According to a 2016 report by the Conference Board, 50.4% of Americans were reportedly unhappy at work last year. Research shows that low workplace happiness rates can result in decreased productivity, poor sales performance, and high turnover costs. These dismal statistics are shedding light on the negative impacts of unhappiness in the workplace and pointing out why leaders are finding ways to make work happier. Over the next few blogs, we are going to address the misconception that happiness at work is a wasted investment, and a trend that is here to stay.
Workplace happiness is about more than perks
Let's start by clearing up what workplace happiness is not. Workplace happiness is more than just a stocked beer fridge and a ping-pong table or posters of corporate values hanging on the wall. Most notably, it isn't about squashing negative emotions or asking people to pretend to be happy when they're not.
A common misconception about happiness at work is that it means being in a constant state of joy. According to Dr. Vanessa Buote, it extends much further than that: "being happy and leading rich lives is about taking the good with the bad, and learning how to reframe the negative experiences to take the positive aspects out of them."
Executives need to understand the value that a happiness strategy can have on cultivating a high-performance work culture. The benefits are undeniable; Shawn Achor's research shows that happy companies see increases in sales by 37% and productivity by 31%.
If these numbers are so promising, why is workplace happiness still regarded as just a trend and not a strategic objective?
Getting started with a workplace happiness strategy
In Plasticity Labs' co-founder Jennifer Moss' book, Unlocking Happiness at Work, she notes that by and large, senior leaders have a true desire to increase emotional intelligence and happiness in the workplace, but they just aren't sure where to begin with the effort. Jennifer goes on to say that leaders need to take a slow and steady approach to building an authentic culture of high-performing and passionate people and teams. Going too fast can make these changes feel forced and inauthentic. "Start by asking the right questions more frequently - the annual engagement survey won't cut it. Follow up with action immediately after learning how your people feel. Then, give your people the tools to develop their own well-being."
Happiness strategies help us to prepare for the inevitable curveballs that are thrown at us at home and at work. In an interview with happiness expert Dr. Seppala, Moss explained: "We can't control our external circumstances, and things change constantly whether at work or in our personal lives. The only thing we can have a say over is the state of our mind. That's why it's so important to cultivate resilience - the ability to generate more inner peace, to stay calm in the face of chaos, to remain emotionally intelligent as we communicate with others despite conflict or hurt feelings, to make good decisions even when we're feeling upset." Happiness training helps employees to prepare for and manage conflict with resiliency and efficacy. Trendy? Or strategic.
Measure well and measure often
Research shows that data is becoming a cornerstone to organizational success. Measuring employee happiness provides managers with the tools and resources to truly lead people and make calculated strategic decisions.
The benefits of measuring employee happiness data extends far beyond the obvious internal benefits. Smart companies will acknowledge that a happiness strategy is extremely valuable not only to the bottom line, but to the people that make the company alive. We spend 90,000 hours at work in our lifetime. Employers who understand how to make our time at work a happier experience will reap the benefits of more engaged, more productive, and healthier employees.
Happiness is more than just a fad, it's a long term investment.