What makes a workforce happy?
Over the past five years, there has been an increasing focus on well-being and happiness of employees at work, because research has shown that “a happy workforce is a productive one”. Nic Marks of the New Economics Foundation has spent almost 15 years studying the topic, and concludes that the difference in productivity between happy and unhappy people at work can range from 10% for non-complex repetitive tasks, to up to 40-50% in service and creative industries. Alongside increased productivity comes better employee engagement and staff retention. And that is significant enough to pay attention to.
The problem comes in defining what is meant by staff happiness at work, and how employers can improve this to impact the bottom line. Initiatives have ranged from reducing working hours to providing fresh fruit and coffee. Some companies have offered free massages, ping-pong tables by the coffee machines or training for their leaders to improve their communications using social media.
Management models for well-being at work, based on empirical observation and staff surveys, are often used to define the interventions. And they are all a bit hit and miss. These models include factors ranging from meeting basic needs like pay and office environment, to helping staff make a difference and contribute to a higher purpose. It is no surprise that leaders find it very difficult to define actions that will improve their staff’s happiness in a way that will positively impact productivity, employee engagement and staff retention.
With the remarkable recent developments in neuroscience, it no longer has to be a guessing game. Understanding how the brain works gives concrete insights that will help leaders to transform their workplaces into ones full of happy staff.