Productivity in the workplace is a vital component to reaching a company’s short-term and long-term goals. There are many ways to boost productivity within the office, yet one of the best is fostering happiness within the workplace. A happy worker is a productive worker. This is someone who enjoys coming into work every day and looks forward to helping the business achieve its goals. No two office settings are the same though, as varying dynamics can affect the overall level of happiness in any place of business. Due to this, a manager, owner, CEO or boss needs to not only understand how to identify an unhappy workforce but how to bring about change and boost company morale. To assist with this, here are 15 ways to foster happiness in any workplace.
1) Identify Unhappy Employees
“When unhappy, one doubts everything; when happy, one doubts nothing.” – Joseph Roux.
The first step towards fostering happiness in the workplace is to identify those who are unhappy. Employees are not always forthcoming with their feelings. In fact, many will keep it to themselves without ever coming forward. The problem with this is the unhappy feeling will start to fester and grow until the employee is so unhappy they become disgruntle and it begins to affect their overall productivity in the office. It may even spill out and affect other employees, dragging them down and making them unhappy as well. Eventually, a single unhappy worker can cause everyone around them to see a reduction in productivity and morale.
A manager, owner or other head of operations likely has his or her hands full already, so attempting to spot an unhappy employee is far more difficult than it sounds. Due to this, several alternative channels need to be utilized in order to identify employees who are not happy with work. Thankfully, most unhappy employees have a few tells, so a manager who pays attention to progress reports and HR insights should have at least a finger on the company’s pulse and possess the ability to spot those employees who may not be putting forward their best work.
According to Entrepreneur (2016), an unhappy employee will begin putting in only the bare minimum at work. They don’t go out of their way to deliver better results or attempt to improve upon their current productivity. These employees watch the clock, regardless of the day, and do whatever they can to leave as early as possible. This is true for everything from lunch breaks to going home at the end of their shift. If someone has a pattern of leaving the office the very second the workday is done, there’s a good chance they are not happy spending time at work.
Some additional signs of an unhappy employee include their reluctance to cooperate, a lack of transparency, their body language is closed off (folded arms, turned away from other employees) and they smile less.
2) Conflict Resolution
“If we can limit the unproductive interactions, we will be able to better focus on productive ones.” – Rachel G. Scott
Unhappiness stems from all sorts of different situations and conditions. From time to time an employee may suffer from problems outside of work, which in turn can affect their mood while in the office. Typically this kind of a situation disappears in a short period of time as external matters have a way of evening out. However, there are other times where the issue comes from an internal matter, including an incident with another employee. When workers are unhappy at work because of other workers, it is something that needs to be corrected as soon as possible. If the situation continues to fester, other employees will be dragged into the situation and pretty soon the entire workplace will start taking sides, causing a divide amongst the workers. Due to this, it is essential to utilize conflict resolution tactics to identify the problem and bring it to a stop quickly.
For a larger organization, the HR department can and should conduct all conflict resolution strategies with the involved parties (including the boss) present. According to the Harvard Law School (2017), there are five different kinds of conflict resolution strategies. Understanding when to use each is ideally when the HR department comes in. For companies without such a department, these five strategies are as follows:
- Recognizing everyone has biased fairness perceptions
- Avoid escalating tensions by using threats and provocative moves
- Overcoming any us against them mindset
- Looking underneath the current problem for a deeper issue
- Separate what’s sacred from non-sacred issues
The first form of conflict resolution dives into when both parties believe in varying levels of fairness. One employee may believe another is receiving preferential treatment while the other employee may not see it as such. Often times simply going over the issue together in the open can correct problems stemming from this kind of situation.
The second form is not always ideal. In fact, it may be the last case scenario. An “accept this or you’re fired” approach should never be en early tactic, but instead used if the other forms of conflict resolution fail. Should an employee continue to be a problem with the rest of the office, affecting the happiness and productivity of everyone else, this method may prove to be the only viable option.
The third tactic is when different groups within the office begin to see themselves as an enemy of others in the office. Typically, this kind of situation develops when one person believes they have been wronged and begins to gossip with a friend in the office. The friend then takes sides, which can escalate the conflict. When this kind of situation develops, it is necessary to bring both sides together, identify a common goal and uncover not only what is causing the rift, but also what can be done to correct it. Everyone in the office doesn’t need to be best friends in order to foster employee happiness in the workplace. However, they do need to remain civil and professional.
The fourth option for conflict resolution is to look beyond the problem’s face value. If an employee is suddenly acting out or causing problems with staff members, it may have nothing to do with the office itself but may stem from an issue back home, with a significant other, a child or friend. Sitting down with the individual, listening to them and talking over the situation can prove especially beneficial for the employee. Not only does this give the worker someone to talk to and the ability to unload both verbally and mentally (which in turn helps alleviate some of their internally bottled up stress), but it also shows the boss cares and is willing to work with them. This demonstrates a level of compassion that helps boost the employee’s morale and gives them a new found appreciation for work.
