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22 Oct 2018
by Talya Zwiers

The happiness factor and how it impacts employee engagement

What makes people happy? How does happiness impact on the working environment, employee engagement and overall productivity? Do employees have any control over their happiness at work and how can they thrive? 


There’s been abundance of research done on happiness: is it about being happy clappy all the time, or how can one foster genuine happiness during the ebbs and flow of life, be it in one’s personal or professional life? The answer lies in relationships! 

The power of happiness So many employees feel fed up, burned out and unhappy at work? Have they just missed a trick and can they attain happiness at work under the everyday pressures? Annie McKee, co-author of the bestselling book Primal Leadership, makes a compelling case, that “happiness – and the full engagement that comes with it – is more important than ever in today’s workplace”. She goes on to highlight the powerful relationship of happiness to the individual, the team and organisational success. 

Mutual relationships, where both parties feel at ease and comfortable are the basis for happiness. When an employee feels that they can be open, honest and there is transparency, they will have the confidence to be happy in a non-judgmental way. Thus, there seems to be a direct correlation between a thriving workforce and better performance when employees are happy. 

So how does this impact on employee engagement?

How to create happy workplaces

In time gone by, people used to go to work to earn a living and go home. In today’s age, especially with millennials and the coming of Generation-Z, employees are looking for more – to be engaged and happy, and to feel a sense of fulfillment and that they are part of the greater whole. More so than ever, companies need to recognise just how important the happiness of their employees is, and how it will positively affect the bottom line.

Employers can help to create happier workplaces by:

  1. Listening carefully and responding in encouraging ways to cultivate and deepen relationships in the workplace, which will, in turn, engage employees positively.
  2. Relationships in the workplace need to be cross departmental as well as across all levels, be it between a manager and an intern, the finance team with the marketing team or the call centre with the product team. These connections create a holistic way of working, where people can learn more about what other teams do. This not only helps to bolster their functions and be more productive, but also creates an engaged team who are approachable and comfortable when at work. This way employees will feel a part of the greater whole which leads to a greater sense of engagement. 
  3. Companies can no longer take a one-size fits all approach to making employees happy. One effective way is to adopt a champion approach, where companies have different happy champions in all teams, as it is they who have their ears to the ground, and can be the relationship builders. They will know what makes employees tick, and how best to boost the engagement levels within. 
  4. Being in a supportive and encouraging relationship can also motivate teams to be more industrious. Healthier relationships can be harnessed through regular feedback sessions, one-to-one meetings and reviews, team events and social outings. Satisfying relationships not only makes people happy, but has a long-term influence on one’s health and general wellbeing. Whereas, toxic relationships have the opposite effect which can be damaging and can alienate team members. 

The benefits of happy employees

According to the Social Market Foundation’s Happiness and Productivity (2015) report, happy employees are up to 20 per cent more productive than unhappy employees. Happy employees are also good news for a company. They can help companies become more desirable places to work, while happiness among teams is a great retention tool, yielding greater results than constantly hiring and training new staff members. 

The Harvard study of adult development followed men for more than 75 years. Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School commented on the findings in a TED talk: “Our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”

Close relationships at work, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Employee happiness is therefore an imperative in business.

The author is Talya Zwiers, online content and corporate marketing manager at Xexec.

This article was provided by Xexec.

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