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What workplace happiness can do you for you

Smiling people around a table - Mary-Rose McLean

The only way to be successful at work, is to love what you do.

There’s an old saying that goes: “Choose a job you love, and you never have to work a day in your life”. No-one quite knows who said this, but whether it was Confucius or not, it rings true.

Workplace happiness has been dragged out of the shadows over the last few years. People are beginning to realise that happy employees make happy, thriving, dynamic workplaces. Here’s what happiness can do for you as a business leader, and for your employees.

Workplace happiness increases productivity

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Happiness in the workplace increases productivity.  Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. It’s even backed up by statistical evidence. One study shows that happy employees are around 20% more productive than those who say they’re less happy.

For a sales team, the benefits are even greater. The same study shows that happy employees selling things raises their success rate by 37%. Happy teams are also good for businesses. Take Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, for example. The stock prices for companies in the Top 100 rose 14% every year between 1998 and 2005. During the same time period, the stock for companies not on the list only increased by 6%.

Workplace happiness boosts creativity

Research also shows that happy business leaders and happy teams of employees are not only more productive, they’re also more creative. University of Toronto psychologist Adam Anderson co-authored a study that links creativity and happiness. He says: “With positive mood, you actually get more access to things you would normally ignore.”

Creativity researcher Dr Shelley Carson agrees: “Increases in positive mood broaden attention and allow us to see more possible solutions to solve creative problems.”

So, we know workplace happiness contributes to success, productivity and creativity. But what does ‘happiness’ mean anyway in the context of the workplace? And how do we get there as business leaders?

Let’s define happiness in the workplace

People need to feel like they matter, that they’re an important part of a business, for happiness to boost their skills. Author of The Truth About Employee Engagement, Patrick Lencioni says employees want to feel like people know their name, that they have an impact and that they’re making progress.

Sounds simple enough, right? Sadly, all too often, employees struggle to feel valued at all within a work environment. This is because too many organisations focus only on ‘the big picture’. By focusing on strategy and goals, employers and business leaders miss who is getting them there. Ignoring who is doing the work and putting no thought into why and how they’re doing the work, leads to an unhappy team.

And while managers may feel that financial stability and job security are all that’s needed for employee happiness, engagement is more so. People want to use their abilities, enhance their skills and make a difference. And they want to be noticed for it. Business leaders must allow their teams to grow, improve, learn and make an impact if they want to keep them productive, engaged and happy. Here’s how.

Make your workplace happier

Personally, I want to always love the work I do, and do work I love. This has always been my personal work goal and has taken me to many places to work with many people in different industries. It’s what keeps me engaged in my own career path and boosts my energy to always strive for improvement.

I think that most people want this. But it’s challenging for business leaders to recognise this and know how to improve employee happiness. In all roles, work gets busy and deadlines mount. This leads to people feeling stuck in unhappy, stressful work habits. They might not even realise they feel this way as they’re so time-poor and focused on getting stuff done.

But there are ways to effectively build happiness for you and your teams:

  • Nurture real, meaningful relationships

Who you work with every day matters. And a study by Harvard Business Review shows that having friends at work really matters. Close friendships between employees boosts satisfaction levels by 50%. Also: “… people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.”

Build your teams around friendships and allow those that are sparking to thrive. Talk with current employees to find new talent. If a member of your team has a great working relationship with a former colleague, then bring them in. Successful people surround themselves with other successful people.

  • Take responsibility for your happiness

Yes, happiness can be part of your DNA and the luck of the draw. However, experts say that each individual controls at least 40% of their own happiness. Good leaders will take control of their own happiness levels at work. Investing in wellness programmes, making positive changes and talking about how to improve happiness levels will inspire employees to do the same.

  • Aim to be surprised every day

Too much routine can suck the happiness out of any situation. This is particularly so at work, where regular meetings, deadlines and projects can feel like a grind. Taking the time to find something new in the mundane will spark happiness in you. And when you feel that spark of interest, make sure you don’t dismiss it in favour of routine.

  • Value complexity and different viewpoints

To keep people engaged, focused and interested in the long-term, don’t be afraid of complexity. Sparking creative neurons is key to maintaining interest, so make sure you lead your team into looking for solutions from every viewpoint. Don’t get stuck in what you’ve always done, even it works. There’s always a new way to do something better, and that’s where you’ll find happiness.

Look at your team right now. Are they happy? Are you happy? Take the opportunity of a new year to revitalise happiness in your workplace. It will pay dividends through 2019.

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