Happiness in the workplace is tricky. First, agreeing on a definition of happiness is difficult in itself. Second, the remedy for unhappiness at work is open to much speculation. Does happiness even have a place at work?
The speculation over the relevance and importance of happy employees is healthy. Speculation, however, cannot be the end of the process. We need to progress past discussion and explore real solutions that can elicit happiness.
What Is Happiness?
Let’s begin with a shared understanding of happiness. Professor Martin Seligman says to better understand it, we can look to PERMA to maximize the emotion.
P – Positive Emotions: Happiness, kindness, optimism, for example
E – Engagement: absorbed in what you’re doing—flow
R – Relationships: connection to people who are meaningful in your life
M – Meaning: a sense of significance in what you’re doing and why
A – Accomplishments: goals and ambition in life
Happiness, then, isn’t only a fleeting emotion that we experience because something such as a pay raise delights us. Happiness, at least the type that this article is focusing on, can come from within. It’s not dependent on something outside of us. It’s what we feel when we’re satisfied in the moment or with our work. A more intrinsic notion of happiness comes from the pursuit of becoming a more fully functioning human being.
Happiness at Work
Why should a business owner focus on employee happiness at work? Here are some stats that might convince you of its place in the modern work environment.
- Happier employees take one tenth the sick leave
- Happier employees are six times more energized
- Happier employees stay with companies twice as long
- Happier employees are twice as productive
Five Happiness Solutions
What can you do to positively influence the happiness levels employees to feel? Perhaps it goes without saying, but you can’t make someone feel happy. What you can do is shape the conditions that could help someone find happiness.
Mobility. Lindsay Witcher, Director and Practice Strategy at RiseSmart, a Randstad Company, says millennials are on to something regarding mobility. “For a while, senior leaders have been afraid of mobility because it often means upward. This is a misconception,” explains Witcher. She sees mobility as an opportunity to help your employees learn and grow. “[Organizations] are hemorrhaging talent because mobility to grow or lateral opportunities aren’t leveraged.”
Meaningful work. Today’s workforce wants work that has significance. As a business owner, focus on three-way wins. Be clear about how projects and assignments help the organization, the employee, and the customer.
Flexibility. Employees are two times more likely to stay in their current position when they have a high degree of work-life harmony. They are four times more engaged at work with flexible work arrangements. Give employees choices about where and when they can work.
Satisfaction over performance. Witcher advocates a focus on raising employee satisfaction. If satisfaction is low, so, too, is an employee’s performance. Examine the reasons for low performance. Low work satisfaction could be the cause.
A sense of belonging. We are wired to connect. When we feel like we belong and fit in, we reduce the focus on time-wasting thoughts like, “Are my ideas silly?” Help employees connect with each other in casual settings, not just in business meetings.
These five solutions are just a handful to get you started in your workplace. Other examples include offering health and wellness solutions, creating a positive workplace and culture, and having financially fair practices when it comes to paying employees.
While happiness can be a tricky work reality to address, when it’s done effectively, the benefits far outweigh the cost—in emotional stress, time, and money.
This post originally appeared in Shawn Murphy's Inc.com column, “Positive Business.”