Turn that frown upside down: Tips to Promote Happiness in the Workplace

Sharon O'Donnell - 18/02/2016
5 tips for keeping your staff happy- it’s all about work/life balance!

A 2015 study by the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick, in the UK, found that happiness made workers around 12 per cent more productive.

 Research also shows that when team members are happy at work, they are better collaborators, work to common goals, and are more innovative. So how can employers instill happiness in their employees and convert smiles into commercial success? 

Allow your employees to express ideas and set them a challenge – The power of internal crowdsourcing
Forbes published an article looking into What You Really Need To Succeed and concluded that Intelligence is seriously Overrated when it comes to success. What they found was that your IQ score pales in comparison with your EQ (Emotional Intelligence), MQ (Moral Intelligence), and BQ (Body Intelligence) scores when it comes to predicting your success and professional achievement. Financial success is due 15 per cent to professional knowledge and 85 per cent to the ability to express ideas. 

Think about it, you know that buzz you get off sharing an idea and having it genuinely acknowledged, be it good or bad. I for one believe that if you have a leadership figure who encourages the sharing of ideas, this allows employees feel part of the bigger picture, and in turn experience work happiness/sense of purpose. 

Twitter promote innovation through experimentation around the company via a ‘Hack Week’, during which employees can work together on any Twitter-related project they want and present their ideas at the end of the week. Employees post ideas on the company intranet and invite others to join their team. The best projects are chosen by employees and are recognised at a Global Tea Time at the end of the day. 

Rejig your Holiday Policy
In 2014 Richard Branson provided some (some may say ludicrous, others genius) advice on how he keeps his employees content. When asked why he was letting Virgin staff take as much holiday as they want Branson’s response was short and simple…. “It is always interesting to note how often the adjectives ‘smart’ and ‘simple’ describe the cleverest of innovations – well, this is surely one of the simplest and smartest initiatives I have heard of in a long time”.

The idea originated from Netflix, which as a company rewrote the book when it came to their annual leave entitlement. Netflix lets its staff take as much holiday as they want, whenever they want, provided that their managers know where they are and that their work is covered – and apparently it works. "Rules and policies and regulations and stipulations are innovation killers. People do their best work when they're unencumbered," said Steve Swasey, Netflix's vice-president for corporate communication.

In 2015 they also introduced a policy to let parents (fathers and mothers) take as much maternity and parental leave as they want for the first year of a child’s life. Yes, unlimited leave!! 

But how is this commercially viable I hear you ask? Consulting firm CEB Global estimates that about 9% of companies around the world offer similar “non-policies”. Hubspot does it and so does LinkedIn. Virgin believe that it has created a happier and more empowered environment, which can be an incentive for some people.

Reward frequency is more important than size
One interesting study by psychologists in the US analysing “The Best Place to Work” found that feedback indicated that smaller frequent positive feedback and rewards kept people happy longer than a single large infrequent happy event. Even the biggest awards or raises become lost in the day to day stress of the job, with most employees responding better to small doses every few days.

It’s hard to ignore the evidence of big value from happy employees. Harvard Business Review Analysis from 2014 of hundreds of studies showed an average of 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales, with creativity three times higher. Some say it’s hype, others say it’s the way forward however perhaps some policy/company culture overhaul is worth a try when attempting to turn those frowns upside down :)

Sharon O'Donnell's picture
Associate Director | Dublin
+353 1 4321500