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Why You Should Invest in Happiness at Work

Posted by Kendall Burke | Mar 16, 2021

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If you're managing a staff of frontline employees who are constantly interacting with customers, you may spend most of your energy focused on training people on how to do their jobs, how to handle customers, and just making sure every one and every thing is doing what they're supposed to from minute to minute.

But whether you're part of a big organization or a small one, or if this is your first time in a management role or you've been doing it for years, one oft-overlooked area of responsibility where you can really make a difference: employee happiness.

You also don't need to be in a management role to appreciate the benefits of happiness at work; everyone deserves it, and everyone can contribute to bringing happiness to the workplace. We'll tell you more about where happiness comes from and give you some ideas about how you can add this to your management toolkit

My Journey to Happiness Management

Before joining the TablesReady family, I worked for a small, scrappy startup full of amazing humans, many of whom became close friends in a heartbeat. When I joined as the 5th companywide hire, my life changed for the better; I went from a role where I felt like a cog in the corporate machine, to being a trusted member of a tiny team.  We all knew what made the others tick.

Five people quickly turned to 15 people and new opportunities were presented to the Customer Happiness team — we could all choose a "side track" to focus on for 2 hours per day. The list had a lot of familiar names on it: QA, Internal Documentation, Analytics, Marketing — the usual suspects. But at the bottom of the list, one stuck out and screamed my name: Internal Happiness. 

Unlike the rest, Internal Happiness had no definition, no path, no expectations. The only priority was to make sure my coworkers were happy. It. Was. Perfect.

I immediately started Googling "happiness at work" and realized this wasn't a new idea. At all. Stateside, maybe, but once I crossed the Atlantic I realized that this is actually a full-time role in many companies. Since diving into this happiness obsession, I've traveled to Prague and Copenhagen for conferences and workshops all surrounding happiness at work and learned this is an ongoing priority in many workplaces abroad. 

Since then, I've also made it a priority to focus on happiness in the workplace. My own happiness, my peers' happiness, the happiness of the customers I help every day.  

What Is Happiness?

According to the scientists and researchers who have dedicated years to studying the science of happiness, it is the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.

I’ve had a lot of conversations about happiness. I’ve talked to friends, colleagues, reports, and strangers about what makes them happy and what they're doing to improve their happiness. Usually, the things people tell me they’re focusing on falls into three main buckets: environment, relationships, and career. Things like, "if I move into that bigger house it’ll be worth sticking with this job," "if my partner agrees to move cross country, I’ll apply for my dream job," "if I get married by the time I’m 33 I'll be happy."

But! Balance is important when it comes to happiness. If one thing is out of balance, everything else is out of whack, too; these aspects of your life are not mutually exclusive. When they're working in harmony together, that’s when you find your balance and feel more purpose, and that purpose drives your overall happiness.

Why Should You Invest in Happiness?

In short, you are part of the Career slice of the happiness pie and you directly impact your employees' overall happiness. Caring about their happiness will positively impact you and your business.  

Happy humans are less likely to get sick, they live longer, they’re more resilient, they have more fulfilling relationships, and they’re more generous. Happy humans are also more creative, work harder, and make more money. If the humans you have working for and with you are happy, you’re going to reap the benefits too.

Where Does Happiness Come From?

You know that old phrase, "money can't buy happiness"? It's true. In fact, studies have shown that when people make above $105,000 per year, their happiness level decreases, while earning between $60,000 and $75,000 per year increases emotional well-being

Happiness is not money; rather, it is made up of three parts: 50% genetics, 40% daily activities, and 10% life circumstances. The genetics and life circumstances are out of our control, but the daily activities are entirely in our hands — and our jobs fall under that 40%.

So, how can we improve the 40%?

Scientifically speaking, it’s really quite easy to improve that 40%: practice gratitude, practice mindfulness, practice patience, visit nature, donate time, donate money, sleep more, and forgive more. While it may seem impossible to control our brains and trains of thoughts, all of these simple activities contribute to a more positive mindset. 

Yes, happiness takes work, but small, incremental changes can help.

Okay, but how can I make my employees happier?

The fact is, you cannot force your employees to be happy, but you can empower them to have more happiness in their lives. The benefits you offer your employees will directly impact their happiness inside and outside of the workplace.

Here are some simple suggestions you could implement today:

Tell Your Employees You Care

This is Step 1. Make it known that you're taking initiatives to increase happiness in the workplace. Ask for feedback and suggestions while you experiment with new ideas. (Feedback is especially important; your idea of fun might be over the top to others!) Remember: this isn't a one-time deal, this is an ongoing commitment. 

Arrange Group Volunteer Opportunities

Donate your time as a team. You could arrange an outing to a local shelter, do some beach clean-up, or make and distribute care kits or packed lunches to the displaced people in your town.  

Turn Birthdays into Holidays

I have yet to meet a single human who really wants to work on their birthday. But I've also heard from many — including every person I've ever managed — that requesting the day off often leads to feelings of guilt, so they ignore the urge and show up for work. Take the guilt trip off your employees' shoulders and make their birthday a holiday. If you can't allot an extra holiday for everyone, give them the option to take their birthday off and work on another holiday (i.e., President's Day) instead. 

Lunch & Learn

Chances are you know everyone's work strengths, but what about outside of work? Is someone a secret sourdough extraordinaire? Does someone bedazzle vintage denim? Everyone has a talent worthy of sharing with others, so give them the platform to do it! Organize a monthly Lunch & Learn and have one or two people share a skill that has absolutely nothing to do with their jobs. 

Offer Group Yoga Sessions

Have everyone come in before opening one day a month for a group yoga session with a local teacher. Or, avoid turning your business into a part-time yoga studio and sign everyone up for a virtual group class.

Have a Mini "Retreat"

Plan an evening full of cocktails, mocktails, and fun games. You could host a company trivia competition, build marshmallow towers, play employee "speed dating"... get creative! 

Team Love Meetings

This is 100% by far the easiest action item here. Schedule a monthly team meeting and focus only on gratitude. Whether that's gratitude from your customers or gratitude for each other, make it a point to share in a regular basis. You can have everyone share a positive work experience/customer encounter from the last month, or get in a circle and take turns sharing one thing you respect about the person next to you. Everyone will walk out of that meeting with a sense of pride for their job or about themself. 

Conclusion

Whether you’re in a leadership role or not, at least one of those is an actionable item for you. Leaders and managers, you can change or implement new policies to empower happiness. Servers, associates, line cooks — whatever role you play — you can create opportunities for your peers. Compile a list of places looking for volunteers and share that and your experiences with your team, or advocate for change with a well-thought-out, solutions-based proposal to your manager. 

At the end of the day, you're in control of your own happiness, but there's absolutely no reason you can't spread the joy with others and start a chain reaction.

If you find a way to improve your 40%, I’d love to hear about it. Send me an email and let’s keep the conversation going!

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