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Having a Whale of a Time: Why Happy Days at Work Drive Better Business Outcomes

August 1, 2017

“Business is more about emotions than most businesspeople care to admit.” (Dr. Daniel Kahneman)

Fetching top candidates from the crowd of talents has always been a great challenge. However, retaining them to stay onboard poses not less challenging homework for employers. Most HR leaders will agree that happiness at work is an infallible factor to ‘glue’ and motivate high-quality employees to stick with the organisation. Unfortunately, within today’s rigid and inflexible modern working environment, it seems that happiness at work is harder to find.

A study conducted by The Virgin Pulse entitled Happy Days demonstrates that being at work is not just a physical work that relies on brain and intelligence’s role alone. Instead, employee’s emotions and feelings also play an important role in keeping the business run smoothly. The study also proves that happiness at work is more than a nice-to-have element within a team, but an important factor that affects productivity levels and enhances talent retention.

According to Dr. Cynthia Ackrill, an expert in stress management, happiness at work can be defined as the deep feeling of purpose and meaning that comes when employees form good relationship with their colleagues and collaborate together to achieve mutual goals. She also says that happiness at work is not the same as pleasure or euphoria, which may have negative connotations. Conversely, happiness at work is about creating positive emotions from purposeful feelings. However, owing to the increasing job pressures and fierce business competition, this often results in an unpleasant culture and working environment.

Many leaders believe that happiness at work is closely related to employee engagement. In fact, there is difference between the two. In the study, Dr. David Batman from Virgin Pulse Institute states that although the two terms are often used interchangeably, this is not exactly accurate. Engagement is work-related emotion, while happiness covers broader area including professional arena, personal realm, and vice versa.

See: Roles Defined, What Next to Increase Employee Engagement?

Signs of Discontent

Business leaders need to understand that mental health can impact employee’s physical health. According to Dr. Batman, unaddressed negative emotions that pile up can damage both health and the bottom line. Numerous studies show that less happy workers are prone to stress-related illness such as stomach and heart complaints, backache, and headaches. When this happens, it might lead to reduced performance and increased absence which will affect the business bottom line in the long run.

Therefore, it is crucial for managers to always pay attention to signs that might indicate employee’s unhappiness in the workplace. Here are some of the bottom lines of unhappy employee:

  • Frequent unexplained or extended absence
  • Increases in presenteeism owing to sleep deprivation, reduced concentration, and lack of energy
  • Interpersonal conflict among co-workers
  • Complaints and grievance procedures
  • High number of voluntary turnover
  • Damaged organisation’s reputation

People spend most of their time at work. For that reason, businesses play a key role in leading employees toward healthier habits and happier working lives. In the research, Dr. Ackrill says that employers who actively foster happiness will get the best from their people. Happy employees will be willing to thrive in the business, rather than just survive in it.

Read also: Drawing Upon Cross-Cultural Perspectives to Employee Engagement

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