness has tangible benefits in directly influencing performance, productivity, and long-term employee commitment.
A study from the University of Warwick reveals that happy employees are around 12% more productive, and Oxford University’s Saïd Business School in collaboration with BT found that happiness increases productivity by 13%.
Furthermore, one of the most robust research programmes into happiness in the workplace, the iOpener Institute’s extensive 18-year, 60,000 participant, 182-country research Happiness at Work study emphasises its profound impact on organisational success. The findings underscore that happiness has tangible benefits in directly influencing performance, productivity, and long-term employee commitment.
Key Benefits of Happiness at Work
1. Reduced Absence
One striking revelation from the Happiness at Work survey is that the happiest employees take only one tenth the sick-leave of their least happy colleagues. This underscores the correlation between emotional wellbeing and physical health. Happy employees are more motivated to come to work and are less prone to stress-related illnesses. Reduced sick-leave translates into lower absenteeism costs and sustained productivity for the organisation.
2. Enhanced Energy Levels
The survey also shows that the happiest employees are six times more energised than their less happy peers. This surplus of energy positively impacts their daily tasks, resulting in improved efficiency and creativity; these employees are also more likely to tackle challenges head-on, fostering innovation and enhanced performance.
3. Increased Retention
Happy employees intend to stay with their organisations for twice as long as their less happy counterparts. This underscores the importance of nurturing a positive workplace culture. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they are more likely to commit to the organisation long-term, reducing recruitment and training expenses, whilst maintaining a stable, experienced workforce.
4. Heightened Productivity
Perhaps the most compelling revelation of the iOpener Happiness at Work research is that happy employees can be as much as twice as productive compared to their unhappy colleagues. This finding shatters the myth that a relentless pursuit of productivity should precede a focus on employee wellbeing. Quite the reverse, it is happiness that drives productivity. When employees are content with their work, they exhibit higher levels of engagement and take ownership of their tasks.
This drive for excellence increases productivity, reduces days lost per year, and directly contributes to the organisation’s overall success.
Creating a Happy Workplace
Understanding the factors that contribute to happiness at work is essential for business leaders. The iOpener survey identifies a number of key elements that significantly impact employee happiness, including promoting a healthy work-life balance, recognising and appreciating employee input, offering career growth opportunities, and fostering effective, compassionate leadership.
Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work, a global authority on high-trust, high performance workplaces, offers additional insights on what makes employees happy at work. He rightly says it’s not about the perks, it’s all about how they are treated by their leaders and by the people they work with. In organisations where employees are happy, there are two things present: trust and respect.
Trust and Respect
Organisations with happy employees make it a rule to prioritise trust and respect. Employees need to feel empowered and trusted to make decisions that benefit the company without excessive bureaucracy. A prime example is the Four Seasons Hotel Group, which empowers its employees to ‘do whatever you think is right when servicing the customer’, resulting in exceptional service.
The thing that erodes trust in an organisation faster than anything else is when people feel they are being treated unfairly. Employees want to be treated the same, regardless of age, experience or job category, fair treatment is crucial to maintaining trust. In recent years, many organisations have started to recognise pay disparities, for example between men and women in similar roles, and have started to act to rectify the imbalance. Fairness, regardless of gender, rank or tenure, is the hallmark of a great organisation.
True listening involves actively seeking the best ideas from all employees, and showing them that you considered their input when considering your action or decision, rather than superficial gestures like maintaining eye contact or repeating what someone says. Employees want to know that their input matters and could influence decision-making.
Happiness at work isn’t just about wearing a smile or having a positive attitude; it’s the foundation upon which success is built and a powerful driver of sustainable business excellence. Research consistently demonstrates that happy employees are more productive, take less sick-leave, and stay with their organisations longer. This, in turn, leads to increased revenue growth and business performance. To create a happy workplace, organisations must prioritise trust, fairness and listening, all of which contribute to employee happiness and, ultimately, to business success.
In the pursuit of productivity and profits, it is essential not to overlook the pivotal role that happiness at work plays in unlocking the full potential of all employees and, in so doing, achieving optimal organisational outcomes.