January’s almost over. The most depressing Monday of the year has gone, apparently, perhaps taking the New Year’s resolutions with it. As we look to the rest of the year, how do we create workplace happiness?
1. Keep it real
Most people will have started the year with a new set of objectives, sales levels returning to zero, and a reminder of the goals and focus of the organisation. It can be overwhelming just thinking about it and the pressure to perform at a higher level can be too much for some. As almost 80% of us fail to achieve our New Year’s resolutions, according to the Mental Health Foundation, some of us could be finishing January feeling like the year’s written off already, with the failure of yet another diet, that life-enriching hobby not yet started. But it’s not over yet. Setting realistic goals throughout the year gives us not only something to work to, but a sense of progression, accomplishment, and confidence and belief in our abilities.
2. Keep your eye on the action
Action for Happiness says that one of one of the keys to a happier life is connecting with people. Being in an environment where you feel able to talk openly and freely and make positive social connections really matters. For many working in HR, the new year starts with planning the next employee engagement survey, and can bring a sense of positive anticipation. “This year’s survey is going to go really well – we’ll ask the right questions, get a great response rate, share results and most importantly take action better than last year…”. One of the most difficult aspects is the post-survey action planning part, especially when the majority of effort has been used to launch and communicate the survey itself. The danger is that we can be left feeling blue when our initial good intentions and efforts don’t result in that positive change through action, and employees question how much the organisation values what they have to say.
3. Get regular
Whether it’s personal fitness or workplace objectives, having a plan of action, a schedule to work to and dates to track progress are key to getting the most out of what you’re doing. Our recent HR Reflections showed that organisations with the greatest confidence in how effective their annual surveys are at driving improvements are the ones that supplement these with regular pulse surveys to check progress and measure change. We found that 81% of organisations that use annual surveys along with regular pulse surveys are confident they see improvements, compared to 65% that only survey annually.
4. Be authentic
Action for Happiness shows that levels of trust vary widely between countries. Only 30% of people in the UK and US say that most people can be trusted, which is a dramatic fall from the 60% this stood at 40 years ago. We could blame the internet for a rise in scepticism with a rise in information, but in Scandinavia the level is still over 60%, and it’s one of the happiest places to be.
You can’t build trust without authenticity. Leaders must show that they have a genuine belief in the organisation’s goals, leading by example and role modelling values. If they are inconsistent, then so will their team, and this consistency needs to be held up throughout all levels of the organisation. Trust breaks down when the senior management says one thing and line managers act in a contradictory way.
Many of the leaders we interviewed as part of our research mentioned humility alongside authenticity. Leaders are often assumed and expected to have all the answers and to be the experts, but having the humility to confess their limitations and encourage others to contribute their skills makes leaders more real and accessible.
5. Step up the health and wellbeing policies
Health and fitness features somewhere in most people’s New Year resolutions but spending the majority of our time at work can make achieving those goals tricky. In our HR Reflections survey we found that 46% of UK organisations expect their emphasis on health and wellbeing to increase over the coming 1-2 years. We also found that organisations in Europe offer more health and wellbeing benefits compared to UK organisations, most notably 26% of European organisations said they provide stress management support to employees compared to 41% in Europe. Half of European organisations ergonomically design their office environment to enhance employees’ mental and physical health compared to a quarter of UK organisations.