Happiness - is it your competitive edge?

I came across a nice reminder from the World Happiness Forum that is worth sharing. Happiness at work is the topic of many a corporate self help book and the topic concerns leaders all over the world. Because if we’re not happy, we are not working well and we aren’t likely to stick around.

Even more importantly in these challenging economic times, happiness can give your organisation a competitive edge.  Research shows that an upbeat workspace works wonders for the bottom line.

I’ve not noticed much happiness in the corporate world lately - have you?  People who are usually upbeat and committed are finding it tough. Cost cutting has meant that many organisations are significantly under resourced putting pressure on 'skeleton staff' to work ungodly hours to get the job done. This takes its toll on the individual, their families, the organisation and ultimately society as a whole.

The adage ‘the best things in life are free’ springs to mind. Just as it costs nothing to create small changes in your personal life that can make you happier, the same applies at an organisational level.

But how do you know if your workplace is a happy one?  Do you collaborate? Do people support each other? Or are they cynical and sarcastic? You can look to formal engagement surveys but assessing whether your staff are happy can be as simple as noting if people smile and laugh at work!

According to the statistics I’ve seen, up to 15 percent of workers are clinically depressed. Another 10 to 15 percent are clock watching.  These numbers can’t be ignored – especially as the situation is so easy to change.

Some things you can do to create a happy workplace:

Hire happy people – Often we focus on a person’s work and academic history in interviews, but what is your gut telling you about this person? What do their referees say – talk to them in person if you can. Recruitment should be about personality and attitudes as much as capability.

Build on people's strengths – Do you know what those strengths are? Find out, and build on them. Contact us if you need some tools to help. Give people the projects and tasks that will engage their skills and let them shine.

Encourage learning – Most people have career goals. Leaders need to take an interest in their employees' aspirations and encourage learning on the job.

Work life balance – It’s no cliché - giving employees the flexibility to do what makes them happy - provided they still do their jobs well - boosts loyalty and ups the chance of that person staying. Think flexi time, working from home, a four day week or nine day fortnight.  I think this is especially important in winter.  The added stress of commuting in bad weather, setting out for work in the dark and coming home in the dark, is enough to make anyone miserable.

Make time for friendship - Don’t get so busy you lose your sense of humour. You can keep things light even under pressure, in fact it helps to do so. Creating social time at work is a good idea too – workers who are friends with their colleagues are happier at work.

Trust your gut – There are books about the role of instinct in a work setting. Just because you’re at the office doesn’t mean all decisions should be made with your analytical and strategic hat on. Tune into your instinct and listen.

Look at your environment - Sound, layout, lighting, ergonomics ... all these things contribute to the environment in your office and how people feel about coming to work.

Be a better boss - Simple things go a long way – like saying hi! Working as hard as others do for you, giving people space to do their jobs, and rewarding them when they go the extra mile all make you a better boss with a happier team.

Keep smiling!
PS: You might like to check out the World Happiness Report from the Earth Institute, Columbia University for the macro view on Happiness.


Posted: Friday 24 May 2013

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