Happy workplace

Is your company’s atmosphere helping you succeed or paving the road to failure? In these increasingly difficult economic times, an enjoyable office can translate into a competitive advantage for your business. A positive workplace creates much more than a ‘feel good’ factor, it leads to happier and more engaged employees and higher productivity. And a good business leader can learn how to set the tone. Escalating workplace happiness can benefit a company with increased productivity, reduced turnover, and greater employee flexibility.

A workplace where employees want to be will be far more productive than one where they literally force themselves to come to work. Happiness is one of the most powerful and fundamental of the elements necessary to attract and keep the right people. Employees who are happy in their jobs will work hard and well – and will be reluctant to leave. The ultimate level of happiness, is the feeling that you have a pleasant life. That kind of feeling comes from liking what you are doing and feeling good about your job. The most sustainable level of happiness is being able to feel like you are giving back to this world.

There are many things you can do to make a sustainably happy organization. Here are some ways to get started:

1. Hire Happy Personalities

Hire happy, optimistic people and create a “work family” atmosphere. If an office is filled with positive, friendly co-workers, your employees are more likely to want to be there. Hiring people who are going to help make your workplace happier will take a little thought and preparation. It is natural to focus on relevant experience and past achievements when interviewing a candidate. And you are right to want those things for your company. But ignoring the personality is a mistake.

The greatest candidate on paper might be the worst person to bring into your office. Look for the intangibles. Be very aware of how you feel around the person. Do they seem like they focus on the positives or negatives? Do they laugh? Do they smile? Do they seem like they create and nurture relationships? While their track record in terms of performance is very important, a person that brings gloom and doom to the workplace will kill productivity and motivation.

2. Be Community Minded at Work

Empower employees to think through important decisions on their own, providing the necessary mentoring and support along the way. An employee who plays an important role in the business is more likely to derive fulfillment and happiness from the job. Make a point of encouraging people to say hi to each other. Sounds simple but it is actually an incredible way to build a sense of workplace community and something that busy focused people forget. Start by making it a policy to have your executives and managers make sure to take the time to say hi. Choose ambassadors from all different levels and areas of your company to do the same. Acknowledging people can change the entire atmosphere and make your workplace be a much nicer place.

3. Know what makes people happy – and unhappy.

Research tells us that, if we were asked to remember the last time we felt unhappy, we would probably be thinking about what we don’t have. As a manager, therefore, your task must be to affirm the positive, reinforce individuals’ and groups’ accomplishments, and share their successes. People love to be asked their opinion, so go out of your way to ask, “What do you think belongs in this report?” or, “How do you think I should handle this situation with client X?” Then give the advice giver a sincere thank-you, even if the ideas are less than helpful. Keep employees focused on achievements and discourage dwelling on what could have been or what they don’t have. Napoleon’s description of leaders as ‘dealers in hope’ seems appropriate.

4. Get Out of the Work Routine Occasionally

A balanced employee who has time for friends, family, and outside interests can be much more dedicated and focused when at work. Be flexible with time when possible as long as the work is getting done. We have a tendency not to focus on the big picture when we are really busy. This prevents us from creating perks or planning fun events that make the workplace happier. Treat people to something surprisingly good and fun. A day at the amusement park, a movie in the afternoon with popcorn and candy, chair massages. Anything you can think of to make people feel that you are doing something nice for them will make people feel happier.

5. Show That You Care About Your Employees

Ever hear of the Hawthorne effect? It’s the increase in productivity in the workplace when people feel that they are cared about. It makes people happy to be asked how they are and for you to take a little time to find out how things are going in their lives. That doesn’t mean spending hours at the water cooler having conversations about people’s lives. It means remembering to take the time to say, “How are you”. Excellent, two-way communication is the cornerstone of a happy workplace. Employees feel valued when their ideas are heard and they are trusted with important or confidential information. Ask your coworkers about their interests — their favorite music, movies, and books, as well as their hobbies, suggests Larina Kase, Ph.D., a psychologist at the Center for Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “Showing a genuine interest in them will make them feel comfortable around you,” she says. Once you know what floats their boat, clip items from newspapers or magazines to help start conversations.

6. Encourage Some Selfish Thinking

This is a key ingredient to creating a happy workplace. Employees need to feel like they have value within the organization. Create programs that recognize the employees for their contributions to the company. But try not to over do it. Its one thing to have an “employee of the quarter”, its another thing to have “cleanest cubicle” and “best haircut” awards. Another thing you can do is to provide free lunches, happy hours, or donuts/bagels to celebrate good work. Part of the secret to being happy at work is to encourage people to have personal career goals. When people feel that they are working toward something, the day-to-day politics and stresses of the workplace don’t matter as much. Each challenging day can be better tolerated because it is a means to a personal end. People are able to separate themselves from their jobs and not become mired in the negativity when they are focused on reaching personal goals.

7. Focus on the Positive

Lots of places get caught up in the negative. They debrief by going over what didn’t work. Turn that around. Focus on the positive. That doesn’t mean that you should ignore the things that need to be improved on, it just means that when you are looking for the good, you will find the good. If you look for the bad, everything will seem bleak. I’ve been in companies where the owners/management will openly complain about a client or worker. This will surely drag down morale. Negativity is contagious, and while it might feel good to vent your frustrations to everyone, it has a tremendous effect on the morale of your employees. If you have a problem with an underperforming worker, or a mistake has been made, address it in private.

8. Develop a pleasant management style.

Managers who enjoy their work will do their job in more positive and constructive ways than managers who are unhappy or frustrated in their jobs. You and your attitude help set the tone. Employees are happier in a workplace run by managers who enjoy themselves, their work, and their employees. (The opposite also applies.) So target these things: Manage your thoughts. Think positively, choose to think the thoughts and stories about your work that you enjoy thinking about – and avoid thinking about the rest. Enjoy your work. The most important thing for you and for all those around you is that you like what you’re doing. If you’re not enjoying work, do something about it. Act spontaneously. Share those qualities that make you special.

9. Give Back With Your Employees

Throw a party every once in awhile. Its important to provide an avenue for socializing within your organization. The best companies I’ve worked for have had a definate “family” feeling to them, where people were free to get to know each other outside of their regular work environment. People tend to be more communicative when they have a personal relationship with their fellow employees. Do something to give back to your community or to the world. Having a company wide initiative that makes a difference will make people feel connected to the greater good. Take a poll. Find out what people care about and get their opinions on how best to accomplish those goals.

There is now extensive research showing the health benefits of happiness for individuals. For example, the evidence that positive emotions contribute to better health and longer life is stronger than that linking obesity to reduced longevity.2 Happy people are also significantly less likely to catch the cold virus than others who are less happy. Similarly, we know that happiness brings big benefits for organisations too. For example, how happy people are has been shown to have a significant causal effect on their productivity. In a recent study, one group received an intervention which increased their happiness levels, while those in a control group did not. Treated subjects were found to have 12% greater productivity in a paid task.

We can all play a part in creating a happier workplace, by encouraging our employers to take happiness seriously and by doing what we can personally to create a more fulfilling, positive and collaborative working environment. The key to all of these tips is to create a sense of pride and ownership within your organization. You want to have your employees feel as though they are an essential part of the the company. Employees that feel this, will work harder and more productively, and in the end your company will reap the rewards.