Five ways to promote happiness in the workplace

Gina Jones

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Happier teams are more productive, so here’s how to spread the joy among your team.

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

“The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality,” said University of Warwick’s Dr Sgroi.

With this in mind, here are five top tips to help you spread the smiles in your office.

1. Throw down a challenge

It’s been said that financial success is due 15 per cent to professional knowledge and 85 per cent to the ability to express ideas, assume leadership and create enthusiasm in others. But how do you fan those flames of enthusiasm? Dale Carnegie’s book How to win friends and influence people suggests that, beyond money, the thing that motivates people to work harder is the chance to prove their worth and to win.

Twitter, for example has a ‘Hack Week’, during which employees can work on any Twitter-related project they want and demo their ideas on Friday. Employees post ideas for Hack Week on the company intranet and invite others to join their team. The best projects, as voted on by employees, are recognised at a Global Tea Time at the end of the day.

2. Offer more flexible working hours

Make employees feel valued and empowered by giving them more autonomy over their working hours. Innocent Smoothies regularly surveys workers’ happiness and have found that while employees were expected to finish work at 6pm, they wanted to leave at 5.30pm, so they changed it. In theory, it cost 875 working hours a week across its 350 employees but the company reported a positive impact overall.

They’re not the only ones offering flexibility; Google allows employees to spend 20 per cent of their working time on projects not directly related to their normal job. Innovations such as Gmail, Google Transit, Google Talk and Google News are all said to have come from engineers working on during that ‘down time’.

3. Empower them to delight customers

Pret A Manger reported increased sales of £594 million in the UK for last year, and chief executive Clive Schlee puts it down to happiness. “The first thing I look at is whether staff are touching each other – are they smiling, reacting to each other, happy, engaged? I can almost predict sales on body language alone,” he says.

One initiative keeping them smiling is the ability to hand out free food and coffees at their discretion. Spreading smiles to customers makes the staff feel good. And it encourages customer loyalty – hence the increased sales overall.

4. Let them ‘cook’ an idea before its served

To get someone to do what you want them to, the best leaders make them think it was their idea in the first place. According to Dale Carnegie: “When we have a brilliant idea, instead of making others think it is ours, why not let them cook and stir the idea themselves? They will then regard it as their own; they will like it and maybe even eat a couple of helpings of it.”

Consulting employees on new programmes and ideas before they are rolled out can be a good way to make them feel included in the process. They can also provide valuable insights to help make your initial ideas better and, as a result, everyone will be better equipped to sell the solution to others once it’s complete.

5. Relax holiday rules

Loosening regulations on holiday time can be beneficial. Virgin introduced a policy allowing all salaried staff to take time off whenever they want for as long as they want. Richard Branson explains: “It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!”

Branson believes that other companies should follow his lead and would benefit from increased productivity if they followed suit.

Finally, remember that for most people, happiness comes from feeling like they have a voice and are being heard. Listen as much as you talk and you will find that employees are more receptive when you do have something to say.

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