The Science of Happiness and Why it’s Critical in the Workplace

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Many companies are still unclear on what employee happiness means, how it can be measured and whether it has any relevance at all. Although most of us would agree that the pursuit of happiness should be a life goal, validating Aristotle’s argument that happiness is the whole purpose of human existence, many organizations stop short of pursuing  happiness at work.

Here’s an interesting stat:

The average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime.

If people commit this time and energy towards work, it stands to reason that organizations should care, right?

Traditionally, we have associated work with effort, development, professionalism and rigor. Even the most out-of-the-box workplaces find it difficult to associate work with the abstract concept of happiness. They want it but they can’t pursue it unless there’s some data, some research or someone in a lab coat telling them that it’s economically safe to pursue happiness.

This needs to validate an intangible concept that comes from our desire to be safe. If companies have the numbers, if they are shown concrete links between the immaterial concept of happiness and the very material concept of business goals, then perhaps they will be persuaded that it’s worth pursuing.

At Hppy, we believe employee happiness is extremely relevant and we’re trying to convert as many managers as possible to join our cause and create amazing workplaces.

 

Here are some reasons why:

  • Thomas Wright from Kansas State University found that 100 unhappy employees cost $ 390,000/year in lost productivity;
  • Happy employees are 28, 4% less absent. This means 12.3 days and $619/year per happy employee, according to Kathryn Rost, PhD at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center;
  • People perform better when they’re happier, as Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer detail in Do Happier People Work Harder?
  • Employees who feel they work in a loving, caring culture report higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork. They show up to work more often – Sigal Barsade and Olivia (Mandy) O’Neill in their longitudinal study “Employees Who Feel Love Perform Better“;
  • Unhappy employees leave. SHRM estimates the costs of losing an employee to a 6 to 9 months’ salary on average;
  • Happiness at work drives a 12% increase in productivity – Professor Andrew Oswald, Dr Eugenio Proto and Dr Daniel Sgroifrom the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick;

According to the iOpener Institute for People and Performance, happy employees:

  • Stay twice as long in their jobs as their least happy colleagues;
  • Believe they are achieving their potential 2x as much;
  • Spend 65% more time feeling energized;
  • Are 58% more likely to go out of the way to help their colleagues;
  • Identify 98% more strongly with the values of their organization;
  • Are 186% more likely to recommend their organization to a friend.

 

What makes employees happy?

More money, free time, flexible hours, a pool table maybe? While being compensated fairly for value that’s delivered, money is not a motivator. Flexibility and free time are by-products of something more important. Organizations that create a culture of caring and shared values will empower employees to find meaning in their work.

There are several things that contribute to an employee’s happiness levels at work. We call them happiness drivers.

  • The actual work someone is doing,
  • The relationships they develop at work,
  • The feelings that they experience such as value, appreciation or recognition, their individual contribution, trust in management, teamwork and alignment with goals.

The only way to discover the real happiness drivers in your team is to ask your team. Go directly to the source and find out what makes them come into the office every day.

Bringing workplace happiness to your team

You don’t invest in workplace happiness for the numbers. You do it for the people, for your team.

These numbers are oftentimes an indirect result of the focus that an organization has in ensuring the wellbeing of employees. Many of the financial results of workplace happiness are clear: productivity increases; absenteeism goes down; employees engage and become more creative; employees are more likely to become advocates for the company; more importantly, they remain at the company longer.

These reasons should not be the motivators to get a company to step up. Companies should do it because they truly believe in creating a workplace where people are inspired and re-charged, rather than demotivated and drained.

When you decide on a strategy to increase employee engagement and workplace happiness, you’ll need to have the trust and support of your team – enough so that they are willing to get involved and make that strategy happen.

Transparency and honesty are key. If you’re only doing this to somehow make them work more or stay longer, without actually having workplace happiness as your main goal, they will know. And you will fail.

Find out what drives people to come to work every day, to give their best and to interact with colleagues. Make a habit out of giving and receiving feedback and constantly asking people how they feel.

You have to be aware that productivity won’t happen over night or after a simple survey or team building exercise.

What you can and should do is measure your efforts and be vigilant about improving them. Keep in mind that building a culture is not easy and it requires time.

The more we work with workplace happiness inside our team, the more we learn about it. My desire, as a manager, is to offer my team the best working experience they could want. Their trust and support have been key in achieving this.

With our small team, there is a sense of gratitude, every day, for the way we work and how we relate to one another. It is our small happiness success.

 

Image source: Pixaby

With over 10 years experience in creating teams, Vlad has taken the challenge of growing Hppy into a sustainable business. He has a passion for travel, adventure, and social activities.

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