The last form of conflict resolution can prove challenging. There may be times where an employee brings something that is sacred into an inner-office issue. Something sacred is described as an essential, non-negotiable core value for the employee. This can be anything from family obligations to political views and religious beliefs. Not everyone in the office holds the same sacred belief system, which can cause major problems should an employee attempt to bring these into a conflict. Should this ever occur, it is vital to separate the sacred from the non-sacred issues (essentially a separation of church and state in the office)? One employee might have a problem with how funds from a charity event are allocated, as recipients might not fall in line with their belief system. Whenever sacred elements come into the office, it requires finesse and careful orchestration in order to respect the person’s beliefs without allowing it to cause problems with another person’s sacred values. In this situation, the employee may prove less disgruntle if some of the charity funds are donated to a foundation of their own choosing. This way, their belief system is recognized.
3) Talk to Employees and Ask Questions
“We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong.” – Bono
Employees want to feel appreciated. They want to know their opinions matter and that they have an open forum to express their feelings and ideas. Far too many offices make this difficult, if not impossible. Employees are on the ground floor of a business and often encounter situations and events management has no frame of reference about. Due to this, employees are in a unique position to come up with beneficial ways of improving productivity within the office and correcting issues the higher-ups may not know exists. By regularly talking with employees and asking questions, it gives workers this ability to discuss not only how they feel about the company and where it’s going, but share their ideas and cover topics important to them.
Realistically, ownership should offer (at least) two different opportunities for employees to come and talk. First, there should be quarterly interviews and progress reports with all employees (some may choose to conduct more frequent interviews). This way, it is possible to stay up to date on everything, go over performance reviews and discuss ways of making the office better.
The second option is to simply have an open door policy. If an employee wants or needs to talk, they should have the ability to do so. Now, not all workers will take advantage of this option, which is why the first method of openly discussing work is in place. Either way, by remaining open and asking questions of all employees, it is possible to find out ways to make work a happier place for the entire workforce.
4) Boost Worker Confidence
“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” – Lao Tzo
Confidence and happiness are tightly connected. When someone is confident they are more than likely happy. If someone is happy they likely have a higher level of confidence. So, by boosting one, it helps the other. According to research conducted by the University of Michigan, basic personality traits formed during childhood endure into adulthood. There are some exceptions to this rule, but emotional stability, agreeableness, outgoingness, and openness typically carry over into the adult, professional years (Psychology Today, 1992).
One universal trait in boosting the confidence in children is to praise them for a job well done. Whether correctly spelling a difficult word in school to riding a bicycle without training wheels, children are routinely verbally praised for accomplishments and often rewarded through toys, sweets or other gifts. As a person ages, these rewards become less and less frequent, until the most an adult might receive in way of praise is a “good job.” However, as childhood personality traits carry over into adulthood, the desire for praise remains. The person just adapts to infrequently receiving these rewards and words of admiration. Due to this, when members of management and the heads of a company provide praise to workers, they in turn help boost the confidence level in the workers.
Dogs who are positively reinforced for a job well done instead of negatively scolded for doing something bad pick up concepts faster. This is not unique to dogs alone. According to Scientific American, positive reinforcement also helps surgeons learn life-saving techniques faster than negative scolding (2016). All of this points to the value in regularly offering words of encouragement to employees.
5) Lead Employees By Example
“The three most important ways to lead people are:… by example… by example… by example.” – Albert Schweitzer
The best way to lead is to do it by example. This presents employees with the right way to go about conducting business. It also demonstrates to workers their boss is willing to put in the work and do many of the same tasks they are required to do. While everyone in the workplace knows the boss runs the company, it helps humanize the head of the business. This, in turn, goes a long way at reducing stress while establishing a clear method for how work should be done.
When the head of a company leads by example, it helps increase the level of respect employees have for their boss. When employees respect their boss, they are more likely to enjoy their work, which helps boost their morale, confidence, and happiness at work.
6) Monitor Happiness Levels
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha
Happier employees showcase higher levels of productivity, they take less frequent sick days and in fact look forward to coming into work. However, how can a business owner or manager determine how happy their employees are? Directly asking a worker how happy they feel while in the office may not bring out the most accurate answer. There are ways though to determine how happy workers are. By monitoring happiness levels, it is possible to identify where the company should improve.
One option for monitoring happiness levels is to carry out regular surveys. These surveys should be filled out on a semi-annual or even quarterly basis. Some businesses may choose to conduct these happiness surveys monthly in order to have a more accurate, immediate picture of what’s going on within the company. The responses should remain anonymous as this allows employees to speak their mind and give honest opinions.
