Six proven ways to increase employee happiness

employee happiness

It’s a sad fact, but over half of the UK population are desperately unhappy at work and 36% of people are seriously considering leaving their jobs.

And it’s apparently getting worse, with job satisfaction reaching a two year low according to a 2016 survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Another study released this year came to a similarly grim conclusion: the UK has one of the lowest levels of job satisfaction in the world.

Perhaps it’s all the stress? Last year a government report revealed that stress accounted for 37% of all work related ill health cases and 45% of all lost working days due to ill health. To top matters off, earlier this year it was reported that one in three UK employees are considering leaving their jobs.

But what is the root cause of low employee morale and how can it be fixed? The answer isn’t necessarily to throw money at the problem. While a salary bump might temporarily boost moods, it is long-term cultural shifts and making your employees feel valued that will bring about significant change. With that in mind, here are some actionable steps you can take towards creating a happier workforce today.

Be prepared to listen and change
The government report mentioned above cites workload pressure – including tight deadlines, too much responsibility and lack of managerial support – as the main cause of workplace stress. The top reason one-in-three employees are considering quitting is because of ‘bad bosses’. It’s quite possible that the bosses of these disgruntled employees aren’t even aware of the issues, particularly if there is a culture of silence surrounding the topic.

So how about actively encouraging employee feedback and, where appropriate, implementing meaningful change? If employees don’t currently have the confidence to speak up, you could start with an anonymous suggestion box. Once the employees recognise their opinion matters – and start to see relevant change – they will feel more valued.

Prioritise work-life balance
In the current economic climate there is more pressure to work harder than ever before. But to prioritise work at the expense of living is very harmful for both employees and business. Overworked employees may become withdrawn, tired and are at a greater risk of experiencing burn out. Contrast that with employees who feel they have a good work-life balance; they work 21% harder according to one survey.

So if the nature of the business requires staff be present for certain hours, make sure they are encouraged to leave on time. This should be led from above, with managers making sure they finish promptly. Alternatively, if there is scope to, consider introducing a flexible work schedule which could include flexible start and finish times or the option to work from home a set number of days per week.

Create a career pathway
After bad bosses, the main reason one-in-three UK employees is considering leaving their workplace is a lack of career progression. Another recent study found that for every additional 10 months an employee stagnates in a role, they are 1 percent more likely to leave the company. It makes sense – nobody likes to feel stuck, under-stimulated and bored. Establishing a clear career pathway for each employee is one way to solve this problem. The employee is no longer disenfranchised and the company gets a more skilled workforce. Win-win.

So why not encourage all management to discuss with their team the options for growth and development within the business. Determine which avenues they are interested in and devise a plan together. Traditional training can be expensive, but it’s not the only valuable form of upskilling. You could also discuss job shadowing, getting a mentor or perhaps moving laterally within the company to broaden their experience.

Encourage positivity
In his Ted Talk, Psychologist Shawn Achor argues that happiness inspires productivity; not the other way around. During his research he found that positive people have a ‘happiness advantage’; they are more productive and resilient, less likely to burn out or leave and are better at selling. He suggests implementing the following changes for 21 days; enough time to rewire your brain to a more optimistic setting:

  • List 3 things you’re grateful for every day
  • Write about 1 positive experience you’ve had in the last 24 hours
  • Daily bursts of exercise
  • Meditate on daily basis to focus your mind
  • Undertake random acts of kindness praising or thanking someone in your social network

Why not share this Ted Talk with employees – it could be a real life changer. You could even encourage engagement by playing it at lunchtime and offering viewers a free lunch! Alternatively, you could hire a speaker to visit and give a seminar on this topic.

Saying ‘thank you’
In the majority of cases, employees rarely become unhappy or leave solely over money. When they do become disenchanted it is usually because they don’t feel appreciated. It’s so simple but giving recognition for good work and encouraging line managers to appreciate hard work goes a long way for people personally.

Offer benefits beyond the basics
There are a number of ways you can financially support your employees that’ll make them feel valued and cared for without a salary increase. Offering things like gym memberships or health & wellbeing benefits make employees feel like you are going that extra mile to take care of them and their families.

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People who are happy at work tend to enjoy life more and have better health, stronger relationships and a greater sense of purpose. They also have a huge positive impact on the organisations they work for. Economists carried out a number of experiments to test the idea that happy employees work harder and they found happiness made people around 12% more productive. While unhappy workers proved 10% less productive.

This content originally appeared on Benenden’s workplace hub where employers can find a range of related articles to help with their health and wellbeing strategy.