The Happiness Target: What makes employees happy at work and how do you keep them happy?

It seems like you can’t throw a stone these days without hitting someone who claims they’re pursuing happiness.  We live in a virtual world, where people are in a continuous state of branding themselves.  If you look at social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest; you will see evidence of people creating profiles of who they believe they are or who they’re striving to be. They’re basically cataloging activities and selfies as evidence of their lifestyle or journey.

The workplace is really no different, it’s just on a larger scale.  Employers want to be known for their positive workplace, so they’ll often go to great lengths creating environments where people desire to work.

The problem is that sometimes there is a disconnect between what we see projected on social media sites, and what is actually taking place within the walls of a business. 

Are you striving for an authentic workplace, where people are truly happy? If so, keep reading to learn what makes employees happy at work.  Then, you will find out what to change about your work environment and how you yourself can stay happy in the workplace.  Reflecting on your own happiness is effectively helping others find and keep their happiness!

Reality vs. Virtual Reality

Before diving into what makes employees happy at work and how to get there, first, we need to gauge where you’re at.  (It’s noteworthy to point out that we’re discussing is a dissatisfied attitude with your environment, not any kind of depression or mental illness.)  What we are looking at is the ability to control our perspective and attitude. Start by recognizing the reality of your workplace versus the “virtual reality.”

So, let’s start by considering your perspective.  Do you think it’s essential to create a positive workplace?  Experts say it is.  “Positive people are at a premium these days,” says life coach Bill Speight.  “When you choose to be a positive force in your workplace you will stand out. You will be noticed. You will be appreciated. You will be different. It will help you get to that promotion… Rise to the top… Get that raise. People are screaming for a positive influence right now. You can be that in your workplace. You can make that difference.”

Like other aspects of business, there is a trickle-down effect.  If leaders and upper-management recognize the benefits of creating a positive workplace, employees will begin following. So, be mindful of walking the talk; make your workplace match what you are projecting online.

A fast way to lose credibility is to project something on social media that is not consistent with what is actually happening in your workplace.  Think of it as false advertising!

What makes employees happy at work?

Believe it or not, employee happiness starts long before an employee arrives in the office.  Studies show that employees who’ve learned to master a better work-life balance are actually happier employees.

Not only that, but it is easy to know if employees are happy at work if you know how they feel when going to bed at night and waking up in the morning. 

  • Do they feel stressed about the things that transpired at work? 
  • Are they anxious or dreading going to the office the next day? 
  • Are they counting down the hours to clock out one minute after they have clocked in? 

If you said yes to any of these things, then bad news – your employees are probably unhappy at work. 

If you answered “I don’t know” to any of these questions, then there is only one way to find out – ask!  Surveys are a great way to find out how employees feel, and now you have three questions to get your survey started!

So what things actually make employees happy at work?  Well, take a look in the mirror because having a good boss is listed among the top things that make people happy at work.  Collaborative co-workers and supportive teams also rank high on the list.  What?  Were you thinking the Keurig espresso machine and a Foosball table were the keys to happiness?

How can I change the environment of my workplace?

Once you’re familiar with your employees’ sentiments, you can get to work devising a plan for attacking that dissatisfaction, and converting it into an overall feeling of happiness.  Turn those frowns upside-down!

It would be bad advice to tell you not to talk about the elephant in the room.  So, be transparent.  Don’t try to be Sneaky Pete and pretend nothing is changing, to then suddenly adopt a sugary sweet tone and frequently high-five associates. This would probably just leave people feeling a little icky, wondering if you fell off your rocker.

Instead, try telling employees that you’ve been thinking about the ambiance of the workplace.  Explain to them that you’d like to zero in on the things that are important to the entire team. Let them know you’ll reach out for feedback.  This way they won’t be surprised if their review has a smiley face on it – they’ll pick up what you’re putting down.

No matter what you do, do something, and be intentional about what you do.  Sitting around hoping your workplace will change by way of mental vibes alone probably won’t do the trick.

How can I keep people happy at work?

Making people happy for a minute is not a hard thing to do, but keeping people happy takes effort, awareness, and stamina.

First, note what causes unhappiness

The effort it takes to keep a happy workplace is this: don’t assume your employees are happy, know that nothing is perfect.  In other words, look for sub-par things that might be flying under the radar. Don’t just wait for problems to rear their ugly heads.

 For example, let’s say you have two employees who routinely seem at odds with one another.  Rather than just sitting in your office and hoping that the problem will fix itself, how about take the two of them out for a friendly lunch?  It doesn’t mean you must necessarily address the issue or uncover the problem right in that moment, but at the very least, it’ll allow a closer view of their interactions.  After that, you can decide if it is necessary to intervene in any way, and, if so, the best strategy for intervention. 

Then, create happiness!

Become more aware of the happiness factor of your environment by regularly taking the temperature of your workplace.  Something along the lines of “friendly lunches,” as mentioned above, is one way to do this at intervals for all employees.  Again, surveys are an easy way to quickly capture honest feedback from your team. 

Also, look at the attendance log—how much vacation/sick/personal time have your employees been taking?  Have they been taking enough paid time off for themselves, in order to achieve a good work-life balance?  If not, now would be a good time to pull them into a meeting and suggest that they block off some time in their calendars to help keep themselves sane and healthy.  It might turn out to be their favorite meeting of the year with you!

Stamina is like a mental muscle, and it is something that must be exercised.  So stick with the decision to make workplace happiness a priority. 

Here’s a thought:  write it as a recurring task in your planner!  Put a checkbox next to the task, or write it as a question. How happy are my employees?  Have I taken anyone to lunch lately?  Are my employees taking appropriate time off for themselves?  Have I surveyed my employees lately?  If you do this, you’ll be forced to look at it and decide if you will do something.

I’m so happy

The biggest takeaway here is that you play a big role in the happiness of your employees.  It doesn’t mean they don’t need to take responsibility for their own happiness, but it does mean you’re an integral part of how they feel while at work.  The attitudes and efforts of those who manage them leave an impression on employees.

If you want your employees to feel happy, check your own happiness.  Then, find out what makes them happy, and make an effort to align your goals with what needs to be done to achieve that happiness.  If you make a happy workplace your target, you will not only hit the mark, but you will learn how (with practice) you can keep that arrow firmly in place and stay happy at work.

You’ll know you’ve made it when your company’s Instagram looks the same as you feel when you are among your team. #whatmakesemployeeshappyatwork #howtostayhappyintheworkplace


About Journey Employer Solutions

Service: Journey puts service above all. We believe if you offer a great price and great technology, but don’t have A+ level service, it’s worthless. 
Technology: Journey has the advantage of being forward thinking and fast moving. Our decisions are not based on stockholders, but on clients looking for advanced offerings. 
Value: Journey takes a client trusting their team as a crucial part of their business very seriously. We realize cost is an important consideration and set extremely fair pricing.

This is not meant to provide legal counsel or advice. Every situation is different. Please contact an HR professional or employment attorney before taking any action.

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