No more ping-pong tables: Cutting absenteeism with workplace happiness
- 8 Min Read
Yasar Ahmad, Global VP Talent, Mobility and Rewards at HelloFresh, on the business need for workplace happiness and lesser-appreciated, high-value strategies for a positive work environment
Workplace happiness refers to the positive emotions and experiences that employees have at work. It’s a state of being that anyone can feel, regardless of their role or level within an organization. The benefits of being happy at work include improved productivity, better relationships with coworkers and customers or clients, and increased motivation to learn new skills or take on new projects. Plus, it just feels good!
The cost of neglecting workplace happiness
Workplace happiness is a big deal, not just because it’s nice to have happy people around you. Studies show that when workers are happy at work, they’re more productive and less likely to leave the company. A Gallup poll found that one in five employees left their jobs due to poor management practices. This can cost businesses up to $14 billion each year in lost productivity alone!
On top of that, unhappy employees are three times more likely than their counterparts who feel valued by their employers or supervisors to be absent from work during any given week. Unhappy workers also tend to take sick days more often and have higher rates of disability claims filed against them by both private insurers as well as government programs like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). These costs come straight out of your pocketbook. But they also mean these employees spend less time on projects at work!
Creating workplace happiness
So, how do you create a positive work environment?
To begin with, let’s quickly run through some of the basics you simply cannot neglect. These should be nothing new, but it’s always important to go back to this vital checklist. Align your company’s mission with its employees’ personal goals and values to create a sense of purpose. Foster collaboration among team members. Provide recognition and rewards for good performance, including both financial rewards and personal ones like public praise from management.
You should also encourage a healthy balance between work and life, from flexible working hours and remote work options to encouraging vacation time. Offer access to the resources and support they need, including opportunities for learning new skills through training programs or conferences outside of work hours.
Lastly, keep in mind a positive work environment is an inclusive work environment. This means offering training and development programs that are accessible to everyone regardless of their background or experience level. It also means celebrating diversity. Encourage different perspectives and ideas from all employees.
Although basic, each of these routes to workplace happiness requires full focus, investment, and dedication. There’s plenty of further strategic advice and research on each to refer to. But what areas of workplace happiness do we often underappreciate?
The Yerkes-Dodson Law is a straightforward model that captures the link between performance and stress, developed by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson back in 1908. They derived this theory from their observations of Japanese dancing mice. The law suggests that performance improves with stress, but only to a certain limit. Beyond this limit, excess stress becomes detrimental to performance.
This concept may sound odd when we talk about ‘optimizing for stress’, but we can better understand it when we reframe stress in terms of arousal levels. Low stress equates to low arousal, optimal stress to optimal arousal, and high stress to high arousal. Viewing stress through this lens allows us to gauge our engagement with a given task.
A low arousal state, while necessary for rest and recuperation, usually isn’t the best for performance. It’s not ideal to undertake important tasks when in this state.
Optimal arousal is a perfect balance, like the “Goldilocks” scenario. It’s neither too intense nor too relaxed, but just the right level. This state places you in an excellent position to manage important tasks effectively.
High arousal, on the other hand, often triggers a biological fight-or-flight response. This could potentially lead to a complete system shutdown due to overload. Engaging in significant tasks in this state isn’t advisable.
Tying arousal to employee satisfaction
To fully tap into the potential of this principle and enhance your employee satisfaction, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your engagement levels. Over the next week, as you perform your regular duties, be highly aware of your emotional reactions to these tasks. Continuously ask yourself if your stress is surpassing the beneficial threshold. If it does, take a pause and divert your attention to a different task.
Taking careful account of these tasks and categorizing them based on the degree of engagement they demand, from high to low, will empower you to manage stress efficiently. This approach serves not only in aiding your decisions on how to assign your time but also in directing you on when to take a pause, embark on a task, and persist.
Remember this while designing your company initiatives, as it has the potential to dramatically improve employee satisfaction levels. Don’t just rely on instinct. Use this strategy to objectively assess and control stress and engagement for optimal productivity and satisfaction within your team.
To improve communication, you should provide clear direction. When communicating with your employees, there’s only so much information. If you’re not sure what your employees need to know about their roles or responsibilities, take some time to figure it out.
Consider conducting surveys or holding one-on-one meetings with each person on staff. This helps everyone to feel included in improving workplace happiness at your company. Encourage feedback from all levels of the organization. Create opportunities for people throughout your company to give input on how the organization can improve things within their departments or teams and across departmental lines (if applicable).
This will ensure that everyone has an equal voice in determining how to achieve increased happiness among co-workers and customers alike!
Promoting a culture of learning
Establishing a culture of learning within an organization begins with the formalization of knowledge sharing. The idea is to create systems and platforms where employees can effortlessly share insights, experiences, and learnings. This might take the form of collaborative online platforms, regular workshops, or scheduled learning sessions.
Such initiatives not only encourage the open exchange of ideas but also ensure that we do not silo valuable information and expertise within specific individuals or teams. The benefit is twofold: Firstly, fosters a more cohesive and informed workforce. Secondly, it promotes an environment that values continuous learning and improvement.
Workplace happiness through personalized learning
In parallel, personalizing the learning experience is pivotal in increasing participation in Learning and Development programs. Recognizing that everyone has unique learning styles and pacing is key. Offering a variety of learning formats such as e-learning modules, face-to-face workshops, mentoring programs, or even on-the-job training can cater to these varied needs.
Moreover, allowing employees to choose topics relevant to their interests and career paths, as well as providing them with an opportunity to learn at their own pace, can make the learning process more engaging and effective. When people feel that they are gaining skills that are relevant and beneficial to them, they are more likely to participate actively and enthusiastically. This, in turn, nurtures an organizational culture where employees and leadership value, share, and apply learning.
The future of workplace happiness
As we venture into the future, the concept of workplace happiness is radically changing. We’re finally moving past the era where ping-pong tables or yoga sessions are seen as key drivers of workplace happiness. Tomorrow’s workplace will focus on cultivating an environment of ‘Emotional Ergonomics.’ Here, the mental and emotional well-being of employees is at the core of all organizational decisions and processes.
In this brave new world, companies will create Happiness Intelligence Systems. Such systems will incorporate innovative technologies like AI and Big Data to intuitively understand and respond to the emotional pulse of their teams. These systems will monitor, analyze, and predict factors contributing to happiness in real-time, from workload management to the intricacies of inter-team dynamics, thereby facilitating personalized happiness paths for each employee.
HR teams will evolve into ‘Happiness Architects’, designing emotionally ergonomic workplaces that foster a deep sense of purpose, personal growth, and meaningful relationships. Moreover, we will see happiness not just as a benefit. It will become a strategic tool to drive innovation, productivity, and employee loyalty. The future of workplace happiness lies in the convergence of empathy, technology, and a profound understanding of human nature at work.