Employee attitudes typically reflect the moral of the company. In areas of customer service and sales, happy employees are extremely important because they represent the company to the public. Satisfaction, however, is not linked solely to compensation. Sure, a raise or benefits will probably improve employee contentment, at least temporarily, but small, inexpensive changes can have a long-term impact.
Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh‘s book Delivering Happiness suggests that employers should follow the science of happiness. The book stresses the importance of happy employees. Since the publication of this New York Times Best Seller, Hsieh has expanded his message from to a bus tour to an entire movement.
On her happiness project blog, Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, identifies seven areas to improve happiness in the workplace. While employees can tweak their habits to improve happiness, employers can also make small changes to the seven categories. A little bit of effort can lead to happy, efficient, and loyal employees.
Give Employees More Control
“Happiness is affected by [employee’s] sense of control over their lives,” says Rubin.
Employers should look for ways to give employees more control over their schedules, environment, and/or work habits. For instance, employers could offer alternative work schedules such as flextime or telecommuting. Today’s employees have demanding schedules outside of work, and many workers appreciate a boss who considers work-life balance. Because every person’s obligations outside of work are different, customised schedules are a great way to improve employee satisfaction.
Employers should also encourage employees to customise their workstations. This could include décor and/or equipment. This not only gives employees control over their work environments, but it can ease personal barriers such as back pain or eyestrain. In addition, studies show that certain colours or décor can improve happiness. Employees will be able to create a place they enjoy working in rather than being stuck in a bland office cubicle.
Another way to give employees a sense of control is to create employee-driven competitions such as sales competitions. These activities put employees in control of their success. Each employee can set personal goals, and they will feel a sense of accomplishment rather than obligation.
Ease Commuting Stress
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 86.5% of workers over the age of 16 drive to work, whether carpooling or driving alone.
“Bad commutes are a major source of unhappiness. People feel frustrated, powerless, and stressed,” states Rubin.
Employers should consider ways to decrease commuting stress. For instance, employers could stagger work times to avoid heavy traffic. Review beginning and ending times and determine if the specific times or the amount of people arriving at each time can be adjusted. In addition, review late arrival policies. If employees are severely reprimanded for arriving late, they will be much more stressed during a bad commute and will arrive at the office miserable.
Another possibility is to offer telecommuting options. This eliminates the necessity of commuting and allows employees to work where they are most comfortable. Telecommuting also has a variety of benefits for the employer such as reduced costs.
Stop Wasting Time
Tight deadlines are another major sources of stress for many employees. Employers can ease this stress by freeing up more time. For instance, employers can make meetings shorter and more efficient. Consider tricks that sound silly but are actually effective such as having a meeting with no chairs. People will be more likely to stick to the necessary agenda when they have to stand the entire meeting.
Whenever possible, substitute conference calls for meetings. To reduce unnecessary chitchat, make calls before lunchtime or at the end of the day. People will want to cut to the chase, so they can go to lunch or get home.
Another idea is to create organizational systems that improve efficiency. Clutter and confusion are major time zappers. organised offices and systems ease stress, save time, and increase productivity.
Encourage Social Connections
socialisation is a key component of happiness. “Interacting with others gives people a boost in mood – surprisingly, this is true even for introverts,” writes Rubin.
Employers should find ways to encourage social relations. Consider an office arrangement that fosters communication. Arrange workstations so employees can see each other and talk.
Employers can also encourage office celebrations for holidays and birthdays. These celebrations do not need to be expensive. It can be as simple as asking everyone to bring in a covered dish. Even when there is no reason to celebrate, encourage employees to eat lunch together. Provide a comfortable eating area.
socialisation is not limited to office hours. Encourage out of office socialisation such as volunteer programs. This gives employees a change to develop relationships outside of the office while promoting the company in a positive way. Community service is a great way to build a positive reputation, and it is a happiness booster for employees.
“Those who work to further causes they value tend to be happier and healthier, experience fewer aches and pains, and even live longer,” says Rubin.
Promote Good Health
Poor health is not only damaging to employees, it is detrimental to businesses. “Corporations pay a heavy cost for stress-related illnesses, such as hypertension, gastrointestinal problems, and substance abuse,” says Rubin.
Chronic stress has a variety of negative side effects such as weight gain, lower immune system, increased risk of disease, and fatigue. Employers should encourage employees to reduce stress levels and improve their overall health.
The first step is to educate employees on health topics. Provide reading materials or offer seminars. People can’t make positive changes if they don’t know what to change.
Once employees know about health topics such as stress, exercising, and healthy eating, start a health related competition such as the Biggest Loser. This offers employees motivation and a support system. If the entire office is involved, employees will be more likely to accomplish their goals.
To help employees make positive lifestyle changes, have a kitchen equipped with a refrigerator and microwave to prepare healthy meals. Research shows that preparing food is healthier than eating out. Also, encourage breaks throughout the day. Even small amounts of exercise throughout the day are beneficial.
According to Dr. Oz, “Exercise releases serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good hormones that become blocked during stress. Walking stairs is a great workout. One study showed that walking stairs 7 minutes a day reduces the risk of heart disease by two-thirds.”
If possible, offer a company discount on gym memberships. This will encourage employees to make positive choices outside of the office and to exercise regularly.
Create an Atmosphere of Growth
Jobs are more than a source of income. Jobs are a venue for employees to grow and learn. In a survey about employee motivation, employees ranked job characteristics that motivated them. Surprisingly, high wages and promotion were not in the top three. Instead, the number one desire was “Full Appreciation of Work Being Done.”
Employers can create an atmosphere of growth by providing training, acknowledging benchmarks, and celebrating accomplishments. Employers should also encourage employees to take risks and learn new skills. Employees will become bored and lose motivation if they are never given an opportunity to expand their skills and responsibilities.
Break Up Routines
Surprises add spark to all areas of life, including the workplace. “Even a small treat can boost people’s happiness – and people get a bigger kick from an unexpected pleasure,” says Rubin.
Employers should look for small ways to surprise employees. For instance, you can occasionally bring in a special treat such as coffee or baked goods. Small gestures show employees that you appreciate their time.
Another idea is to host an office party for a quirky holiday. Employers could even allow employees to create a holiday. Again, this does not need to be expensive. The keys are breaking up the routine of the workweek, promoting socialisation, and demonstrating your appreciation.
Also consider an office give-away. You can hold a raffle or competition to motivate employees. The prize can be as simple as a gift card or as extravagant as a vacation.
If you don’t think you need to improve employee satisfaction, read all the comments from dissatisfied employees on message boards such as Yahoo.
One user states, “I believe companies want good employees that work hard and are loyal but they will never get this because of the way they treat their employees.”
Prove these disgruntled employees wrong. Be the best boss you can be and strive to improve happiness in the workplace. Your extra effort may just lead to a better a business.
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