Beyond surveys, monitoring social media is another avenue. Employers have the power to monitor social media mentions from their employees and also what their workers say about work in general. Now, a company should avoid reprimanding employees (outside of very rare and potentially damaging situations), but instead, take the information into consideration and look into the issue to see if there are ways of correcting the cause of an employee’s grief.
There’s also nothing wrong with holding an open forum where employees are free to say their mind and what they believe. This can help boost the happiness level within the office as it gives all employees an important voice to be heard and shared. These open forums are helpful as it often can take a small idea and snowball it into something larger and beneficial for everyone as more and more employees chime in (Synerion, 2016).
7) Remain Optimistic
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill
Nothing brings down a group of people like one negative individual. All the negativity has a way of pulling at the emotions and mindset of everyone else in the group. There are times where the outlook for a business might not be the best. It is up to the boss to boost morale and to remain optimistic. In front of employees, the owner always needs to look at the situation as half-full. What a boss thinks and does behind closed doors is something totally different, but by remaining optimistic, it plays a sizeable role in fostering happiness in the workplace.
8) Celebrate Accomplishments
“Talk to yourself about your successes; be sure you are recognizing your own accomplishments, no matter how small they may be.” – Rhett Power
Happiness is directly connected with boosting the confidence levels of employees. In order to help raise the confidence level of employees, openly celebrating accomplishments is a must. There is no rule to the kind of accomplishments an office can and should celebrate. From celebrating an employee’s five-year anniversary working with the company to reaching certain sales goals or social media follower numbers, celebrations are no longer just for the boss. Celebrations can and should include everyone. While some events may focus on a particular individual, one of the best ways to increase the happiness levels of a workplace is to share a celebration with the entire workforce.
When a celebration focuses on the accomplishments of a singular individual, it demonstrates to other employees just how much hard work is praised and respected within the company. This, in turn, may help motivate other employees into putting in hard work on their own in order to receive the same kind of praise and admiration from the boss.
9) Identify and Remove Negativity
“Negative people can only infest you with discouragements when they find you around… Just get lost and get saved!” – Israelmore Ayivor
Negativity can flow through a workplace like a virus, slowly infecting one person after another until it brings the entire office down from the inside. Negativity typically originates in one individual, who then begins to push their mindset and feelings onto others. Gary S. Topchik, author of “Managing Workplace Negativity,” suggests negativity stems from a loss of community, control or confidence (The Balance, 2017).
Negativity may start with inner office gossip. Someone may begin circulating the idea of upcoming layoffs or one worker may believe another employee received a promotion due to less than desirable means. Whatever the cause of the negativity, it is vital to identify it and remove it as quickly as possible. If allowed to fester, mature and grow, it can lead to the complete undoing of an entire workplace.
The best way to identify negativity in the workplace is to conduct regular, private meetings with each employee. Often times, inner-office gossip may miss the boss’ desk, so the head of a company may not even realize negativity is spreading. By holding regular meetings with every member of the workplace, learning about these situations becomes far more plausible. Maintaining an open line of communication for all employees to use can assist with this as well, as some workers may feel the need to discuss the situation with the boss, yet want to avoid openly calling out another employee.
To help avoid negativity, it is important for a boss to remain transparent and treat employees like adults with earned respect across the board. The head of a company should avoid sharing certain information with some workers but not others, as this makes it appear as if the boss is playing favorites. Keeping everyone on an even playing field helps avoid internal conflict and negativity.
Negativity may develop from the lack of growth potential. If an employee feels stuck they might start to act out (similar to a gifted child in a classroom where they are not receiving challenges to stimulate their mind). By providing recognition for a job well done, training opportunities that lead to promotions and the potential of career advancement, a boss can almost all but completely wipe out negativity while fostering happiness.
10) Be Prompt With Responses
“Arriving late was a way of saying that your own time was more valuable than the time of the person who waited for you.” – Karen Joy Fowler
The lack of a prompt response demonstrates a lack of respect. While employees understand a boss is busy with running a business, the inability to respond to a request or question promptly can cause a drop in morale. While a boss may not want to discuss raises, HR problems or other worker concerns, it is his or her job to do so. Putting it off does nothing but frustrate the employee while making it seem as if the boss’ time is more valuable than his or her own.
11) Set Out to Have Fun
“Fun is one of the most important – and underrated – ingredients in any successful venture. If you’re not having fun, then it’s probably time to call it quits and try something else.” – Richard Branson
One of the best ways to foster happiness within the workplace is to set out to have fun, either inside the work environment or outside, with all employees. There are plenty of external bonding opportunities available for a workforce to take part in. This can vary from taking everyone to a baseball game to company picnics and events for employees. The purpose of these outings is to help bring all workers together in a fun, loose environment, where the stress of work is not present. It also helps employees who typically do not interact with one another on a daily basis become closer, talk and develop improved relationships.
