Wellbeing Blog

August 4, 2019

The Value of Happiness in the Workplace: Why employers should start with happy before healthy when crafting wellbeing strategies


It’s common for employers to begin addressing wellbeing due to concerns over healthcare costs or unhealthy behaviors amongst their employees. However, if we dig a little deeper we may find that many of these behaviors are not the root cause of an un-well employee, but rather, a symptom of something deeper going on. One of the many underlying factors that may be contributing to employees’ unhealthy behaviors may be happiness. And according to the 2017 World Happiness Report, happiness isn’t only effecting physical health, but also your business objectives. It reports that happy employees are more driven to contribute to the goals of the organization and are more compelled to apply discretionary effort than their unhappy counterparts. We can surmise then that happiness increases productivity because happy people are more engaged and present in the workplace. They pay more attention to the needs of customers and are more in tune with the organization’s processes and systems. All these factors come together to bring organizations increased productivity and profitability.

On the flip side, unhappy people make for disengaged employees, and they are costly! We’ve all likely experienced how cancerous one grumpy coworker can be, spreading negativity like wildfire and taking a toll on even the most positive people they work with. In studies by the Gallup Organization, disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects. Organizations with low employee engagement scores experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth and 65% lower share price over time.

When you couple the benefits of having happy employees with the overall improvement to organizational outcomes, making conscious upgrades to your culture is a no-brainer.

More and more employers are acting on this evidence, recognizing the need to create positive employee experiences in order to attract and retain top talent. A recent report identifies major trends that are quickly being adopted by companies looking to evolve their culture to support happy employees. Here’s our take on the key elements of these trends that support a happier workforce:

  1. Design human-centric workplaces

Bring your office to life by creating a space where employees look forward to showing up each day. Take a look around . . . Do your employees have access to natural lighting, clean water and appealing stairways? Are there inviting elements such as plants and artwork? If you want to get serious about providing a human-centered workplace, check out the framework put forth by the and consider seeking well-building certification.

  1. Provide Flexibility to Support Work/Life Integration

Equally important as providing a physical working space that is attractive is providing the flexibility to choose, to some degree, when and where they get their work done. In fact, Gallup’s research found that 35% of workers would leave a job for one that provided more flexibility. The ability to provide flexible arrangements (e.g., working remotely, flex hours, etc.) varies greatly depending on industry. However, all organizations should get creative with how to provide more autonomy and support work/life integration with their policies.

  1. Incorporate Development into Culture

Employees want to feel like work gives them personal purpose and an opportunity to be part of something larger than themselves. They also want to feel like they are making an impact and have opportunities for personal development. Employers should take a close look at what they are doing to promote development and connect employees to a sense of purpose. Examine how you promote and live your core values. What are you doing to ensure employees are connected to your purpose? Are there opportunities for community involvement, volunteering and giving back? Are employees connected to each other with thoughtful teambuilding opportunities? And lastly, do employees have personalized opportunities for growth and development?

When it comes to the business of happy employees, it all starts with culture. Create spaces that respond to the needs of your employees. Connect your employees to your values and mission and provide meaningful growth opportunities. Trust your employees to do the job you hired them to do by providing autonomy and flexibility where possible. All of these practices will foster happier, healthier employees that will take care of your business.

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