Contented workers are the lifeblood of a business. The value of contented workers are why companies plan elaborate socials, with fancy drinks and team bonding games, while others scatter bean bags across break-out rooms hoping to lighten the corporate atmosphere.
In fact, many are going to increasingly wild lengths to create enviable work environments, providing everything from flexible working hours to inspiration trips – anything to keep workers content and productive.
But, I can’t help feeling that workplace happiness is about more than buttering up your staff.
In a recent study tracking the key predictors of happiness and misery by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Ernesto Illy Foundation, mental illness was found to be the strongest determinant of misery in the UK, US and Australia, over poverty and unemployment. While I’m no mental health expert, I do know that employers are potentially damaging the wellbeing of their workers by ignoring what’s right in front of them – the people themselves and their emotional needs.
In our always-on culture, there’s an overwhelming expectation that we’re always available.
How about we take a second to think about the individuals and how they feel? How do you go deeper into the psyche of your staff and arm them with the tools for inspiration, confidence and ultimately – happiness?
Personal development is about understanding ourselves
It’s an age-old saying that happy workers create a happier overall workforce, and that in turn can lead to business growth. In 2015, sandwich chain Pret a Manger, famously put its annual growth down to the ‘happiness’ of its staff.
The company has made the wellbeing of its staff a business objective and it pays.
So, while Pret is a worthwhile example of strategies that promote workplace happiness, it begs the question: how can other businesses put happiness at the centre of their brands?
During my workshops and Inspired Seminars, I ask people to look at themselves and how they fit into the world around them. There are four components to our identities, these are driven by intention (what guides us), purpose (our reason for being), identity (who we are) and our values and beliefs (what’s most important to us). By breaking down the pillars of our personalities, we can analyse ourselves and learn what drives us and how we can achieve personal growth.
Creating significance in a multi-generational workforce
In any given office, you’ll find a range of age groups. Today, we have five generations in the workplace – they could range from 18 to 80 – all of which will have vastly different approaches to work.
While millennials would choose workplace flexibility, work/life balance and the opportunity for overseas assignments over financial rewards, according to a NextGen survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), older generations might have priorities akin to caring for families or building stability. How do you create cohesion among all age groups?
Many workplace issues arise from workers either feeling like they’re not good enough or that they’re not getting noticed for their good work.
An easy way to overcome staff feeling undervalued, which is good delegation training, is to give staff the keys to their own success.
Make them the manager of tasks that they are suited to, due to their talents, skillset or perhaps an area they’ve voiced an interest in progressing in.
This is particularly important for junior team members, who can get lost amidst onerous admin tasks delegated down from their seniors.
Be forewarned that this technique requires those who are setting project objectives to step back and trust their employees to carry out the task. It’s the ultimate way for the trust to be exchanged as you watch them complete the task and they see evidence of you trusting them to completely manage what’s involved.
This technique can even apply to those with an entrepreneurial spirit, who might have ambitions to one day leave your business and set up their own. Managers should sit down with entrepreneurial team members to learn what drives them and how the company can accommodate their needs. Consider that your business is made up of businesses with each department; how can you help these individuals build their own within the company?
Not only will this make them feel vital, it’ll help you channel new and innovative ways of thinking. As much as you need the team players, you also harness benefits from the drivers of change.
Creating an open office culture
Many companies, big and small, have physically torn down the walls that separate staff members to encourage openness and collaboration.
Open plan offices work well, allowing for a freer flow of communication among staff, but it also comes with its challenges – abrasive music playing on the office radio, decreased productivity and minimal privacy.
The creation of a truly open office culture will come with a focus on the second part of that sentence – culture.
Cultures take a while to establish, but once you’ve struck the right formula, staff will feel able to talk to anybody about how they’re truly feeling. Leaders have a responsibility to set an example by practicing what they preach.
Create an open-door policy and regularly ask the question: how are you? Set examples of how you and the management team will work through problems with the team to help come to a solution.
Most importantly of all, reward good work. People need to feel that they’re growing.
While the onus lies with business leaders to create environments that people can truly thrive in, there is a responsibility that lies with their employees too. Each individual should delve deep into themselves to find the tools to personal growth and development. Until people start working on their emotional needs, a business’ staff wellbeing strategies will wither. The healthiest of companies will glow from the inside out.