If you took the time to understand and create an environment that made your employees happier, how committed would they be? How productive would they be?
Sodexo’s Institute for Quality of Life knows that the workplace environment affects employees’ motivation, engagement, and productivity – and thus organizational performance. Finding ways to boost employees’ well-being and happiness can also improve retention and reduce the costs associated with absenteeism and turnover.
While employees can certainly find ways to improve their happiness at work – see Mashable’s blog, “6 Ways to Be Happier at Work This Summer” – employers can play an equal, if not greater, role in making the workplace a more positive and motivating place to be every day.
Below are a few ways to help boost employees’ happiness and give them a more positive outlook at work this summer. For more information about trends affecting employees and the workplace environment, see Sodexo’s 2013 Workplace Trends Report.
1. Encourage Socialization
Your employees will be happier and more excited to come into work every day if they are friendly with their co-workers and have opportunities for social interactions. Fostering better relationships among your employees can also boost collaboration, teamwork, and innovation.
In addition to holding celebrations or team-building events, consider making environmental changes that promote socialization. Create dedicated spaces for collaboration and brainstorming sessions, and encourage your employees to utilize them. Make these spaces bright, clean, and inviting, include plenty of white board space, and let your employees do the rest!
2. Recognize & Reward Your Employees
An easy way to make your employees happier is to acknowledge their hard work and reward them for a job well done. Showing that you appreciate your employees will encourage them to go above and beyond, and creating a work environment that celebrates success will foster company loyalty.
Keep in mind that rewards don’t have to be costly – food is an inexpensive treat, or you could allow employees to “dress down” on Fridays. For many, a simple “thank you” is enough, so don’t forget to recognize even small achievements whenever possible – a little recognition can go a long way in improving employee happiness and job satisfaction.
3. Improve the Physical Workplace
If you think the most important thing your employees need this summer is a good air conditioning system, you might be missing out on other ways to improve the work environment – and increase employee happiness. Bringing in natural light and outdoor elements like plants, for instance, can boost mood, enhance well-being, and improve focus. And did you know the color scheme in the workplace can affect employees? Golden yellow hues are known to improve innovation, memory, and mood, while the color red can provide an energy boost.
You might also consider creating spaces for your employees to relax or socialize with co-workers. Doing so will demonstrate that you think of them as “whole” individuals with a broad spectrum of needs, whose happiness and well-being really is genuinely important to you.
4. Be Flexible
People today are busier than ever, and the 9-5 workday no longer fits everyone’s lifestyle. Being flexible with the schedule is a great way to keep your employees happy. Consider letting employees start earlier or later to avoid rush hour, and be more flexible with lunch breaks. Or allow them to work an extra hour Monday through Thursday so they can take a half day on Fridays. Depending on your workplace, you might also permit employees to work remotely from time-to-time. No matter what type of flexible arrangements you offer, your employees will surely appreciate them and be happier as a result.
5. Make Your Workplace Healthy
Sitting at a desk all day can be draining, and many employees struggle to find time to exercise. Remember that healthy employees are happy employees – and they also have more energy and are sick less often. But you don’t have to install an onsite fitness center to promote health in your workplace. Encourage employees to form walking groups, involve the whole team in a fun fitness challenge, or offer an onsite group exercise class once a week.
And don’t forget about offering healthy food options for your employees. If you have an onsite café, make sure they sell nutritious meal and snack options. Stock the kitchen and vending machines with low-calorie drinks and snacks. Make the healthy choice the easy choice – your employees will thank you!
6. Provide Opportunities for Growth & Learning
Employees are happier and more engaged in their work when they have opportunities to learn and grow – especially if that growth can help advance their careers. You can encourage employees to enhance their skills by offering tuition reimbursement or funding for conferences and workshops. Less costly options like a career mentor-ship program can be equally effective. No matter what option you choose, your employees will surely be happier and more motivated if they believe their employer is invested in helping them achieve their potential. And improving your employees’ knowledge and competence ultimately benefits the business.
Above all, don’t forget to communicate with your employees and listen to their opinions. Because not only are your employees your most valuable resource, they will also have the most insight on how to make your workplace a more positive and motivating place to be every day.
Rachel Permuth, PhD, MSPH, is the Sr. Director of Workplace Research at Sodexo.