International Week of Happiness at Work: The Case for a Happy Workforce
As some of our readers may be aware, this week (21-27 September) is International Week of Happiness at Work; a whole week dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of employee happiness and wellbeing.
And as Boris Johnson announces the return of a number of coronavirus restrictions, such as working from home, set to last another six months; highlighting the issue of employee happiness and ways of achieving it becomes an ever more important question for employers, employees and HR departments to tackle.
Keep reading to learn about the benefits of happy teams and ways to inject more happiness into your own workplace!
What is the International Week of Happiness at Work?
Started by the founders of Happy Office, Maartje Wolff and Fennande van der Meulen in 2015, International Week of Happiness at Work is a week-long initiative designed to bring together people from all over the world to celebrate the key role happiness plays in healthy and productive workplaces.
Discussing the reasoning behind the initiative, Maartje Wolff states:
Happiness at work might sound fluffy, but there is overwhelming evidence that it is good for both individuals and the bottom line. Science shows that happy coworkers have a huge advantage over unhappy ones. They are more productive, flexible and creative; they provide better services to your customers and work better with their colleagues.
The aim of the initiative, however, goes beyond merely appreciating the need for happiness in the workplace. What the week really represents is an opportunity for employers and their employees to take stock of the company’s existing happiness-promoting practices and look for ways to ensure that employee wellbeing is at the root of its company culture.
The Case for Employee Happiness
While you’d be hard pressed to find an employer that doesn’t want their employees to be happy, fewer really understand the benefits of employee happiness; and even fewer take active steps to ensure promotion of happiness is the bedrock of their company culture. Unsurprisingly, reams of research suggest that happiness in the workplace is essential to not only employee satisfaction but also the company bottom line. As a result, complacency around workplace happiness is not likely to come cheap.
A study conducted by Robert Holden, a happiness researcher, found that happiness and health are mutually inclusive, meaning that you’re unlikely to find one without the other. Consequently, being unhappy leads to a plethora of health issues, ranging from weakened immunity and higher rates of illness to poor mental health.
And although an unscrupulous employer could dismiss the above as being the employee’s personal problems unrelated to their employment, that is, of course, not the case. On the contrary, a 2020 study by Deloitte found that poor mental health, a symptom of which is unhappiness, costs UK employers up to £45 billion a year; a 16% increase since Deloitte’s similar 2016 study.
The study also found that for every £1 spent by employers on mental health interventions, they get £5 back in reduced absence, presenteeism, and staff turnover – a pretty significant return on investment!
What’s needed, therefore, is greater openness in discussing mental health issues at work and greater provisions of employee support, both of which cost a lot less than presenteeism, and make way for increased workplace happiness and wellbeing.
How to Achieve Employee Happiness
Now that we’ve covered the why of investing in the happiness of your employees, it’s time to explore how this happiness can be achieved and consolidated within your own business.
A great place to start is by taking a closer look at SAS, one of Germany’s most successful companies, and the winner of Glassdoor’s 2019 Best Places to Work Award … and 175 other awards in 2018 alone. Since its inception in 1972, SAS has expanded at an astonishing pace, leading it to become a major global enterprise with offices in 180 countries.
SAS credits its success to its commitment to employee wellbeing and sees championing its workforce’s health and quality of life as a core business enabler. However, they make no secret of the fact that employee wellbeing isn’t merely about making employees happy but also delivering bottom-line returns, of which employee happiness is a key ingredient.
Among some of the features of SAS’s wellbeing programmes are:
As a result, SAP has seen innumerable benefits as a result of investing in the above programmes; from higher employee engagement and leadership trust to decreased absenteeism and, very importantly, booming profits. While not every business can afford to go to the same lengths as SAS and deliver such a wide scope of employee wellbeing programmes, incorporating just one or two can make your workplace a lot happier, healthier and more productive.
What Are We Doing?
At Candlefox, we have always believed in taking a whole-person approach to employee management, taking note of not just the work our employees do but also their physical and psychological wellbeing, their environment and even things such as their nutrition.
For that reason, our managers regularly check in with people and spend 1-2-1 sessions discussing things that often go beyond work and performance; we have weekly company-wide meditation sessions with Happy Melon Studios; we have a gender-neutral leave policy, while flexible working, even pre-pandemic, has also always been an option for our employees.
Our approach to business and people management is also immortalised in our company values – decided on by all Candlefox employees – such as:
And we’re happy to say that our approach is really working. The successes and, most importantly, fun we’ve had along the way truly speak to the effectiveness of investing in workplace happiness and wellbeing.
As attested to by the research we cite in this article and the immense success of companies such as SAP as well as our very own Candlefox, committing to employee happiness pays dividends. From increased engagement and productivity to decreased absenteeism and staff turnover, keeping employees happy is likely to bring about a return on investment often unmatched by a business’s many other offerings.
And with the pandemic raging on and confining people to their homes, there truly hasn’t been a better time to invest in the happiness of your employees.