Is Happiness at Work Important?

Culture

March 19, 2021

Margaux Morgante

X min

5 min

With the reality of permanent remote work settling in for many, the distinction between work and personal life is blurred, making happiness in our work more imperative than ever to avoid burnout.

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Table of Contents

Are Your Employees Happy?

Every year on March 20, the world celebrates the United Nation’s International Day of Happiness. Action for Happiness, a not-for-profit dedicated to "building a happier and more caring society," spearheads the celebration with events, resources, and ideas on how to act.

With the reality of permanent remote work settling in for many, the distinction between work and personal life is blurred, making happiness in our work more imperative than ever to avoid burnout.

Additionally, we're finding more evidence indicating that organizations perform better when employees are happy. In fact, organizations with happy employees report increases in productivity (17%), sales (20%), and profitability (21%).

Now that I have your attention, I'll ask again, are your employees happy?

How to Spot an Unhappy Employee

Studies show that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. So before you investigate, consider employees as individuals or small teams, rather than one large group. Everyone's experience is different.

According to Entrepreneur magazine, some signs of employee unhappiness include:

  • Only contributing the minimum and not going beyond a job description
  • Limited personal engagement, such as a lack of humor and connection with colleagues
  • Lack of new ideas and a general lack of passion and interest in success and improvement
  • Secrecy or lack of transparency, such as limited feedback or openness about problems
  • Visual cues like blank expressions, sighing, and fidgeting (these can be tricky to spot in remote work environments)

So, what can you do to improve employee happiness?

There are many ways to address and create happiness. The United Arab Emirates, for example, has a dedicated Minister of State for Happiness overseeing a "National Programme for Happiness and Positivity." Now, you may not be able to create a position solely dedicated to managing employee happiness, but you can do something equally as powerful at little to no cost.

Make Happiness a Core Value

To be clear, happiness as an organizational value does not mean employees "must be happy." It means that happiness is valued, whether it's an employee, manager, or customer. What's more, if you consider some of the more common organizational values, happiness would not be out of place. For example, "respect," "trust," "passion," and"caring" are all in the top 20 corporate values in the United States.

Values give every member of your organization a sense of direction and a definition of success in every interaction and task. But don't take my word for it. Take the lead from some fantastic companies who have happiness-inducing organizational values guiding their teams.

For example:

  • Fun! (The Honest Company)
  • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness (Zappos)
  • Playful (Spotify)
  • Make Friends (Virgin Atlantic)
  • Happiness (Kudos)

Identifying happiness as a value is the first step towards enjoying all the benefits a happy workforce can produce. According to Annie Mckee, author of "How to Be Happy at Work," there are three things that employees need to be happy and engaged:

  • A meaningful vision of the future: In a study by Annie Mckee, the number one thing that hindered her subject’s happiness was an inability to see where they fit into their organization’s future. Happy employees see a clear trajectory for their role with an organization. One easy way to fix this is to have regular 1-1 meetings with staff to understand their goals.
  • A sense of purpose: Today’s employees want to feel like they’re making an impact; on their team, within their organization, for their customers, and even for the greater good.
  • Great relationships: A study by Gallup shows that women who have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged than those who don't. It doesn’t stop there. Beyond happiness, the same study reports that when more employees have a best friend at work, there are fewer safety incidents, more engaged customers, and higher profits.

Identifying happiness as a core organizational value will encourage managers to prioritize the three points above, as well as their employees’ well-being in general. At the end of the day, organizational values shape culture, and in the words of Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsiesh, “If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care of itself.”

More Tips for Improving Employee Happiness and Engagement

One thing everyone can do to feel happier is to show more gratitude for the people around them. Recognizing others and showing appreciation does more for the ones giving the recognition than those receiving it. Amongst many other benefits, Dr. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, proves that gratitude can increase happiness and reduce depression.

Companies can use tools like Kudos as a hub to show gratitude, and prioritize employee happiness. As Shawn Anchor, author of “The Happiness Advantage”, shares in his famous TED talk, creating happiness and fostering positivity in our day-to-day life helps our brains work harder, faster, and more intelligently.

Here are a few more TED Talks to inspire you and make you smile today – share with your network and make someone’s day:

About Kudos

Kudos is an employee engagement, culture, and analytics platform, that harnesses the power of peer-to-peer recognition, values reinforcement, and open communication to help organizations boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, improve culture, and drive productivity and performance. Kudos uses unique proprietary methodologies to deliver essential people analytics on culture, performance, equity, and inclusion, providing organizations with deep insights and a clear understanding of their workforce.

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