Employee Happiness: Why Workplace Culture is more important than Staff Perks

Published: 22nd October 2019 - 1:29 pm

Why workplace wellbeing culture is so much more than free lunches and massages.

How it all began

When Google promoted a software engineer to the role of “Jolly Good Fellow”, his career and the organisations’s entire workplace culture transformed.

A cheerful employee valued for his motivational qualities, went from developing search tools to spreading happiness across the organisation. Happiness became his job.

Google wasn’t the first to hire someone to enforce employee contentment. But once Google did it, employee happiness became a key metric and other organisations quickly adopted their approach.

The role remains popular today. There are more than 1,000 chief happiness officers listed on jobs website LinkedIn. But a closer look at what really makes employees happy shows that lots of companies are going about it the wrong way.

The reason for Workplace Wellbeing Culture

The theory goes that happy employees are productive employees and productive employees generate more profit.

The secondary benefit is that happy employees don’t leave, cutting recruitment costs and increasing profits. So organisations investing in fostering a happiness culture can see a good return on investment.

Expedia, for example, offer up to $14,000 USD per year, per person, in travel perks, to keep people happy. Other firms offer unlimited vacations, free food, even office toys to keep the happiness levels high.

Gimmicks or Wellbeing culture?

But the answer to employee happiness is not in the form of bean bags and ping-pong tables. It is the company’s culture and opportunities that make an organisation a good place to work.

There is a real difference between gimmicks and working in a well-being culture – one that values people, manages them by praise and reward rather than fault-finding, and that enables them to work flexibly and provides them with work-life balance. Research shows that these are the real keys to happiness.

study of start-up businesses found that 57% had at least one member who worked remotely. Companies surveyed said this was a logistical choice. But there’s an added benefit: the trust and autonomy of allowing staff to work remotely can contribute more to their happiness than dragging them into an office stocked with free fruit.

Research shows that employee happiness is also determined by their personalities. In a large study of 3,200 employees it was found that certain personality types experienced more “good days at work” than other types.

The study discovered that employees who scored highly on positive emotions and enthusiasm have the highest number of good days at work.

In case studies of major employers – including Rolls Royce, BT, John Lewis Partnership, Network Rail and the UK Civil Service, focusing on employees positive emotions boosts the bottom line.

Happiness and contentment at work is not about sushi for lunch and massages at your desk; it is about how bosses treat those that work for them.

If you would like to read our previous blog post on how HR Leaders can increase employee resilience click here.

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