What makes employees happy at work?

The average person spends more than 90,000 hours in total at work in their lifetime. Pretty daunting! Especially if you’re unhappy at work.

So, what’s the key to a happy career? There’s wants and needs that our job must fulfil that we might never even consider.

For example, we all need a safe and secure working environment where we feel comfortable working. But when you’re sat at home or at work thinking about your next career move, you’ll probably never take this into consideration and there’ll be a million and one other factors that will take priority, such as salary or career progression opportunities.

So, what actually makes employees happy at work?

Job design and the employee experience

When it comes to job design and employee experience there’s a few things to consider.

A well-designed job considers all the psychological needs that need to be met in order for someone to perform their role well.

These include a person’s physiological needs, their need for security, affiliation, self-esteem and need for self-actualisation.

Employees’ physiological needs can be met through offering food and drink options in the workplace.

A person’s need for security can involve their need for financial security that include wages and their pension, or their physical security that includes their working conditions.

An individual’s need for affiliation can be met through encouraging social interaction and creating an inclusive, positive team spirit.

Self-esteem can be achieved with the right praise and reward, while self-actualisation involves the need for a more challenging role.

These might sound simple, for example we’d all expect safe working conditions and even a fruit bowl in the office. However, creating a role that is the right level of challenge for employees or creating a positive team spirit require a bit more attention and can be difficult to manage. These, however, can be what separates the good employers with the best and most popular employers.

Even if you feel like you’re meeting all these needs for all your staff, there’s still a few more things to consider.

Give employees a sense of meaning

Knowing that your work is genuinely making a difference goes a long way. People want to know that their hard work is making a real difference and that what they’re doing matters and has real meaning behind it.

Research by Professor Adam Grant at Wharton University found that employees at a call centre were 171% more productive after having learned of the real impact their work was having on the end customer.

Think about the roles within your company and what effect your business has on the wider community and the end customer. Is your company making a genuinely positive difference? What is your CSR focus?

For some companies and some job roles this is easier to figure out than others. Identify just how much your business helps not only the end customer but the wider community and communicate this effectively and consistently to your staff.

The better you communicate this to employees; productivity will increase, and that positive effect will amplify.

Rather than focus on communicating business results to employees, like revenue and growth figures, focus on the good that the company has done for its stakeholders. The more personal the story the better.

Regular reminders to employees of how their work has had a positive effect can be simple yet powerful.

And not to mention, a good employee benefits package

Not just having employee benefits in place but offering the right package to suit your staff is also an essential part to becoming an employer of choice and cultivating a happy workforce.

The employee benefits you can offer can range from employee discounts to financial wellbeing and there’s benefits and perks to suit everyone.

They’re also key in helping meet the needs of employees.

For example, an employee may be happy with their remuneration for their hard work, but they could still have financial troubles away from the workplace which can affect their mental wellbeing in general.

Financial wellbeing employee benefits can give employees an alternative way to solve those financial problems.

While job design and the employee experience can go a long way in making someone happy in their job, employee benefits can extend beyond the workplace not only helping employees away from work but their families too.

Focus on the human elements

Many employers fall into the trap of implementing programs to improve employee happiness at work that fail to consider the individual and their needs. We’re all human, and we all want to know that we’re making a difference. We all have other needs that need to be met too and effective job design should take care of those. But it goes further than that too and creating a sense of meaning can be incredibly powerful.

If we really are to spend 90,000 hours at work in our lifetime, spending that time doing something that will make a real difference could also make a huge difference to us as individuals!