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I wonder how many people are actually happy in their workplace. The average adult spends a large percentage of their lives working, so if quality of life is to be maintained it is vital that employees are satisfied with their roles in the workplace. This can significantly impact the wellbeing of the communities in which those employees work; additionally, studies suggest that considering employees’ well-being may have financial benefits for the employer.

Nic Marks from the New Economics-Foundation (NEF) states that

people who are happier at work are more productive-they are more engaged, more creative, have better concentration.”  

Work, he says, is an influential factor of an individual and also to the community’s well being. It affects the quality of an individual’s life as well as their mental health, and can therefore affect the productivity of the workforce. The notion of promoting happiness rather than causing strains and mental illnesses is a huge benefit not only to the employees but also to the employer’s bottom line.

Happy workerMany people will be aware of the Wellbeing Index that has been introduced by the UK government.  For the past two years Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson has chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics. At a recent meeting, the focus was on Happy Workers and influential speakers  including Zappos owner Tony Hsieh and Paul Litchfield of B.T. gave testament to the importance of happiness in their respective organisations.

Dot-com multimillionaire Tony Hsieh bought the start-up fashion brand Zappo in the late 90’s because he missed working in a ‘happy environment’. But he stresses that in order to create a ‘happy culture’, it is essential to shed the cynics: i.e. any employees who do not buy in to the company’s ethos. Typically, personality and values are more important when making recruitment choices than experience and skill sets.

Hsieh believes that it is important to get the culture right and to get employees feeling motivated and inspired. His philosophy is to create a sense of community in the workplace and to serve a higher purpose that goes beyond the bottom line metrics.

Paul Litchfield from B.T. asserted that simple things can significantly improve a workplace environment such as having a better relationship with the line managers. However, he stresses that the most critical aspect is good leadership.

For example, creating an environment where employees have the opportunities to discuss their performances and grow leads to positive emotions that can harness intellectual resources in the workplace. These intellectual resources are built when learning opportunities and feedback discussions occur depending on the positive emotions that result from a sense of belonging and employee contribution. When there is a sense of belonging and contribution in the workplace, the way in which employees learn and discuss their progressive state of mind becomes essential as it helps a business learn and improve important outcomes in the workplace.

A tool that has been used to indicate happiness and has also been good for giving feedback is the happiness at work survey.  Created by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the online tool caters for employees by providing instant results, including personalised action plans plus collating the results anonymously for the company.

Happy workersA recruitment company based in the North of England used this online tool to test its employee’s happiness, ended up changing its working hours. Joanne Shires, who is head of people and talent at the company, said that this online tool had given employees empowerment and more job satisfaction.

Using Tony Hsieh’s idea on happiness, extracting his company’s DNA on things like purpose, happiness, culture, and profits can be used as a stepping stone for any business large or small to create a framework for happiness in the workplace as their very own business model.

The Himalayan nation Bhutan is known for its gross national happiness index which has been admired and inspired by many. Some factors that make us happy are inevitably linked with stronger economies: standards of living and job security are key factors. Beyond a point when people have had enough to eat, have shelter, and have a stable job, it is other factors that come into play. Bhutan’s happiness index focuses on wellbeing, health, living standards, community vitality, and ecological diversity. UK businesses could use Bhutan as an example of using happiness as a tool by taking some of these major factors into consideration and applying them into their daily practises.  

Dave Dhanoo
Dave is currently working with ORB as a Work Experience Intern, whilst studying for an MSc in Marketing Management. He has an interest in CSR and intends to complete his dissertation on this subject.

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