No raise? No worries.

27.03.19

It stands to reason that healthier, happier employees make for a healthier workforce. Research suggests that when your staff have high levels of both life and job satisfaction, they are more productive, more motivated and, crucially, less likely to be absent or to leave the organisation.

For that reason, playing an active role in helping your employees enjoy what they do – in work hours and beyond – can pay dividends.

So how do you go about that? An obvious solution is to pay staff more money, but for plenty of employers, that’s not viable – and it wouldn’t make a significant difference, anyway. There’s evidence that pay is not the main driver of workplace satisfaction.

Beyond salary, there are some ways to promote happiness and enjoyment levels among your staff. Happiness at work doesn’t involve a permanent state of enthusiasm, which is lucky given the inevitable peaks and troughs of business operations. Rather, it’s usually about helping employees feel good about managing adversity, enjoying supportive social connections and feeling like what they do matters.

Here are four important avenues to boosting happiness levels.

Purpose

Having a sense of meaning or purpose impacts your overall wellbeing. A long-range US study found that having a purpose in life reduced the risk of premature death among study participants by 15 percent.

In the workplace, hallmarks of a sense of purpose can include feeling passionate, innovative and committed, as well as having a focus on serving the organisation or external stakeholders. Purpose is often demonstrated in everyday behaviours and decisions that reflect core values.

So at an organisational level, display the company’s core values clearly around the workplace and review whether the company has policies and provides experiences that align with them. For example, if one of the core values is to serve the community, you could organise community events or incentivise staff to participate in community programs.

On a more individual level, encouraging staff to create a personal statement of purpose – a simple statement integrating their strengths and core purpose – can be a useful exercise.

 

Engagement

If you feel like your employees aren’t very engaged at work, you’re probably right.  An extensive Gallop report from 155 countries found that just 15 percent of employees reported feeling engaged in their jobs.

An employee is defined as engaged when their thoughts and actions are aligned with the organisation’s goals, they feel a sense of value in their work and they know their talents are accepted and recognised. That’s why it’s important to educate direct managers on the importance of listening to staff and regularly acknowledging their team members’ hard work.

Other facets of employee engagement include providing opportunities for professional development, such as mentoring and education, and allowing plenty of scope for creativity and autonomy.

 

Resilience

Employees with greater resilience – those with the ability to cope with ups and downs and bounce back from challenges, such as a big workload or frustrating colleagues – are better able to manage stress. Resilient employees have the resources to move forward so they don’t become stuck and let difficult situations get on top of them.

Implementing mindfulness training and exercises can help build resilience in the workplace. Initiatives that promote good health are also beneficial, since good nutrition and exercise are helpful in building resilience on a personal level. And because a strong support network is also positively correlated with resilience, mentoring and team-building initiatives can help employees feel better connected.

 

Kindness

Your grandmother probably told you it was important to be kind, and science backs that up. A major review of 400 studies on the relationship between being kind and happiness levels found that acts of kindness did lead to an (admittedly small) improvement in happiness levels. The authors noted that performing random acts of kindness was a good way of making new friends and kick-starting social connections – something which is shown to support good mental health and is linked to happiness.

The absence of kindness can be costly for businesses, too. One poll of employees and managers in the US found being treated rudely at work was linked with poor performance. Nearly half those (47 percent) who’d been subject to impolite behaviour admitted they deliberately reduced time spent at work and 38 percent had reduced the quality of their work.

Managers set the tone, so encourage them to promote kindness through gestures such as rewarding good work and celebrating success within the team, organising a team trip and spending time listening to staff.

 

Australian Government. Australian Public Service Commission. 15 Building Resilience [Online; accessed Mar 2019] Available from: https://www.apsc.gov.au/15-building-resilience

Commonwealth of Australia. Fair Work Commission. Key drivers of job satisfaction [Online; last updated Feb 2016, accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.fwc.gov.au

Diener E Seligman M. Beyond money: toward an economy of well-being. Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 2004; 5(1): 1-31.

Diener E Seligman M. Very happy people. Psychological Science; 2002; 13(1): 81-84.

Greater Good Science Centre UC Berkeley. Greater Good magazine. The four keys to happiness at work [Online] 2017 [Accessed Mar 2019] Available from: greatergood.berkeley.edu

Hanna A Pidgeon A. Leveraging mindfulness to build resilience and professional quality of life in human service professionals. OBM Integrative and Complementary Medicine. 2018; 3(2).007.

Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Business Review. Make civility the norm on your team [Online] 2018 [Accessed Mar 2019] Available from: hbr.org

Harvard Business Publishing. Harvard Business Review. What matters more to your workforce than money [Online] 2017 [Accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.hbr.org

Harvard Business Publishing. Harvard Business Review. You’re never done finding purpose at work [Online] 2016 [Accessed Mar 2019] Available from: hbr.org

Heads Up (Beyond Blue). Social relationships [Online; accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.headsup.org.au

Heads Up (Beyond Blue). The role of resilience in the workplace [Online] 2018 [Accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.headsup.org.au

Hill PL Turiano NA. Purpose in life as a predictor of mortality across adulthood. Psychological Science. 2014; 25(7): 1482-1486.

Northeastern University. How to improve employee engagement [Online] 2018 [Accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.northeastern.edu

Porath C Pearson C. The cost of bad behaviour. Organizational Dynamics. 2010; 39(1):64-71.

UK Government. Fit for Work. Random acts of kindness – positive impact at work [Online] 2017 [Accessed Mar 2019] Available from: fitforwork.org

University of Oxford. Being kind to others does make you ‘slightly happier’ [Online] 2016 [Accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.ox.ac.uk