Are happy employees more productive?

employee wellbeing

Most of the world’s population spend a third of their adult lives in the workplace, making the employee’s environment and tasks within their role vital factors in their general physical and psychosocial wellbeing. Over the decades, national and international corporations such as The World Health Organisation have played an active role in reducing workplace hazards and prioritising the health of the worker in numerous ways, from introducing DSE (display screen equipment) assessments to bringing in entire occupational health departments to oversee employee absences. But only in recent years has the focus expanded from physical wellness to a broader view of what it means to be healthy as a whole – this of course includes mental, social and emotional wellbeing and, within that, the worker’s right to feel happy, included and well-cared-for at work.

What is happiness, anyway?

Happiness, like many concepts, is difficult to measure. Even if you were to create a ‘workplace happiness survey’ (as so many companies do), the subjective nature of happiness means that answers will mean different things to different people. What can be agreed upon, however, is that it is only natural for every employee at some point to feel unhappy at work, whether it be due to team dynamics, a failure to achieve a pay rise or a frustration with lagging technology. What should also be agreed upon is that, while dips in individual happiness can be expected, the overall mindset of the workforce should ideally remain positive and upbeat, and that it is this collective mindset that translates to measurable productivity and excellent business results year upon year.

Are happier employees more productive?

Whatever happiness means to an individual or group, studies have shown that happy employees are approximately 12 per cent more productive than unhappy ones. The same study found that ‘real world shocks’ like bereavement or relationship breakdown could negatively impact employee productivity for up to 2 years! The need for caution was also highlighted about generalising or stereotyping employees based on these findings. For example, certain life events perceived as negative to others (eg parental divorce) were not as impacting on the study group as expected – possibly due to the ambiguous nature of how some events are perceived by the person experiencing them. This, importantly, highlights the need for employees to be seen as individuals by their managers and treated accordingly.

What makes employees happier?

While we agree happiness is hard to define, some indicators have been consistent across the board. Money, for one, is considered a significant variable in measuring the happiness of an employee. In fact, one survey has shown an overwhelming preference of a monetary bonus over title promotion as a happiness-booster. But also vitally important in this same survey is the 94 per cent who cite ‘recognition’ as a drive for workplace happiness and engagement. An advantage (and downfall) of the term ‘recognition’ is that it too is relatively abstract and can be interpreted in many ways. However, possible examples could include a thoughtful congratulatory email, a title promotion or added responsibilities that bring value to the role of the worker.

Corporate away-days as a form of recognition

When focusing on happiness as a collective term, corporate away-days can permit managers the opportunity to boost overall morale and recognise teams as a whole. But if you choose the right style of away-day, such as one with fun teambuilding games and limit-pushing challenges, you’ll also have the chance to recognise individual employees and, importantly, encourage them to feel they’ve been noticed. Corporate away-days can be structured to your choosing. For example, you may opt for a morning conference to discuss the company direction and give teams a chance to see how their efforts have shaped the business, before heading to a multi-activity outdoor event where everyone can let their hair down, enjoy each other’s company and push themselves to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily try. Social aspects of corporate away-days are also vitally important, with colleagues given the space and downtime to get to know each other on a more personal basis. If you opt for one of our bespoke corporate festivals, you can even get to know the families of employees and create an optimally friendly and sociable environment.

While we recognise that the physical and mental health of employees is crucial, and have talked about this in another post, we also strive to improve the social health of the workplace, increasing overall happiness levels and boosting productivity and engagement as a result.



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