We spend half of our lives at work; so everyone should be doing work that they enjoy in an environment that makes them happy. How important should supporting employee-happiness be to management and even to government?
Happiness will help you reach your goals - build better relationships, be more productive, get better customer satisfaction ratings, etc.
People will like you when you’re happy and in turn want to do business with you which will lead to success, more job satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and HAPPINESS. Companies with happy employees tend to far-outperform their competitors.
Happy employees are often much more resilient and can overcome adversity faster and more effectively. When an obstacle gets thrown at a happy person they won't crumble, they are emotionally better equipped to overcome obstacles and rise to challenges.
With all this in mind, certainly a happy workforce should be a high priority.
What makes us happy at work?
Confucius said: “Choose a job that you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
The company one works for
Team culture: Building robust, collaborative and focused teams is imperative to happiness in the workplace. Teams who see themselves as mutually accountable for the group-outcome provide each other with the support to achieve this.
Management style: What works for Jack might not work for John. Managers with flexibility in style get the best outcomes from their people. Leadership style should adapt to the task, people and specific circumstances.
Company's reputation: Does the company demonstrate good values and honour agreements with customers/clients? Does the company hold a positive brand image? Do employees feel proud when identified with the company?
Status: This could include a prestigious job title, certain responsibilities attributed to seniority, portfolio of work one is assigned to, etc.
The people one works with
Kind, considerate, focused people who do all that they can to contribute to an awesome working environment. You spend more time with these people than you do your own family, you should like the people you work with and employers should care about team-fit when recruiting new staff.
The support one receives
Training and transparency and clear documentation on procedures and protocols so that employees know what is expected, expectations are realistic and guidance is given to help achieve goals.
The rewards one receives
Remuneration, benefits, internal recognitions that make people feel valued
The growth opportunities available
- Understanding your employees' personal career objectives and helping them achieve their goals while retaining that talent within the company. Employees want to feel valued, supported and that you have their best interests in mind.
Measure performance, have KPI’s in place and provide regular feedback.
Globally, job satisfaction is most strongly correlated with a work-life balance, by contrast, compensation consistently ranks as the least significant factor when it comes to considering what makes people happy at work. Work-life balance correlates closely with overall job satisfaction.
Denmark Has the Happiest Workforce in the World
A Danish work-week is on average just 33 hours long and paid leave and holiday leave are substantial. In many cases, employees are entitled to a full year of parental leave. The work-life balance enjoyed in Denmark is second-to-none.
Furthermore, employers have more freedom to hire and fire staff to accommodate for times of expansion and downturn, while covering all employees with up to two years of government-paid benefits at as much as 90% of the original salary.
Danish citizens both in and out of work have access to an extraordinary amount of support and professional training, and most higher-education in Demark is free, including universities, business and medical schools meaning citizen can pursue their greatest aspirations and be what they want to be. Since the mid-1800s, Denmark has focused on life-long education of its workers.
Denmark, it seems, has long known the value of a balanced and supportive workplace which places its employees’ happiness high on the list of priorities.
Japan is Literally Working People to Death
In Japan, there's not even a term for "work-life balance". What there is, is a word for "death by overwork." It's "karoshi", and it's considered an inevitable result of Japan's notoriously gruelling work culture. Japanese people are actually working themselves to death. Record low levels of unhappiness is actually killing people in Japan. Long hours and compulsory social engagements. by 2015, claims of ‘death by overwork’ had risen to a record high of 2,310.
Karōshi (過労死), which can be translated literally as "overwork death" in Japanese, is occupational sudden mortality. The major medical causes of karōshi deaths are heart attack and stroke due to stress and a starvation diet. This phenomenon is also widespread in South Korea, where it is referred as 'gwarosa' (과로사/過勞死). In China, overwork-induced suicide is called 'guolaosi' (过劳死)
How does New Zealand fair?
According to the Happy Planet Index, NZ is the 38th happiest country in the world. New Zealand fared well in the categories of life expectancy, inequality and well-being. The “Wellness in the Workplace” survey released by BusinessNZ in 2013 found nine out of ten enterprises considered improving employee wellbeing as either desirable or a priority. A quarter of companies named it top priority. The survey also found 61% of New Zealand companies with more than 100 employees had a wellness programme in place.
“For around $100 per employee per year you can put in place an effective wellbeing programme that has some real, tangible benefits for your employees….if you imagine giving staff a $100 pay rise they are probably going to be underwhelmed. In contrast, $100 spent on helping you lose weight, feel healthier and happier has a higher perceived benefit for an employee.” - Says Louise Schofield, co-founder of corporate wellness company, Vitality Works
Personally, I think the majority of New Zealand businesses generally maintain a very healthy work-life balance and make employee-happiness a priority. However, I certainly think there is a lot more that could be done in this area. Some of the I would like to see become the norm are more flexible work hours, flexibility around remote work for certain job-types to prevent unnecessary commuting to and from highly congested commercial areas, more companies offering insurance and income protection benefits, better support from government for working parents in terms of day-care and before/after-school-care, more team building activities, companies promoting healthy living and exercise, better flexibility around annual leave, support for further learning, and employers who get to know their employees’ personal and professional goals and help them to attain those goals.
Below is a snapshot of the activity that some NZ organisations are taking to positively impact people’s happiness at work:
Rocketwerkz in Christchurch founded by unorthodox entrepreneur, Dean Hall, offers unlimited annual leave to their 40 staff, profit sharing, open financial statements, and Fridays are sports days (and also a time for staff to bring up anything they are happy/confused/sad about). Hall’s philosophy “When someone is here at work we want them in the zone and doing work…we send people home if their cat dies, or if someone has had a bad break-up.” Gosh, you wouldn’t have to worry about retaining staff – who would leave a company that offers you that kind support?
SkyCity offers a slew of discounts including heavily discounted (next-to-nothing) parking, cooked breakfast ($2.50), daily laundry services for staff required to wear uniforms, and financial assistance.
AMP gives full time employees 12% superannuation on top of their base salary, in addition to contributing 3% to KiwiSaver. Plus free life cover, income protection, health insurance and additional subsidised insurances. The list of benefits doesn’t end there, it continues on to includes health checks, over 14 weeks of full paid parental leave and unlimited unpaid parental leave. New Zealand could do with more companies like AMP.
Vodafone also offers substantial paid parental leave and paternity leave, typical benefits you would expect from a company of their size (health checks, flu shots, discounts, a smartphone) but the also offer two benefits I wish we saw more companies offering in New Zealand; earn while you learn and 2 weeks paid volunteering.
These are just a few of the many companies in New Zealand making Kiwis happier at work. There are many, many more. If you work for a great company and want to share what makes you happy at work, please share your good fortune in the comments and hopefully we can inspire more businesses to see the benefit of happy staff.