The Best Ways to Keep Employees Happy, Healthy and Productive
Business| By Jessica Mudditt | August 12, 2020
Employee happiness and productivity go hand in hand. Here are some clever and simple tips on how to create a happy workplace for your team members.
The secret is out: happy employees are productive employees. An Oxford University study found workers were 13% more productive when they felt very happy, compared to when they felt very unhappy. Investing time and money into your team’s wellbeing will pay dividends in the long term, with lower staff turnover, efficiency gains and greater customer satisfaction. Check out these achievable wellbeing hacks to maximise staff happiness at work.
1. Say Thank You
Wondering how to create a happy workplace culture? Start with some praise. ‘Thank you’ is one powerful phrase that’s often overlooked in busy workplaces. Yet acknowledging the good work of your team can be hugely effective in motivating them to keep it up and strive for even greater success. The best expressions of gratitude are said promptly, sincerely and without any hint of it leading into a request for something else. Acknowledging a team member’s efforts in front of their peers can also engender a company culture of gratitude.
2. Have Fresh Fruit Delivered
What happens when the 3pm slump hits? Many people head straight to the vending machine for a sugar hit. What happens next? The dreaded sugar crash, which makes people sluggish and irritable. A better alternative is the natural sweetness and pick-me-up fresh fruit can provide. Consider having a fresh Fruit Box delivered weekly. It will not only help staff eat the recommended two pieces of fruit a day, it will make them feel valued and can also help increase employee engagement. It’s one of the easiest health and wellbeing programs in the workplace to implement.
What to Try
3. Keep Everyone Cool with Better Hydration
Water is essential to employee happiness and productivity but the average Australian only drinks 1.29 litres of water per day; way below the recommended 2.5 litres for males and 2 litres for females, according to Water Logic Australia. A drop of just 1% in our body’s total water content can affect mood and hinder cognitive abilities. So make sure your team stays well hydrated by making cool, filtered water easily accessible and encourage employees to keep a refillable bottle on their desk (or better yet, provide them as a staff perk!). Install a water dispenser, there are plenty to suit teams large and small, and who doesn’t love a quick chat by the water cooler with friends at work?
What to Try
4. Invest Time in Team Building
A cohesive and harmonious team will outperform one that feels disconnected or resentful. Build better collaboration with team building activities that are unrelated to work. You could encourage an office sports-tipping comp (it doesn’t have to involve money) or try enlisting the help of a facilitator to run a scavenger or virtual treasure hunt. Group activities will also provide a barometer to the mood within the team, enabling you to identify any trouble spots and solve problems before things turn toxic. Regular and ad-hoc social gatherings do wonders for boosting employee morale. Social distancing or virtual options may need to be taken in to account but this could include a monthly book club, a movie night or even a murder-mystery evening.
5. Prioritise a Healthy Work-Life Balance
In today’s always-on world, it is easier said than done but genuinely promoting a good work-life balance is a winner. Get it right and you’ll have a loyal staff who don’t suffer from burnout and actually look forward to coming to work. Put together a flexible work plan by consulting with all staff and revise it regularly. Flexible workplaces tend to attract a more diverse range of talent and outperform those who stick to a more rigid style of working. And remember, today’s technology means that remote working can have greater impact on efficiency than working at the office every day. Accepting flexible hours, including different start and stop times and a mix of working from home and in-office days, allows your staff to avoid the stress of peak hour while still encouraging collaboration and ease of communication between employees. Win-win.
6. Sing Happy Birthday
Celebrate both personal and team milestones; it could be a birthday, the birth of a new child, someone gaining Australian citizenship or a team winning a local business award. Gather everyone around to mark these happy occasions – it doesn’t have to take long but it will do wonders to boost employee happiness and productivity. If you have staff working remotely, make a set time to do it on Zoom or similar, so everyone feels included. Anything that makes employees feel like valued individuals will contribute enormously to maintaining a positive work environment.
