The business case for happiness

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In many work places in the country, and indeed around the world, employees are stressed, over-worked and demotivated. This is an insane situation. If having unhappy workers was the price you had to pay to make a good profit within our current economic system, it would be easier to see why this was so. In fact, unhappiness doesn’t work for anyone.

The research shows that keeping employees happy should be the priority of every organisation. Here’s why:

1. Happiness increases profit 

Organisations with happier employees tend to outperform their competitors. The share prices of the 100 Best Workplaces in the US significantly outperformed the stock market over a 25-year period.1)

2. Happiness improves performance

Happier employees demonstrate greater flexibility and creativity and respond better to difficult feedback. Happiness has also been shown to raise:

  • Sales by 37%
  • Productivity by 30%
  • Staff retention by 54%

3. Happy employees are more engaged and present

The number one driver of engagement at work is employees feeling that their line manager has a “sincere interest in their wellbeing”. Stress accounted for 43% of all working days lost due to ill health in 2014/15.

So how do you make your employees happy?

Traditionally, employers have tried to attract the best candidates with higher salaries, and to incentivise better performance with pay increases. However, according to author Dan Pink, numerous studies have shown that for cognitive-based tasks, financial rewards actually decrease performance. In fact the top three factors that motivate people are:

1. Autonomy

Most people do not like to be micro-managed. In fact it’s one of the top reasons for workplace stress. We perform at our best when we’re trusted to get on with the job in the best way we know how. That’s why Google famously lets their employees work on their own projects for one day a week.

2. Mastery

We love to learn and feel like we’re getting better at something. That’s why people are willing to spend hours creating products like Wikipedia and Linux and then give them away for free. If your job doesn’t allow for this, you get bored.

3. Purpose

We all like to feel like we’re contributing to something greater than ourselves – making the world a better place in some way. Social enterprises outperforming the private sector on some measures, and more existing organisations are rallying their staff around a clear and ambitious vision.

The evidence show that happiness at work is win, win, win. You feel better, your organization performs better and if your’e connected to a higher purpose, you’re also making the world a better place. The only thing getting in the way of this being the reality in most workplaces is outmoded ways of thinking. It’s time for a new, happier dawn.


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