Editor’s Question: What are your tips for creating a happy workplace?

Editor’s Question: What are your tips for creating a happy workplace?

Latest research, The Deluge of Unhappy Workers, commissioned by Firstup, a leader in digital employee experience, and newly formed company resulting from the merger of SocialChorus and Dynamic Signal, has revealed that employees are unhappier than ever post-pandemic. This new survey shows a mounting dissatisfaction among workforces across the UK, US, Germany, Benelux and the Nordics, with employees feeling undervalued, uninformed and ununified. The lack of employer communication was cited as a key contributing factor for unhappiness with nearly 35% of UK employees agreeing that more communication from employers would result in increased productivity, and work satisfaction.

“Businesses need to do more to support their employees, to reduce attrition rates and provide more valuable working experiences or remain responsible for the career reboot of the decade that some are calling ‘The Great Resignation of 2021’,” said Nicole Alvino, Founder and CSO, Firstup. “At Firstup, we deliver a digital employee experience (DEX) that helps companies reach, connect and engage every worker, everywhere. This research is a clear and urgent call to action – an organisation’s employees are its most valuable asset with employee satisfaction having a direct impact on the bottom line. Business, HR and internal comms leaders must act now to stem this workforce dissatisfaction and engage their teams with personalised information that helps them do their best work.” 

The research highlighted a number of distinct areas of concern across the 23,105 workers surveyed globally, of which 5,009 workers were in the UK, with highlights including the discrepancy between the perceived value of workers’ roles within their organisations, an unstable work/life balance and the mental health support received. Unfortunately, those based outside of the office seem to feel these complaints most keenly, with a growing tension between desk based and deskless workers.

●    Less than half felt valued in their role (40%)

●    Only 20% felt that their employer needed to make no changes to improve their employee experience and help them feel more valued in work

●    A mere 13% believe their organisation had sufficient boundaries in place to safeguard their work/life balance

●    34% want employers to ‘create better lines of communication between executives and employees

●    48% want ‘company communications and messages delivered to the places I spend my work day’. whether via email, mobile notifications and/or digital notice boards and signage

The data also demonstrates a clear desire for employees to feel that they contribute to the success of the organisation, with just under 70% saying overall business goals and strategies are important to them, but only 17% of surveyed UK workers expressed that they were not sure if their colleagues would notice if they were on leave.

Three experts explain how to create a happy workplace:

Michael Donald, CEO of ImageNPay:

A lot of companies that are focused on customers and profits quite often miss the core element which is the employees. The old adage of the service profit chain could be described in less corporate terms as: Happy employees, happy customers and even happier shareholders.

But how do you achieve that especially when more employees than ever have been working from home without the usual support mechanisms around them?

What we at ImageNPay have learnt over the past 18 months with employees and also interns working in seven different time zones and six countries is that flexibility is key. By this I mean ensuring that you take time out to understand the environment people are working in, have they had children to home school, do they have a home office or are they working from their kitchen table?

As a CEO, be available even if this means at weekends or, in the case of some of our calls with Fiji, at midnight on a Sunday to align with a kick-off meeting on a Monday in another part of the world.

The trust quotient is also a primary factor, we are used to talking about EQ, IQ but now for me its TQ. Giving the team the latitude to achieve their goals by the means that they see fit, allowing them to control key elements of the company’s destiny as responsible and talented human beings creates a very real bond in a period of time that has been almost totally digital.

For us, this approach has paid huge dividends and in the most recent feedback from our intern programme the key comment that came up time and time again was: “ImageNPay set a direction and then trusted us to formulate and deliver against the goals we then set ourselves and also the wider intern team. They trusted us, were there for us and allowed us to really shine to the extent we felt nothing was impossible.”

Now you may think that this is obvious and that creating a happy workplace comes through the right disciplines, process, measurements and all the other pre-pandemic key performance indicators. For me, it’s more than that, to be a happy family you need to work at it. To create a happy place to work where people can feel that they have really achieved great things and be acknowledged and also acknowledge themselves takes real emotional investment.

Most of all, it takes trust and the ability to let people really take control of their own destiny while being supportive of the challenges that we have all experienced in the past 18 months.

Ben Ingram, Head of Employee Experience at WONGDOODY:

Our happiness, whether as an employee or citizen, is subjective rather than objective.

