The happiness factor and how it impacts employee engagement

By Talya Zwiers

What makes people happy? How does happiness impact on the working environment, employee engagement and overall productivity? Do employees have any control over their happiness at work and how can they thrive?

There’s been abundance of research done on happiness: is it all about being happy clappy all the time, or how can one foster genuine happiness during the ebbs and flow of life, be it in one’s personal to professional lives? The answer lies relationships!

So many employees feel fed up, burned out and unhappy at work? Have they just missed a trick and can they attain happiness at work under the everyday pressures? Annie McKee, co-author of the bestselling Primal Leadership, makes a compelling case that “happiness―and the full engagement that comes with it―is more important than ever in today’s workplace” – where she sheds light on the powerful relationship of happiness to the individual, the team and organisational success.

Mutual relationships, where both parties feel at ease and comfortable are the basis for happiness. When an employee feels that they can be open, honest and there is transparency, they will have the confidence to be happy in a nonjudgmental way. Thus, there seems to be a direct correlation between a thriving workforce and better performance when employees are happy.

So how does this impact on employee engagement?

In time gone by, people used to go to work to earn a living and go home. In today’s age, especially with millennials and the coming of Generation-Z, employees are looking for more – to be engaged and happy, and to feel a sense of fulfillment and that they are part of the greater whole. More so than ever, companies need to recognise just how important the happiness of their employees are, and how it will positively affect the bottom line. Listening carefully and responding in encouraging ways is an effective way to cultivate and deepen relationships in the workplace, which will, in turn, engage employees positively.

Relationships in the workplace need to be cross departmental as well as across all levels, be it between a manager and an intern, the Finance team with the marketing team, the call centre with product team. These connections create a holistic way of working, where people can learn more in depth about what other teams do, to bolster their functions and be more productive, but also creates an engaged team, that are approachable and comfortable when at work. This way employees will feel a part of the greater whole which leads to a greater sense of engagement.

Companies can no longer take a one-size fits all approach to making employees happy. One effective way is to adopt a champion approach, where companies have different happy champions in all teams, as it is they who have their ears to the ground, and can be the relationship builders. They will know what makes employees tick, and how best to boost the engagement levels within.

According to the Social Market Foundation’s Happiness and Productivity report, happy employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees. Happy employees are also good news for a company, as it is this way that companies become more desirable places to work, and happiness amongst teams are a great retention tool, which yields greater results than constantly hiring and training new staff members.

Being in a supportive and encouraging relationship can also motivate teams to be more industrious. Healthier relationships can be harnessed through regular feedback sessions, one-to-one meetings and reviews, team events and social outings. Satisfying relationships not only make people happy, but they have a long term influence on one’s health and general wellbeing. Whereas, toxic relationships have the opposite effect which can be damaging and can alienate team members.

In the Harvard Business Review, Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School comments that “our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.” Close relationships at work, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Employee happiness is therefore an imperative in business!

Xexec offers employee engagement solutions, through it’s employee discount and recognition platforms. Speak to one of our engagement consultants to see how Xexec can help engage your teams.