Happiness in the Workplace

It’s been 2 years since employees around the globe left their offices to work from home, and the workplace has changed forever. The search for life’s purpose is now front and center as more people evaluate work/life balance, appreciate their blessings, and confront life’s challenges. Employee needs, expectations, and priorities have shifted and as a result, employer priorities have evolved. And this volatility shows no sign of slowing down.

Employee Thriving Directly Impacts Workplace Productivity

According to a Pew Research Center study of 19,000+ people across 17 countries, work remains the third most important source of meaning following family and children, yet job satisfaction is down, negatively affecting productivity.

When employees are thriving, they are more productive, less inclined to burn out, take fewer sick days, and are less likely to resign. According to Gallup, 15 – 20% of total voluntary turnover is due to burnout. And 75% of medical costs are mostly due to preventable conditions.

Companies Invest in Employee Wellbeing

In response to the pandemic and post-pandemic conditions, companies have significantly increased attention to employee wellbeing. According to McKinsey Health Institute, HR leaders around the world report that mental health and well-being is a top priority for their organization.

In a Gartner 2020 survey of 52 HR executives: 94% of companies made significant investments in well-being programs, 85% increased mental health benefits, 50% increased support for physical well-being, and 38% for financial well-being. Gartner concluded employees who took advantage of programs and benefits report higher levels of mental and physical health.

Disconnect with Employee Experience

Yet, a recent McKinsey Survey identified a 22% gap between how employers and employees perceive mental health and well-being, “with employers consistently rating workplace dimensions associated with mental health and well-being more favorably than employees.”

So, while companies are investing, employees are not benefitting. Programs may be mis-focused or poorly implemented. Employers may be addressing symptoms of burnout but not underlying causes. And employees may be opting out because the programs don’t feel relevant or meaningful.

Employee Self-Determination Drives Satisfaction

“To optimize motivation and happiness at work, employees need the opportunity to use their skills and knowledge and feel an opportunity to grow – in short, to be empowered,” says Hard Olav Bastiansen, Partner of A`HEAD Executive and IMSA Search Global Partners, Norway.

“They need autonomy and the opportunity to make decisions about how and when they work; and they need meaningful human connections. The pandemic showed that the need for human contact and interaction is vital for personal and business growth.”

According to a Gartner Nov 2021 Survey, 50%+ of employees report that flexible work policies will impact whether they stay at their current job. “Clients are evaluating their flexible work policies to determine how they can be most effectively incorporated into their existing policies,” says Mitch Berger, CEO of Howard-Sloan Search and IMSA Search Global Partners USA Managing Partner.

Make Work A Happy Place

Evaluate how motivated and happy your employees are by asking the following questions:

Flexible Work Policies

  • Do our employees feel a sense of self determination, autonomy, and control? Do we give them agency in creating flexible work policies? Bring together a team of cross-department leaders to create inclusive and fair policies. Include employees from underrepresented populations.

Culture Plans, Strategies, Goals

  • Are we being intentional in building culture with plans, strategies, goals, and are we measuring? Establish key performance indicators to ensure improvement over time.

Reinforce Company Culture

  • How are we reinforcing our company culture? Did we bring together the entire group in-person – allowing people who are often remote to connect, and build relationships that previously developed in the hallways? Even infrequent, immersive in-person interactions create strong bonds.

Listen to Employee Needs

  • Are we listening to our employees to understand their evolving needs? Don’t assume that if people are not complaining, they are happy. Set the stage for better communication with more frequent small team meetings, town halls, and one-on-one check-ins with managers.

Eliminate Toxic Behavior

  • Are people experiencing toxic behavior that leaves them feeling undervalued or unsafe? Is there unethical behavior? Toxic behavior causes unhappiness, burnout, turnover, or worse. If left unchecked, it can spread throughout the workplace, impacting employee morale.

Invest in Employees

  • Are we investing in skill-building and leadership development to help people at all levels advance their careers? Employees thrive when they can see a path to personal growth.

Express Appreciation

  • How are we expressing appreciation and celebrating successes? Are our actions authentic to our people? Employee appreciation boosts performance, engagement, and improves well-being.

Evaluate Office Space

  • How does the office space make people feel and what modifications would have a positive impact? Availability of meeting and personal spaces; access to natural light; temperature, ventilation, and noise; colors and materials – all impact employees. Employee input in their workspace can positively affect their mood.

“We check in on employee happiness regularly and we encourage our clients to do the same. It really makes a difference in creating a positive work culture and it’s self-fulfilling,” adds Berger.

About IMSA Search Global Partners: With 50+ offices in 25+ countries on 6 continents, our 300+ Executive Search experts span the globe to identify the right candidates to successfully lead teams and organizations locally, regionally, and globally.