Businesses seeking a competitive edge are increasingly looking to boost the happiness of their workforce. Not only is the pursuit of a happy workforce an obvious antidote to growing levels of stress and mental ill-health in the workplace, but studies consistently show that happiness is intrinsically linked to creativity and productivity– essential for increasing a business’s bottom line.
A new Peldon Rose survey of financial service employees, however has revealed that they are not in a particularly happy place at the moment. Only two-thirds of finance workers (68%) state they are happy at work demonstrating there is clearly work to be done to boost the contentment of the country’s financial workforce.
Yet, happiness itself is a notoriously elusive concept, which means different things to different people. So, what can businesses do to dial up the office happiness and harness the many benefits this will bring to both employees and their organisations?
Why happiness matters
It has never been more important for employers to make sure that they are creating conditions favourable to employee wellness and happiness. A recent study of the country’s employees has revealed that two-thirds of employees (64%) have ‘poor’ or ‘below average’ mental wellbeing. This matters, not only because of the unacceptable levels of mental ill-health experienced by so many employees, but also because lower happiness levels are directly associated with lower productivity.
UK productivity currently languishes at the bottom of the G7 league table, 16.3% below the other six nations, making tackling the country’s low productivity rate a key priority for government and businesses. Creating happy workplaces is moving up the corporate agenda as a potential solution to this dilemma as research consistently shows there is a causal link between human happiness and productivity.
One report from the Social Market Foundation noted that workers who are happy with their jobs are as much as 20% more productive than their unhappy coworkers. Another study claims that the positive brain is 31% more productive than the brain in a negative, neutral or stressed state.
Investing in a happy workforce will also help to tackle the growing problem of workplace absence, which has increased year-on-year since 2011 and is predicted to costs businesses £21bn a year by 2020. With over 1 in 10 sickness days estimated to be due to mental health problems, it makes sense that happy workers are less likely to take days off due to sickness.
A possibly even more obvious, but just as important, benefit of a happy office is that it will help to retain staff. Across all industries, employees are a company’s greatest asset and attracting and retaining top talent is an ongoing challenge and goal. Put simply, happy workers don’t leave.
How to unlock the potential of a happy office
Financial organisations looking to boost the happiness levels of their workplace should adopt the following five key steps:
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- Show appreciation: 80% of finance workers say that feeling appreciated is important to their happiness at work – ahead of salary (68%) – but only half of respondents (50%) state that they actually do feel appreciated at work. Businesses must ensure that employees are provided with training and development opportunities, up-to-date and appropriate tools and technology, full kitchen facilities and quiet zones in the workplace – all of which score highly amongst workers as clear signs they are appreciated.
- Invest in the office environment: Over half (54%) of people working in finance say a great office environment is important for their happiness at work, but currently only 28% say they actually have a great workplace. Failing to adequately invest in the office environment will have a negative impact on the wellbeing and mental health of the workforce, and in turn a company’s productivity. FDs and CFOs should look take the long-term view and invest in a workplace that responds to the needs of their employees, enables them to enjoy being at work, attracts top talent and ultimately boosts the company’s bottom line.
- Create a positive company culture: Nearly half (46%) of finance workers say a good company culture is important to their happiness at work, but only 29% say they currently have one. An alarming 43% even say they are concerned about the negative culture at work, behind only retail workers (45%), which is something the financial sector must urgently look to address. Employers should engage directly with their staff to discover what they want from their company culture and what is and isn’t working. Wherever possible they must introduce meaningful change. This will help create a positive and supportive office environment around the company’s greatest asset its people.
- Encourage friendships at work: Three-quarters (74%) of finance workers say they value friendships at work and 62% say that their friendships with colleagues are one of the current positives about their work. To build on this employers should ensure the workplace is actively helping to develop and encourage friendships as two-thirds of financial employees (68%) say communal social spaces and informal break-out areas (64%) are important in helping build workplace friendships
- Invest in tech: Only 56% of financial workers say they have the right tools and technology to do their job efficiently – yet it is a leading factor in helping people feel appreciated at work. Employers must ensure that workers’ jobs are being helped not hindered by investing in the technology that will best support employees to do their jobs. The right technology will also enable employees to work flexibly and maximise all available office space, including quiet and communal areas.