How to foster a happy and harmonious workplace

On National Happiness Day, I provide my advice for businesses to help boost the happiness of their teams.

Ensuring your business is a happy place for employees is key to boosting productivity and achieving success. Research from Warwick Business School suggests that happier workers are 12% more productive and the performance of unhappier workers actually slumps by 10%. This month, I share tips on how to help your team maximise its potential by injecting some shiny happy thinking into your workplace.

In a happy place?  

Each year, the Sunday Times publishes its Top 100 Best Companies to Work For, judging firms on aspects such as how employees feel about senior staff, whether companies give back to the community and whether or not they get a fair deal with their pay and benefits.

Companies like Save Britain Money Group, from BBC Three’s The Call Centre, feature regularly on the list. Although many viewers question its working practices – dismissing the mandatory ice-breaker karaoke session for new starters as cringeworthy – the fact the firm has been in the top five of the Sunday Times list for two years straight suggests it must be doing something right.

So, how could you boost that feel-good factor in your place of work? I share my top tips below.

Appreciation

Show your employees that you recognise their achievements both big and small. Thank them for their hard work and don’t wait until appraisals to show praise. It sounds so simple but employers often forget the impact a ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ can make. It shows employees that their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed and their contributions are valued. You could also promote positive news as widely as possible, on a staff noticeboard, for example, or in internal newsletters.

Lead by example

Good moods are contagious, so be happy around your team. Smile, say hello and try to encourage good humour as part of your daily routine.  Encourage others to do the same, especially senior staff, as this will build a sense of community in the workplace.

Get involved

Take an interest in your staff. Ask questions! Find out about their families and interests. By getting to know your employees better, you will have a better understanding of their characters and personalities. This will help you identify individual strengths and opportunities for development, allowing you to coach staff to play to their strengths.

Get staff involved

You can help staff feel involved in the company, by asking them for ideas and their thoughts on projects. This could be achieved by holding regular brainstorming sessions, and by seeking suggestions to improve the way things are done. Great ideas can come from everybody in an organisation. If staff feel included in decision-making, they feel valuable to the company, resulting in increased commitment. By giving staff the freedom to contribute to decision-making, you can foster a more motivated, empowered workforce.

Empowerment

If an employee feels trapped in their role with no room for growth, they can become demotivated and productivity suffers. Make your staff aware of the progression opportunities available to them. Continuous development, through training programmes and skills workshops, should be encouraged. Employees will gain new knowledge and abilities, making them feel challenged and stimulated in the workplace. The result is lower turnover and a more engaged workforce.

Healthy Environment

Half the battle for creating a happy team is to create a healthy and welcoming working environment, a place where workers want to go in the mornings. To do this, offices should offer good lighting, natural sunlight where possible, comfortable furniture, fresh water, plants and colour.  Health promotion should also be encouraged through stress management courses, nutritional advice and exercise promotion.

Work-Life Balance 

Many employees may feel unhappy because the balance between their work and home life leans too much in the wrong direction. If workers feel their home life is suffering, then their professional life can also suffer as a result of this stress. To combat this, employers should offer flexible working options, wherever possible and practicable, so employees can balance their professional and home lives more easily. Also, employers can benefit from actively persuading over-dedicated staff to take time off work to relax and recharge.

Socialising

Encouraging staff to get out of their work routine is a good thing. Plan fun events for staff to take part in outside of office hours, and make a social budget available for valuable team-building activities. If friendships are formed at work, it can make staff look forward to their working day and it makes for closer, more productive teams.

As an employer, we have benefited from following these rules every day, with a number of team members staying with us for over 20 years – we even have one associate still working with us in his 90s! All this evidence shows that maintaining a healthy and happy workplace boosts motivation and results in increased productivity. Taking the time to incorporate some of these suggestions into your everyday working life, and investing in the well-being of your team, doesn’t just feed good; it pays dividends.

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About Hugh Hitchcock

Hugh Hitchcock is a director at DJM Solicitors, a commercial law firm providing legal services to clients across the UK and Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Japan. His career spans 23 years spent in media and corporate law, and he specialises in dispute resolution. He previously spent six years at a leading media firm that acted for Elton John and The Beatles' record label Apple.