Happiness and company productivity
We all want to be happy, don’t we? Does it improve company productivity?
If you ask most people what they want, some may talk about things they want to do, others will talk about where they want to be and some of us will talk about owning things. The list is enormous and varied – achievements, reputation, fulfilment. What is all boils down to is what makes you happy. No employer wants their employees to be unhappy but how far should they go to make their people happy? More to the point, how would a focus on happiness affect company productivity? Well, if anybody reading this has any doubts, the evidence is overwhelming in supporting the view that happiness in the workplace significantly improves company productivity.
What do the stats say?
There has been loads of research into happiness and company productivity and all the findings are consistent. A recent study headed by Professor Andrew Oswald at the University of Warwick suggests that happiness led to a 12% increase in productivity while unhappiness had the opposite effect. Unhappy workers proved 10% less productive. For the seriously academic readers, you can see the full scientific paper here. That’s only the start.
Not only does the evidence show that happiness leads to an increase in company productivity but employees are screaming out for more happiness based initiatives in work. In fact, activities and incentives that promote happiness appear to be more appealing than throwing pounds at people. Three important elements that contribute to the sense of well being for the typical employee, for example, are job security, opportunities to use skills and abilities, and the financial stability of the company they work for. These facts and others are included in the informative infographic below.
What shines through here is the appreciation that working people have for some of the things money can’t buy. For example, Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” enjoyed a raise in stock prices of 14% per year from 1998 compared to just 6% for the overall market!! And yet, only 42% of employees are happy with the rewards and recognition their companies offer. Businesses are missing a trick. In the Warwick study, Professor Oswald points out that companies that invest in employee support and satisfaction tend to succeed in creating happier workplaces. When Google put initiatives in place at their offices, employee satisfaction rose by 37% as a result. What screams out clearly here is we need more than just financial incentives to make for highly productive employees.
Improve your company’s productivity. How to improve the happiness of your employees.
One of the first things that you should be looking at is your overall company culture. What are the values of the company and how do these values translate into a mission statement?
In the most productive relationships everybody wins. It stands to reason that if people feel that they are being short changed in a relationship or it is all about the others, frustrations will arise. The resentment that can follow can lead to an unhealthy relationship where each party does the bare minimum to satisfy obligations to the other. A culture built on the principle of “us”, “we”, “ours” involves a shared vision, shared goals, shared rewards and shared benefits. We can’t all be the sort of people who dive out of bed before the alarm, raring to go, full of energy and with a passion for every single situation we encounter. However, being agreed on one way forward and seeing how that can benefit everyone should lead to an increase in happiness…and company productivity.
The right company culture will show through across a range of different aspects of the business from how staff are rewarded to how they collaborate and interact.
Many very successful and modern companies have moved away from job titles and status choosing to place everyone on an equal footing as “associates” or “colleagues”. Of course, this is no good in itself if people are still being squeezed dry for minimum wage but it is another string to the bow of a forward thinking company that puts its customers AND its employees first.
When people are given equal value but also recognised for their specific skills, they can easily be encouraged to collaborate and create an output that is greater than the sum of the parts. Company productivity increases when happy, confident and competent people come together to work towards a common purpose than when people are more interested in self-preservation within an atmosphere of mistrust, resentment or frustration.
Healthy working relationships between peers and between employees and employers lead to improved happiness and improved company productivity.
Training and development
Most people don’t want to stand still even if they have their own doubts or fears holding them back. That is where effective coaching comes into play. Happiness is to be found in learning new skills, and finding the increased feeling of freedom that comes from learning how to step out of one’s comfort zone.
Cross training within organisations will not only give employees a greater feeling of empowerment. It can also act as a tool for bringing people together as they share knowledge, laying the foundations for effective collaboration further down the line. Richard Branson is reported to have said that we should train employees well enough that it is easy for them to leave but treat them well enough that they don’t want to.
Within the world of digital marketing for example, forward thinking organisations will strive for a team of multi-skilled digital marketers who have the benefit of specialised skill but are able to cross over to other disciplines when required. It is said that small SAS units work in this work with four man cells, each with a primary responsibility but able to switch roles at the drop of a hat. It leads to high levels of agility and adaptability. If it works for them and the challenges they take on, it can work well for business. Training and development improves happiness in any organisation and leads to greater company productivity.
Mindfulness and emotional intelligence
A little bit of stress is mentally healthy and, believe it or not, adds to our well being and happiness. When stress is not managed or is greater than a certain level creates unhappiness and has other repercussions that will make matters worse.
Mindfulness or meditation techniques are very easy to learn and are effective in bringing stress levels down. On a physical level, meditation is successful at lowering heart rate, encouraging more healthy abdominal breathing (rather than shallow chest breathing), promoting thought patterns that increase the likelihood of creative thinking and calmness rather than tunnel visioned panic.
More importantly, just a small amount of mindfulness practice every day (even as little as two minutes) can have a significant impact on team harmony. Practitioners learn how to put negative thoughts and feelings into perspective as well as their own egos. Meditation practice brings people together by bringing about a stronger feeling of connectedness with others.
Anything that reduces stress, shows people how to deal with their emotions and increases empathy – all proven benefits from meditation – will increase the overall level of emotional intelligence. A team of emotionally intelligent people will perform better under stress, work better as a team, understand and deal more effectively with customers and handle challenges and threats in a calmer more productive manner. Emotional intelligence improves happiness and company productivity.
Put people first
Much as you want your business to succeed, the evidence strongly suggests that success does not come by chasing money or putting profit first. It comes from putting people first. From the culture that define and implement in your mission statement, your internal processes, your staff inductions and the atmosphere you create in your office to the methods you use to incentivise your teams and your attitudes to training and development, and the emotional well being of your employees, if you want to improve company productivity you need to put people first. Happiness and company productivity go hand in hand.
Make your team happy.