For a long time, work and happiness weren’t strongly associated  with each other. Work was a place where you were meant to come in, get the job done and clock out. Happiness was for your free time.

However, we now know just how important it is for employees to be happy in the workplace. Consider these statistics from the iOpener Institute:

  • Happy employees stay with their companies four times longer than their unhappy counterparts.
  • Employees that are happy in their organisation commit twice as much time to their tasks than those that aren’t happy.
  • Happy team members have 65 per cent more energy than unhappy employees.

Work output also improves when happiness is the norm. According to a study by the University of Warwick, when leaders invest in promoting happiness in the office, productivity levels can rise up to 12 per cent.


Why does happiness amongst employees matter?

Clearly, happiness isn’t just a bonus, it’s a necessity for any high-functioning workplace. According to International leadership advisor and author Annie Mckee, this can be attributed to the fact that when we are unhappy our brains tend to disengage, effectively decreasing our capacity for creativity, critical thinking and a wide range of other core functions. In an article for the Harvard Business Review she explains:

When we are unhappy our brains tend to disengage, effectively decreasing our capacity for creativity and critical thinking.

“There are clear neurological links between feelings, thoughts, and actions. When we are in the grip of strong negative emotions, it’s like having blinders on. We focus mostly – sometimes only – on the source of the pain,” she says.

“We don’t process information as well, think creatively, or make good decisions. Frustration, anger, and stress cause an important part of us to shut down – the thinking, engaged part. Disengagement is a natural neurological and psychological response to pervasive negative emotions.”

When our team is unhappy, the capacity of the entire business suffers. As leaders, we need to invest in a happiness agenda, but what does this look like?

How can you make your employees genuinely happier?

It’s more than just gimmicks – free coffee in the kitchen is nice but it’s not enough to sustain an empowered and motivated workforce. In fact, work perks have been shown to have a weak correlation with retention and engagement. A report by TINYpulse found that employees are happier when they feel valued and engaged in their work.

The driving factor in this kind of employee happiness comes down to good relationships. Your team members want to work in an environment where they are connected to their colleagues and their leadership in meaningful ways. These kinds of relationships create higher levels of engagement and collaboration, allowing a more nimble and resilient organisation to emerge.

Building these relationships all starts with having genuine conversations about what happiness means for your employees on a professional level. What do they need to be content in the workplace? Where are you hitting the mark? Where could you use some work?

Happiness begins and ends with strong internal relationships and genuine communication.

According to McKee, a big part of happiness stems from having an aligned vision between the company and individual employees. Team members want to know where they stand in the company’s big picture, giving them a pathway and goals helps create a business that is made up of empowered people working towards the same vision in their own individual ways.

Investing in happiness begins and ends with strong internal relationships built on a foundation of genuine communication. Leading Teams specialises in helping your team strengthen these core areas – resulting in a happier team and a more successful business.


Kelly Vennus

Kelly Vennus