Work and happiness are not two words that many people would necessarily put together, and yet studies repeatedly show that a happy employee is a more productive one. Happiness may be difficult to measure, but it is certainly a metric worth pursuing in the drive for improved productivity. Happy employees are not only likely to be more productive, but they are also much more inclined to be loyal to their company, and may even be less likely to leave the organization. As an employer, you should be thinking of ways to encourage an enjoyable workplace.
One of the most important ways to help employees be happier and feel more valued at work is to empower them. They are adults after all, and adults respond better to being trusted and allowed to get on with the job they were hired for. Many bosses make the mistake of micromanaging their staff. In reality, most do not respond well to this management style as Google discovered when it set out to improve their management style.
Researchers have discovered a direct correlation between the amount of time it takes to commute to work with the happiness and stress levels of staff. Although this may seem like a difficult dynamic for a company to influence, there are actually some things that can be offered.
Flexible Working Hours – Does your staff need to work a Monday to Friday 9 to 5 shift? By providing flex time, the length of the commute can be reduced, and there is potential for your employees to enjoy a better work/life balance.
Utilize Coworking Spaces – Evaluate the work that your staff is undertaking and ascertain whether or not that work is geographically reliant. Do your employees need to travel to the office every day, or could they possibly work from home, or at a satellite or flex office? By demonstrating to employees that your company can give them more control over their immediate schedule and work environment, they will feel appreciated and be much more likely to value and enjoy their work, ultimately making them a better employee.
Just because you are the owner or manager of the company, does not mean you have all of the answers. By seeking employees’ opinions, you are giving them the opportunity to be heard, to help influence the options offered them, and ultimately to help them enjoy work more.
Think about the jobs you have had during the course of your life. Those jobs with a collaborative, team-oriented atmosphere where employees felt like they were a part of something bigger than themselves almost always rate higher on measures of quality of day-to-day work, and employers have taken note. Traditional cubicle-style workspaces have been on the decline in large part because people find them isolating and depressing – not a good way to promote teamwork, motivation, or happiness.
There is an old saying about giving gifts that “it’s the thought that counts.” Although your children may disagree, when it comes to receiving rewards in the workplace, new research from HBS suggests that 80% of American employees feel under-recognized and under-rewarded. It suggests that while, “Cash matters in people’s lives.. it’s not all that matters. What really matters in the workplace is helping employees feel appreciated.”
The long-term effects of the big bonus wear out relatively quickly, whereas smaller acknowledgments and regular recognition can be appreciated on a much more frequent basis throughout the year.
Sometimes it can pay to be a little more subtle when it comes to improving the work environment. Not everything has to be so blatant, so try to think outside of the box and come up with simple ways to make the workplace more appealing. Bringing in pastries, taking the team out to lunch, or letting them leave an hour early on a Friday are subtle yet effective gestures that employees truly appreciate.
It’s like being back at school and the teacher criticizes you for something you were unsure of; the school rarely contacts parents to praise a child. The same thing can easily become a habit in the work environment, with employees regularly receiving criticism or pressure to increase sales or production. Constant, negative criticism is rarely if ever beneficial. Countless studies have confirmed that better results typically come from the carrot than the stick. The power of positive reinforcement is both real and self-perpetuating.
That’s not to say that all feedback should be sunshine and rainbows. That’s not a productive end either. When skillfully communicated, feedback is indeed an important gift. Constructive criticism – or radical candor that combines personal care with direct feedback – can be just that gift. The key is in the delivery.
As a manager, think carefully about your interaction with employees. A little bit of praise can go a long way, as can honest feedback. Both help build trust and clarity, happiness and ultimately, productivity.