The problem is that our expectations, while based on some shared fundamentals, are all as different and unique as we are. You and I, while we may work in the same field and live similar lives, will have our own personal vision of ‘the good life’. Extrapolate this further to the barman, brand manager and warehouse worker. Or the fuel station cashier, rig worker and commodities trader. Working within the same organisation, towards the same vision. Yet each leading very different lives with not just different, but potentially totally disassociated, views of what personal success is.

And let’s not forget the extraordinary events from the last year, with the pandemic challenging the levels set on all of these expectations. The result has been a greater focus on personal wellbeing, increased awareness of issues such as stress, anxiety and burnout and a stronger desire than ever to spend time with family and friends and doing the things we love.

Expectations are predominantly more qualitative than quantitative. While the hard metrics of job title, salary and holiday days are first to spring to mind, these are not what leads to true and prolonged happiness.

There’s no denying the elation of winning the big deal, getting that promotion you’ve been chasing or taking the long-awaited holiday is indeed rewarding. But they are predominantly biochemical in nature. And as such, quickly dissipate. Only to be replaced with an overwhelming desire for the next big reward.

The reality is that chasing short-lived elation, in the same way that it doesn’t lead to happiness outside of work, simply isn’t enough.

True happiness lies in building self-worth

In truth, what businesses really want are employees that are happy AND effective. People who are going to work to achieve something. But it’s important to remember the value of progressing on a small scale every day, rather than just aiming for the big standout achievements.

Challenge and achievement are not limited to the confines of objective success. Personal development, physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing all provide an opportunity for regular, sustained and positive progress. And – as lockdown showed – for a large portion of the population, simply getting dressed and going for a walk was overwhelmingly positive and powerful.

In the world of work, the cumulative benefit of completing an online training course, making time to take 10 minutes out of your day for a mindfulness session and simply completing tasks to leave work on time for a sustained number of days is incredibly powerful.

Never before have the small things counted so much. But remember, they don’t count as much when they’re handed to us.

Happiness is supported, not prescribed

As we continue to evolve processes and organisational structures around employees’ changing needs, regular opportunities for personal and professional achievement must find their place alongside the delivery of business as usual.

Olly Blitz, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, 20ten:

Our focus on building a strong, happy workplace culture has meant that everyone at our agency is excited to get back into the physical workspace and be together again.

Key to promoting happiness and satisfaction at work is communication. Throughout the pandemic we had twice daily Zoom meetings with our entire company so that everyone felt connected, informed and in it together. We continue these regular updates and meetings with everyone, bringing all our team up to speed on what is in the pipeline and the direction the business is going.

We also use company-wide chats, break-out sessions and social events to make sure everyone gets to hang out with people outside of their own teams. We’ve been lucky enough to double in size during the pandemic, so we want to make sure people get as many opportunities to bond with each other as possible. 

We know that the expense of travelling to work after almost two years at home will come as a shock to the system for employees, so we are offering annual travel passes (paid back by employees at an agreed monthly rate) and a ride-to-work scheme to make things a little easier. We’re also providing lunch once a month for all employees, where we order in from a local restaurant or enlist a chef to prepare food for everyone at the office. 

Of course, flexibility is critical to ensure everyone is happy and productive at work. After consulting with our employees, we currently operate on the basis of four days a week at the office and one day at home. We also adapt to individuals’ needs, so if people need to adjust their hours because of childcare issues, for example, or just need personal time out, we make sure they are supported to do so. 

Ultimately, proactively creating and promoting a positive, inclusive and open culture, where everyone feels supported and respected at work is critical for any business leader. We encourage people to speak out on any issues they are experiencing and, as leaders, we act quickly and decisively to prevent any form of bullying or abuse from taking hold. It is our job to make sure everyone at all levels feels fully supported by the leadership team. 

Another big focus has been investing in a physical workspace that people enjoy and want to spend time in. Because of the recent boost in employee numbers, we’ve moved into a much bigger space that is beautifully designed, with lots of break-out zones and a large south-facing outdoor space. It’s actually a larger space than we need, but the extra investment is worth it from the perspective of creating the best possible work environment and making sure, even long after the novelty wears off, people continue to love coming to the office. 

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