Recently, happiness has become something employers aspire to. It makes sense. Very few of us want to be managers who make employees miserable, even if it results in higher productivity. Happiness is so important, in fact, that Japanese tech conglomerate Hitachi is introducing a new happiness badge, which tracks each employee’s well-being by monitoring how they move around and sit at work. The details of the badge are still murky, but its existence highlights a key point about work: happiness is now seen as intrinsic to productivity.
But just how important is keeping your employees happy? Are there tangible benefits to keeping your workers feeling good, or is it more of a morale booster? And how do you measure happiness anyway?
The Real Benefits of Happiness
The biggest thing employers want out of making their employees happy (besides some second-hand joy of their own) is engagement since it’s a better predictor of productivity. However, happiness and engagement aren’t always simpatico, and people make the mistake of thinking the two are directly related. If you’re looking for engagement, making your employees happier isn’t always the key. Happiness can breed complacency and let’s face it, work is a place to get things accomplished.
However, there are some real benefits to keeping your employees happy. Workers who are more satisfied with work (i.e., happier) tend to ask for raises less often than workers who aren’t satisfied (41% versus 54%, for those keeping track). And if they’re not so satisfied with work, it might lead to some passive job hunting, which will cost you big in the long run. But again, are satisfaction and happiness interchangeable?
Happier employees also miss fewer days, whether it’s due to sickness or absenteeism. While it seems like an intangible benefit, higher job satisfaction is a real benefit of keeping employees happy, and so it is important to keep worker happiness in mind, just not in the way you think. It can save some money in form of fewer raises per year and fewer costs from sick days, but, as the old saying goes, you can bring a happy employee to work, but you can't engage them (or something like that). After all, more days in the office may not mean getting organizational goals met, if your happy employees are simply doing the bare minimum.
How to Make With the Happy
So if you’re looking to keep employees happy, where do you start? Perhaps the easiest way to make both you and your workers happier is having employees be a little more generous. We’re always taught that having more stuff and getting little gifts makes us happier, but it’s not the best way to go about it. Like any parent soon learns, real happiness comes from giving, not getting, and research bears this out. A recent Harvard study proves that people are happier when they’re giving, whether it’s money to charity or giving gifts to those around us.
In the workplace, this translates to being more helpful around the office and taking care of minor things here and there to show appreciation for others. If it goes unrecognized, it could disincentivize such actions in the future, but as long as you let your employees know you appreciate the smaller things, it’ll keep them happier.
You could also give those unhappy employees the raises they’re asking for, but be careful with throwing money at your problems. Studies show that increases in pay lead to happier employees, but that trend begins to taper off around the $75,000 per year mark. After that, if an employee isn’t happy about their job, it’s probably not about the money.
What Happiness (Might) Really Mean
If you’re not looking for more consistent or happier employees, and instead want real engagement and productivity, what you might really want is meaning. Meaning, in this case, involves an employee knowing that what they're doing at work matters, and that they know their place at your company. Once an employee finds meaning in their work, they are:
- 3 times more likely to stay
- 1.7 times more likely to be satisfied
- 1.4 times more likely to be engaged in their work
If you’re looking for a quick fix to a productivity problem, you may want to look into giving your employees more frequent breaks, since it’s been shown to increase the amount of work employees get done. So how important is making employees happy? It’s important, but not the only thing employers should keep track of.
Want to make sure you’re keeping employees on track and productive through better processes? ClearCompany’s suite of talent management tools makes it easy to see what everyone’s working on, whether they’re hitting their milestones, and how they’re working better over time. Try our demo today and see how you can make your employees happier and more productive!