June 15, 2021
Performance Management 04 June 2020
What Drives Happy Workers?
Jessica Thiefels
how to drive a happy workforce

Studies have proven time and time again that happy workers are productive workers. Which is why you want more happy employees in your office. The trick is figuring out how to make your workers happy—especially if you have a small budget that doesn’t allow for more perks, raises, or bonuses. 

Luckily, employees don’t just want money and “things”—they want better communication, freedom to speak up at work, and improved work-life balance

Learn more about how to use these simple changes to drive happy workers in your organization.


Open Communication Between Leaders and Employees

Engaged employees are happy employees and few things are better at driving engagement than successful communication between leaders and employees. Why? 

“When employees feel they can communicate freely with their leaders and each other, they’re more likely to feel valued, satisfied and motivated at work,”

Open communication allows leaders to be on the same level as their employees. Rather than being unavailable and intimidating, they have an open-door policy and communicate with employees on a regular basis. As a leader, this can take shape in many ways:

  • Always say hi to employees when you walk into work. This small action can have major benefits, including making employees feel valued by someone they likely take assignments from and look to for mentorship.

  • Keep an open-door policy. Welcome employees to come and chat about anything and everything. If you have a busy schedule, simply require that they add it to your calendar, rather than walking in impromptu.

  • Give praise frequently. “By communicating praise instead of negativity, the employee feels empowered, supported, and will work to the edge of their abilities to do the best job possible,” says Dora Wang, employee engagement researcher for TINYpulse.


Freedom to Share Ideas

In her TEDx Talk, Building a Psychologically Safe Workplace, Amy C. Edmondson says a “psychologically safe workplace” is one where there’s a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. However, despite being motivated at work, many employees still don’t speak up for fear of being judged or considered ignorant, incompetent or intrusive.

When this happens, employees split their personalities, suggests Emilia Bratu, of Hubgets

“… the need to be accepted and acknowledged in the workplace makes us self-inflict a pressure to look ‘professional’, I.E. to hide vulnerabilities, to leave fears, outbursts, anxieties, and insecurities at home,”

Yet, happy workers aren’t afraid at work; they feel safe and supported. To boost happiness, and alleviate these fears, you have to build a psychologically safe workplace. To do so, take a few tips from Edmonson:

  • Frame the work as a learning problem, not an execution problem. Verbally recognize the uncertainty and importance of everyone’s input.

  • Acknowledge your own fallibility. Say something like, “I may miss something. I need to hear from you.”

  • Model curiosity. “Ask a lot of questions. That actually creates a necessity for voice,” says Edmonson.


Better Work-Life Balance

Millennials value work-life balance, but they’re not the only ones. This is in line with what business owners want as well! 

With both owners and employees desiring to prioritize having a good work-life balance, it's important for the organization to allow for this balance by decreasing time spent in office with better time-management and goal-setting.

Not to mention, working long days isn’t good for your business or your employees. In fact, it decreases productivity, causes health problems (which leads to more sick days), and is not cost-effective, according to John Rampton, entrepreneur and investor.

Helping employees establish work-life balance makes things easier for everyone involved. Luckily, you can bring a better work-life balance to your organization by making a few tweaks. Here are a few ideas. 

  • Flextime: Allow employees to come in when they want, and leave when they want, as long as they put in eight hours. In many cases, companies that do this have a specific time of day when every employee is required to be there (like, between the hours of 10 am and noon), and put some restrictions on the time. For example, you might say employees can come in no later than 10 am and leave no later than 7 pm.

    Another variation of flextime would be to set employee days based on goals, tasks, and milestones. If employees complete goals, stay on schedule then they may stay longer than 8 hours some days, but leave earlier on others. It's all about trust and accountability between both parties. 
  • Mentor Programs: Mentor programs can encourage a healthy and transparent company culture. It also allows for easier training, better employee relations and an easier way to track the learning and productivity of all employees.
  • Unlimited PTO: A number of companies are now offering unlimited PTO. Most have found that employees actually take less time off than when they have a set amount of days or weeks.
  • Remote Programs or Offices: Depending on the setup of your organization you may be able to implement remote days or open remote offices.  This can sometimes drive productivity as well as retention in your workforce. Work with your department and see what will be best for your company as each employee and organization will have different needs and perform at various levels. 

    With recent events leading to increased remote work, it can feel nearly impossible to get away from the office. Employees worldwide are feeling overwhelmed by their work duties due to the switch to digital and burnout rates are on the rise as many are not accustomed to the work from home environment. Be sure to provide proper training and clear evaluation metrics so that your remote program can be successful.
  • Monthly half-days: Give employees one half-day Friday each month, “just for fun.” Employees will appreciate getting the “go-ahead” to leave work early and be able to kick their weekend off right. 

Happy employees are driven by communication, the freedom to share ideas, and a better work-life balance. Consider how you can use these ideas to boost happiness and morale among your employees. For more insights into how to engage and retain your top talent, schedule a time with one of our specialists!

Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and has managed a number of employees in her various roles. She now owns her own consulting business and has been featured on Forbes. She’s also shared her business insights on StartupNation, Manta, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jthiefels  for more small business tips and ideas.