Setting out to have fun doesn’t always need to be a big event either. Having food brought in for lunch on Fridays, or even once a month, is a great time everyone can look forward to. Company parties, holiday events, and other gatherings can also help everyone relax and have fun. After all, when looking to foster happiness in the workplace, actually setting out to have fun should stand as a vital point of interest.
12) Understand Each Employee is Different
“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” – Margaret Mead
No two employees are the same. They come from different backgrounds, have different family lives, they may come from different parts of the country and likely have different belief systems. Because every employee is different, they need to be treated differently. This doesn’t mean one should receive preferential treatment, but instead, a great boss knows how to interact and motivate each worker. Some employees do not take criticism well, so finding a way to broach this subject and make it easier for them is important. Other employees thrive on harsh standards and need someone to push them in order to give their best. The very best management teams know how to push the right buttons of each employee in order to extract their best work. By not treating every employee exactly the same, it helps improve morale of everyone in the workplace. Employees will come to respect a boss for knowing how to do this and, in return, see a boost in their own level of happiness in the workplace.
13) Why Did They Leave?
“If you have to convince someone to stay with you then they have already left.” – Shannon L. Alder
Employees will come and go. It is the way of professional life. Whether an employee moves to a new location, finds a different job they believe they’ll like better or another reason altogether, losing and hiring employees is just part of the job.
However, conducting an exit interview of a leaving employee can offer valuable insights into not only their reasoning behind leaving but what can improve around the workplace. The very best companies retain their workers and don’t have much turnover. So, if there is a high turnover rate, there likely is an issue within the office itself.
Ideally, the individual will leave because they are either moving out of the area or because a better opportunity with greater pay came about. If they are making a horizontal career move, it should raise questions about morale inside the workplace. During the exit interview, the HR department and management should ask why they are leaving and what can or should be done to improve life in the office. While nobody wants to see a quality employee go, it can end up beneficial in the long run.
14) Boost Communication
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus
Communication is the foundation of any great relationship. This is true whether it is personal or professional. A lack of communication between employees and the boss creates a discord. It paints management in an out-of-touch light, as they may not know or understand what the everyday worker goes through. Having open lines of dialog and communication helps ensure employees feel like their concerns, questions, and comments are heard.
There are several ways to boost communication, which in turn helps boost happiness in the workplace. For starters, management needs to have an open door policy. If someone needs to talk they should be welcomed into the boss’ office. Regular, private meetings with each employee on a monthly, or the very least quarterly, time frame gives workers ample opportunities to talk and discuss how they feel work is going. Lastly, an open forum for workers to discuss issues, pitch ideas and go over the latest work changes can prove enlightening in addition to improve company morale. When an employee feels they are heard and appreciated, they become more comfortable with management and, in return, see a boost in overall happiness at work.
15) Comfortable Office Setting
“Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.” – Hippocrates
It’s hard to work in an uncomfortable environment. This one is often overlooked, yet establishing a comfortable office setting helps promote being happy at work. Removing clutter from around the office and desks boosts focus while bringing in plants can boost moods throughout the workplace as well. Having the right furniture also helps increase productivity. According to Inc (2014), office furniture with vibrant colors helps boost enthusiasm, while boring furniture actually drags down productivity and makes a worker lazy. On top of it all, bringing in additional daylight helps heighten an employee’s mood. According to a study conducted at Northwester University, offices with open windows increased white light exposure, which in turn helped employees sleep better at night, cut down on physical problems while boosting productivity in the office thanks to improved sleep quality. A boost in office comfort can go a long way in making an employee happy and effective at work.
There are certain emotions humans – every human – require to live an enjoyable life. Happiness stands at the top of these necessary emotions. Happiness helps an individual feel accomplished and satisfied with their life. It boosts their mood and, along with it, assists in making just about everything else around them better. Happiness doesn’t just need to exist at home or out with friends though. It can, and should, exist in the workplace. While putting in time to earn a living, employees who are happy with their work are more likely to deliver higher levels of productivity. They look forward to heading into work and are less likely to leave for another job. Some businesses find maintaining a happy workplace an elusive idea, yet it doesn’t need to be. By taking advantage of these 15 different ways to foster happiness in the workplace, any business owner can improve and amplify the moral wellbeing of everyone in the office. From removing bad apples out of the workforce to offering a comfortable office setting, finding the right combination of services may take time, but with patience, an open mind and the ability to try new workplace tactics, every employee and every work setting can experience happiness.