8 simple ways to cultivate a happy workplace to boost employee morale

Why is it important to invest in creating a happy working environment?

We spend a large proportion, even the majority, of our waking lives at work. So workplace happiness is essential for overall life satisfaction. When we feel stressed, overloaded, close to burning out or anxious about work it spills over into all areas of our life.

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In our report, All Worked Up we found that 1 in 3 employees are experiencing anxiety and depression at levels that warrant further investigation. And the Wysa Employee Mental Health Report, where we examined the data from over 150,000 conversations that 11,300 employees across 60 countries had with Wysa, showed worrying trends. Over 33% of employees globally reported feeling ‘not okay’ at the start of the workday– and this number kept going up throughout the workday, reaching its peak at 40% towards the end of the workday. All in all, 75% of employees reported low to moderate energy on average throughout the day.  

  • We need a workplace where happy employees feel able to show up and be supported to do their best. It improves their mental health, enables professional growth, boosts productivity and attracts the best candidates. Where the physical environment is inspiring, the teams and people supportive, there is a strong sense of team culture, and the objective to hit the bottom line does not detract from the objective to cultivate happiness.
  • A happy workplace can lead to a positive company culture, which can help with employee retention and attracting new talent. New hires will be attracted by an employee value proposition that does its best to encourage workplace wellness and boost workplace happiness.
  • It’s also financially worth the investment. Happiness is correlated with health – and more success. In 2020 Deloitte found that for every £1 spent on employee mental health, employers see a return on investment of £5 due to reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover, and a study conducted by London Business School in 2015 reported higher performance in the FTSE for companies who look after their employees wellbeing. Early support for employee mental wellbeing has strong economic benefits and research around our stepped care model and treatments are associated with an increase of 30% in cost savings for employers. Simply put, happy employees outperform unhappy employees.

8 simple ways to cultivate a happy workplace

1. Ensure employees are being fairly compensated

Whilst it’s always an aim that people love their jobs, the reason 99% of people go to work is for the money. And that money is to enable them to have a home, buy food, pay for energy and do the things that help them live a happy life. It needs to be a wage that not only they can live on, but that fairly compensates them for the work they do. Overworked and challenged employees who are unable to manage their time and workload and feel that their performance is not being recognised will not only be unhappy but likely to leave.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows that to achieve the ultimate in ‘self-actualization’ which refers to our truest self, we need the basics such as food, shelter and heat first. When you’re overworked and underpaid, it becomes impossible to focus on anything else.

2. Make employee wellness a priority

Employee wellbeing should be a priority for your business. In recent years we have seen a new style of leadership emerge that is compassionate, supportive and focused on employee happiness as a goal in and of itself. 

It all starts with having effective leaders. Train your senior leaders to ask supportive questions and foster a work environment that puts employee happiness at its core. Encourage them to focus on work-life balance, with every team member having lunch away from their desk, getting up for a stretch at regular intervals, and making it normal to leave on time rather than have a culture of presenteeism in the team.

Assess your policies and practices, and ask yourself are you really focused on trying to create a happy workplace culture? Consider sending out a pulse survey to measure employee wellbeing to get an overall view of how your employees are doing. It might also be worth having feedback sessions with the leadership team, where employees can let you know what is working and isn’t working for them. And then making a plan to act on that feedback.

3. Invest in personal development

Personal development and professional development are crucial to employee happiness. When we are growing, learning and progressing we are more likely to be engaged in our work. Some people may enter the flow state coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, where you are in the zone and lose the sense of time – because for most employees clock watching doesn’t help!

Providing opportunities for employees to learn new skills within personal and professional development can help them feel valued and invested in the company’s success – thus boosting employee engagement. Offering training, mentoring, and career development opportunities can help employees grow and improve their performance, aligning personal goals and professional goals. Engaged employees who find work fulfilling are happier employees, and the energy they have will boost others, creating a happy work environment – and you’ll see an increase in productivity.

4. Offer wellbeing resources

Health and wellness programs can utilise a number of different resources to help create a happy workplace. Many organisations have yoga sessions for example or a chillout room. Health and wellness programs that use third partners, called employee assistance programs are a great way to provide personalised care both when people are feeling worried or stressed and for more serious mental health conditions that require clinical support. 

Wysa’s stepped model for care means that no matter where an employee is on the spectrum of wellness and mental health, there is something for them. Having a convenient and always available mental health app with access to support means that even in busy moments at work, there is an opportunity to get help, quickly and anonymously.

Wellness programs shouldn’t be a sticking plaster though, but part of a commitment to a happy workplace that puts mental health and wellbeing at its core

5. Host fun events and gatherings

Getting together with co-workers after a day of hard work in the office is a great way to feel as though you’re part of a team. 

Some businesses host Friday drinks, or have a lunchtime running club. It’s important to also get out of the office, so you could take your team to places such as paintballing, or the theatre. Whatever it is that helps to create that feeling of being part of a team in a happier workplace.

Workers who feel that life is fun at their office or location are more likely to approach work with a smile, which helps to create a happier working environment all around, fostering a sense of positivity and improving working relationships.

Building team bonds can also help with workplace resilience, as rather than employees feeling overwhelmed by a task or project, they will have already formed relationships with people who can support them.

6. Celebrate small wins

When it comes to making team members feel appreciated, it’s not only annual reviews that should be the focus. Instead it’s key to motivation and office life to help people feel valued every day on the job. You could consider bringing in a quarterly award, for particular recognition. But more important than this is everyday kudos. 

When someone impresses you, or goes beyond what they have achieved before, tell them they are doing great – and mean it with sincerity. To help improve professional development, you might ask them what meant they were able to do so well – was it planning, the team members they worked with, the project theme – and try to find ways to create those conditions again.

This recognition of great work can also help create loyal employees. One of the biggest reasons people leave a company is a lack of acknowledgement for what they do, so make sure you deliver praise regularly.

7. Offer sufficient paid leaves

Just because you’re creating a happy workplace doesn’t mean that people should never leave.  In fact, one absolutely critical way to make employees happy is to offer sufficient paid leave. Long hours without a break do not result in better delivery against objectives, but burnout and reduced productivity. Flexible working is something many employees still value and want, and the progression made during the pandemic shouldn’t be forgotten.

Make sure people get vacation time – and that they are encouraged to use it. Offer support if they need to take a day off for child care or for mental health. All Worked Up found that only 1 in 5 of us would take a day off for mental health, with most choosing to either carry on regardless or lie to their employer about the reasons. In a workplace where presenteeism is discouraged, workers are able to take time off and know that they will not be discriminated against as a result.

8. Offer other simple incentives 

Other simple incentives such as casual dress days, free snacks, or flexible work hours can help create a more relaxed and positive work environment. These incentives can help employees feel appreciated and valued, as well as boosting productivity. With a relatively low cost, they can reap rewards.

Happy workplaces are ones where people feel proud to work because they are valued and their physical and mental health is a priority. Make workplace happiness a priority, and you’ll see the benefits for your business.

Photo by fauxels 

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