7. Provide Perks (Without Blowing the Budget)
Ping-pong tables, unlimited annual leave or free lunches – these days the most successful businesses attract talent with a host of novel perks. But it doesn’t have to be costly; some of the best perks, like casual-dress Friday, are as cheap as chips (or free!). Tap into the resources around you to see what can be provided at a discounted rate, such as concert tickets or gift cards. And most importantly, ask your team members what perks they would value most, as this will deliver the most bang for your buck.
Hot Tip: There may be tax implications to some perks, so check with your accountant to help improve your bottom line.
8. Give Back to the Community
Millennials in particular need to know they are contributing to the greater good. It gives each day a sense of purpose and meaning, and keeps employee motivation high. If a social cause isn’t obvious through work, set up a workplace giving program in consultation with your team. Another way to keep employees happy is to give staff a day off each quarter to help clean a local river or reserve, or to work with a local charity or support group.
Some of the most effective workplace giving programs involve staff donating a proportion of their salary to a cause of their choice. As the Australian Taxation Office explains, the amount donated is up to the employee, and the donation is tax deductible. Donations do not affect gross income or superannuation contributions. At the end of the financial year, an employer provides employees with an email or letter outlining the amount they contributed. It breeds a feel-good company culture.
9. Foster Innovation, Even When It Doesn’t Pan Out
Encouraging innovation among all staff is a sure-fire way to keep your team performing well. If needed, set aside free time specifically dedicated to trying new things – which may or may not be directly related to a person’s day-to-day role.
Google, one of the world’s most successful businesses, has a reputation of encouraging its employees to spend up to 20% of their time on side projects. Over the years, this has led to the creation of enormously successful products that started as side projects, including Twitter, Slack, Groupon and Google Maps. Of course, any form of experimentation will involve a certain degree of dead-ends and even failures – but celebrate these as you would your wins. This will encourage your team to keep trying for that all-important breakthrough.
10. Provide Good Hygiene Essentials
Take into account work health and safety regulations by investing in desktop kits containing hand sanitiser and antibiotic wipes, and keep employees happy and healthy by ensuring surfaces are clean. This is especially important if people are sharing work areas. If everyone stays healthy, teams will not be put under pressure by having staff off sick at critical times. Throw in some sweet-smelling moisturiser and an air purifier for that extra touch. For visitors and best practice, consider having a stand at the entrance with hand sanitiser and a sign-in sheet, perhaps even a thermometer, and consider providing disposable masks and gloves for public transporters.
What to Try
11. Engage More with Your Staff
The importance of a healthy work environment can’t be stressed enough and it’s not just about physical health; mental health is just as important. Even a simple ‘How are you?’ goes a long way in making another person feel valued in busy work environments. Take a few minutes out of the day to take the pulse of your team members. Employees are not machines: they have good days and bad, and will appreciate being asked how they are doing. Friendly, regular conversations will also keep you in the loop about any more serious issues that could require intervention.
12. Offer Regular Training
Almost everyone wants to gain new skills and values learning opportunities at work. Whether it’s agreeing to let someone take a day off to attend a conference, take a downloadable class, or getting tickets for a respected networking event, learning keeps people engaged and drives employee happiness. Staff will also gain confidence through newfound skills that will spill over into their everyday responsibilities.
13. Eat a Meal Together
It could be once a quarter or twice a year, but the benefits of gathering together for a meal have been documented by researchers at Cornell University, who found it improved group performance. Less formal environments lend themselves to earnest discussions and honest sharing of views. Focus on a win for the company and praise team members who contributed. It makes people feel they are part of a family of team players.
14. Offer Professional Growth Opportunities
While job security is important, staff who feel they are stagnating in their roles without any potential for a promotion down the track will start looking elsewhere for opportunities. Avoid that by providing a clear pathway for climbing the ladder. Regular performance reviews and collaborative goal setting will keep individual players on their toes in the best possible way, resulting in higher levels of productivity. And don’t forget to publicly celebrate the promotions that are given.
15. Lead by Example
Ask yourself: are you and your senior leadership team happy and motivated? It’s hard to set a positive tone throughout an organisation if you’re not. Make an honest assessment of whether you are leading by example in the happiness stakes, and make the changes necessary to improve your own wellbeing, management style and happiness at work. It could be as simple as taking a long weekend to recharge your batteries. Happiness is contagious, after all.