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5-a-Week: Employee workplace happiness

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This week's 5 key points come from a recent article by Rochelle Bailis who reveals that there are more factors at play in workforce morale than we think.  This abstract looks at some of Bailis’s key points that can help us to cultivate a happy work environment.

There are many factors at play when it comes to employee morale, and some influencers are more subconscious and pervasive than we think. Here are some rather surprising, scientific and statistically-based facts that can influence their own emotions and desires throughout the day.

1. Stress is the most underestimated business expense

Apparently, it’s over seven times more expensive than the cost of bad customer service.  This is due to stress-related sickness, drops in productivity levels and employee turnover. Health and wellbeing programmes should be actively promoted, and employees made aware of the signs of stress in themselves and their colleagues.  Stress is also linked to commuting, with commuters at more risk of sickness from increased human contact (and public transport is a notorious environment for ‘sharing’ viruses).  Additionally, the stress of their commute is also a major contributor to sickness absence. While commuting is usually unavoidable, consider offsetting some of the stress by allowing commuters more flexible work schedules, allowing them a break to the routine. 

A recent US study of more than 10,000 employees revealed that their primary reason for leaving their job was actually to escape work-related stress.

2. A noisy workplace can unintentionally trigger erroneous releases of adrenaline.

Even though some people claim to enjoy a workplace that’s a-buzz with activity, a study reveals that loud workplaces raise levels of adrenaline, whether or not employees report feeling bothered by the noise. Prolonged exposure can lead to unintentional reductions in motivation, trouble sleeping and even poor posture!

3. The No. 1 reason employees leave isn’t money or opportunity.

While circumstances will always vary, many leaders misunderstand the motivations behind employee attrition. Although many workers decide to leave their jobs for a promotional opportunity or a higher salary,

4. Breaking-up the day with any sort of physical activity can improve productivity (even more than it improves your mood).

We all know working out is good for us, but studies show that breaking up the day with any sort of physical activity, no matter the intensity or duration, can improve performance when it comes to increasing output, and improving mood and tolerance of co-workers and yourself. While most of us refer to exercise as a “mood booster” the study surprisingly concludes that productivity is even more positively affected by midday exercise than mood.

It’s not always possible or practicable for everybody to hit the gym or the streets at lunchtime, so instead, think about ways in which you can build activities into your work schedule – off-site meetings, brain-storming sessions, ad-hoc get-togethers to share ideas on a project.

5. Office layout matters—increasing people proximity and decreasing barriers increases job satisfaction.

While everyone needs a semblance of private space to get work done, studies find that being within close walking distance of other employees and having fewer physical barriers (which act as deterrents for conversation) is critical for increasing impromptu and face-to-face employee interaction. These ad-hoc, informal exchanges are essential for employee job satisfaction, collaboration and communication, all of which lead to an increase in overall productivity.

Bailis’ points out that you will never be able to make every single employee happy all the time, but by understanding the complexity of their motivations (even the ones they might not even fully understand themselves), you may be able to collectively increase the happiness of your team and the success of the business overall.

Regular programmes and training that address health & wellbeing, stress management, communication and innovation in working practice should all be considered and put in place.  These include: Subsidised gym memberships, supported exercise-related activities (lunchtime running clubs –‘Runch’), inter-departmental or client-participative sports events, health and nutrition adviser talks (lunch & learn), NLP, coaching initiatives, new project management and team-working processes such as Lean, Agile, Scrum etc.

With no end of options available, and many costing little if anything at all (many advisors and trainers are happy to come along as guest speakers to give free seminars, myself included), there really are no excuses for an unhappy, unhealthy work environment.  Let’s all push to make work a happier more productive place, fit for a new economy and the 21st century – can any organisation afford not to?

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