Why Employee Happiness Matters More Than You Think

If God wanted us to be happy at work he’d have made us all clowns. Or comedians. Or adult movie stars. Whatever floats your boat.

Being happy is important but it’s sometimes just not compatible with the day job. I mean, how much pleasure can you really derive from sitting behind a desk all day? Work is a serious business. And being a grown up in gainful employment is no laughing matter.

See Also: 5 Ideas to Boost Employee Morale And Performance 

Of course we all want to be happy at work. Making life miserable is a sure fire way to lose your best employees, after all. But it’s not just about finding a more pleasant way to while away our daylight hours. Being happy at work matters for business performance too.

You want your team to be productive, creative, perform as a coherent unit and deliver for your customers? Then you need them to be smiling. Here’s why employee happiness matters more than you think.

Happy Workers are More Productive

Happiness makes employees 12 percent more productive according to research carried out by the University of Warwick. In this fairly broad experiment, subjects were either offered free drinks and snacks, shown comedy clips or quizzed on recent family bereavements to measure whether they would complete more work when in a happy frame of mind or not.

While it’s interesting to put a number on the difference feeling good in work can make, it’s hardly surprising that your employees’ minds might be more on the job if they’re given bagfuls of freebies, compared to an office full of depressed workers sobbing quietly about their dog getting run over. It is pretty intuitive for any boss to want to avoid upsetting their team - but it is less usual for a manager to actively want to make the workforce happy. But if you want your business to be more productive, then it is certainly worth doing. Roll out some free snacks and lay on a buffet for some low rent productivity improvements! It will make all the difference in the world.

Morale Boosts Creativity and Innovation

It was reported that Google saw employees ratings of satisfaction and happiness rise by 37 percent when they turned their minds to making their people happy. And it seems like they know what they’re talking about.

Much has been made of the working conditions at Google, which are acknowledged to be world class. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that Google get to bag the cream of the crop for their team, and then manage to produce creative and innovative solutions with a happy and talented workforce. If I was getting free high quality meals daily, and a working environment I’d happily hang out in for free, I might work a smidgen harder, too.

This is especially important if you’re a creative business, because if you’re in a creative business having a happy workforce matters, and much of this does come from the working conditions which set the tone for the team. Google are not known for throwing their hard earned cash down the drain - they invest in employee happiness because it brings a return for the business.

Great Customer Service Comes From Happy Employees

One of the most important ways that employee happiness impacts business performance is when it comes to customer service. Whether you are working directly with customers, in a business to business environment, or even with internal customers, a happy team is going to make for a better level of customer service.

Great customer service is often about an employee going the extra mile to deliver. And happy employees are far more likely to do this for their customers without being asked.

In fact, even when the situation starts off badly - for example when a customer is making a complaint - a happy employee can be enough to turn around a negative situation. While any employee who has had their training should be able to follow a process to deal with a customer issue, really resolving a problem requires independent thought and a commitment to put things right. A happy employee is far more likely to really empathise and take some control, and leave the customer feeling listened to, appreciated, and valued.

Teams That Have Fun Together Function Better

Ok, so there’s a limit to this point. Some teams are like families - complete with fighting, grudges and weird Uncles. That’s not good. But great teams can have fun without too much danger of reaching the dysfunctional point. Just try to keep the weird Uncle character off the booze.

Teams who have stronger relationships are happier and work better together. If you know your colleagues well you are far more likely to follow through on agreements and help out your team mates if they need something. This makes the environment as a whole much more rewarding, and the team more ’self managing’. Not only is this easier for the boss, but it also makes the day to day operation run more smoothly for the benefit of the customers, too. Who knew a cheap and cheerful lunch out together, or an occasional after work drinkie could have so much of a business benefit?

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When it comes to business performance, employee happiness matters. And when it comes to employee happiness, the biggest factor that can make or break the environment is the relationships the team have with their boss. No pressure, then.

It is often said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses, and a recent report found that 70 percent of the difference in morale across different teams in the same business could be attributed to the specific manager of the team. Good bosses win the trust of their teams, which goes a long way to making the workplace a happy environment – 79 percent of the most highly engaged employees said that they had confidence in their direct manager.

So, the main variations in employee happiness and engagement come from the relationships that they have with their direct boss and supervisor. If you’re the boss then that can feel like a daunting prospect, but it is really just an indicator that you need to allow yourself to have some fun at work. Happiness is pretty infectious, and if you’re able to relax and be yourself, while still delivering the day job, then your team will be far more likely to be happy themselves.

Chilling out a little bit can be the start of a virtuous circle, as relationships grow and develop within the team, making people feel more comfortable and happy. Business results are likely to improve at the same time, giving more reasons to be cheerful. So if you’re stuck with a tricky situation at work or not quite sure what your next move should be to keep your team ahead of the competition, try having a little fun. Tell a silly joke. Arrange a spontaneous trip to the chippy for lunch. Move your meeting venue to the park, and let everyone get to know each other over a picnic or a kick about. Not only do you have permission to have fun at work, your business might very well depend on it.

Forbes' Article on Employee Happiness
Employee Engagement in Stats 2015