With International Week of Happiness at Work from 23-27 September 2019, the business of being happy in our workplaces is deservedly receiving attention.
Being happy when we go about our work matters. It affects our morale, loyalty and our ability to carry out roles and responsibilities proactively and efficiently. And without greater happiness as an aim, any workplace wellbeing programme will struggle to succeed.
The organisers of International Week of Happiness at Work point to science and business findings that happy employees have a huge advantage over unhappy ones. Happy people are said to be more productive, flexible, resilient, creative, make happier customers and work better with their colleagues.
Among their suggestions for building a happier workplace are:
- Invite an expert to give an inspirational talk over lunch
- Organise a discussion with colleagues about what makes you happy at work
- Talk to management about making a happier workplace
- Start an initiative to give more positive feedback
- organise drinks with colleagues
- Have lunch together and not at your desk
Why focus on Happiness?
Low morale, together with poor mental health or physical health, has a severe impact on organisation's effectiveness.
The HSE's Health and Safety At Work 2018 survey said that 30.7 million working days were lost to work related ill health and injuries in 2017/18, including 0.6 million cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety.
Mind, the mental health charity that runs training days for companies, says that one in six people will be experiencing problems with anxiety, stress or depression in the workplace at any one time.
The charity's research into workplace stress found one in five employees experiencing it has called in sick and 14% had resigned from their job, with 30% of people disagreeing with the statement 'I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if i was stressed.'
Putting happiness firmly on the radar is an essential step in making the workplace healthier and more productive.
Integrating happiness into wellbeing
One step is to not to just let colleagues know happiness at work is a priority for your organisation, but also being ready to listen to their issues and answer their questions.
Bringing people together to talk through their wellbeing can help everyone understand the range of physical and mental health concerns, discuss what help is available, come up with ideas for improving happiness and promoting better working practices.
This should be part of a long-term commitment to workplace wellbeing. Many employers and HR professionals believe it's good to integrate wellbeing into an organisation's existing plans and processes, rather than set it up as a standalone programme that might get side-lined.
Comfortable people make happier employees. Making sure that people can use their workstations easily and safely is an essential step to people enjoying their day to day working lives.
And with 25% of lost working days a result of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, including back and neck pain, helping people to improve their posture could transform their working experience.
Workstation assessments should include a full review of how each person uses their equipment, and their working posture. Adjustments can then be made, and advice given on ergonomic improvements to reduce the risk of back, neck or shoulder pain, and reduce the risk of eyestrain, headaches, stress and fatigue.
Examples of successful wellbeing strategies include companies such as reinsurance firm Hannover Re. In response to its then-disengaged workforce, the firm held a wellbeing week and developed a health and wellbeing strategy from there, focusing on physical, emotional and financial wellbeing.
A follow up engagement survey showed that scores for the statement ‘this is a psychologically and emotionally healthy place to work’ had increased by 13% over two years. An impressive 90% of respondents to the wellbeing week pilot survey agreed that it had positively contributed to the working environment.