When your employees are happy, they perform better. And that’s not just a feel-good saying; the science backs it up. A study by Oxford University found that happy employees are 13% more productive in the same amount of time. Other studies indicate that satisfied employees are also more creative, better at customer support and less likely to leave for another job.
With a tight labor market enticing millions of employees to search for greener pastures, it’s more important than ever to keep your workforce happy and productive. Fortunately, your efforts don’t have to break the bank. Use these cost-effective strategies to build a positive work environment that empowers employees to be their best:
- Offer encouragement and praise effort.
- Incorporate breaks into your culture.
- Ask for input from your employees.
- Emphasize organizational values when hiring.
Offer encouragement and praise effort
An important first step is to empower your employees to share their ideas and explore new opportunities, whether it’s a side project or furthering their professional education. Encourage employees at all levels to speak up when they see ways to improve their individual roles, optimize work processes or create new business opportunities.
When you hear a good idea, act on it and acknowledge the employee who shared their thoughts. According to the recognition platform company Nectar, recognizing employees for their ideas shows that you reward innovation and encourages your staff to contribute even more ideas.
And while outcomes deserve to be celebrated, it’s even more important to praise effort. Your employees want to be recognized for the work they put in each day, even when a final product isn’t immediately visible. A study by Gallup found that praise was one of the best ways to increase performance and reduce turnover.
Incorporate breaks into your culture
Hard work is a virtue, but working too hard is counterproductive and can quickly lead to dissatisfaction at work. A 2022 report from the American Psychological Association notes that employee stress and burnout are rampant right now. Amid these challenges are opportunities to improve employee well-being by encouraging breaks and helping employees reenergize.
Breaks should be a mix of big and small, and immediate and long term, to target different needs:
- Short breaks during the day — Short breaks help reduce fatigue and improve creativity. Ideas include walking around the building, getting up to stretch, grabbing a coffee, taking a lunch break away from the desk and checking in with a colleague.
- Team-building activities — Mixing work with fun is another way to increase happiness at work. Examples include team picnics, holiday celebrations, volunteer efforts, charity drives and team sports like office Olympics.
- Time off to recharge — Short breaks are important in day-to-day life, but longer chunks of time away from the office improve mental health, help manage stress and even boost productivity, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Encouraging your employees to use their paid time off will increase satisfaction and reduce burnout. Be sure to ask leaders to set an example by taking time off themselves.
- Work-life balance — To promote sustainability, measure productivity in output rather than time and increase employee flexibility and autonomy. Helping employees stay fresh for the long haul pays off. Employees in sustainable roles show more loyalty, resilience and productivity, according to a 2022 report from McKinsey & Company.
Ask for input from your employees
Making employees happier can be as simple as asking how they’re doing and how you can help. Ideas for gathering input include:
- Scheduling monthly check-in meetings — Regular discussions can help your organization gauge morale, identify challenges before they become bigger issues, and discover ways to improve your work environment.
- Holding focus groups with your top employees — Your high performers know how to succeed in your organization. Get them together and ask about what’s working and what can be done better. As they speak, listen for common themes and values. What you find may help others succeed.
- Surveying employees at all levels — You never know where the next great idea will come from, which is why it’s important to empower all of your employees. Ask them to suggest job improvements that make their lives easier. When you act on their ideas, they will feel heard and appreciated — key ingredients for a happy, productive workforce.
Emphasize organizational values when hiring
When your employees offer input, implement that feedback into your hiring practices. This isn’t to say you want a homogenous workforce. Diversity in working styles and experience can benefit your organization. But a core set of values helps unify your employees and get them working toward a common mission.
For example, hiring employees who value teamwork over individual accolades can lead to a more collaborative, positive work environment. That positivity will improve employee happiness and organizational success. According to SHRM, toxic workplaces cost U.S. companies billions of dollars each year in turnover and absenteeism.
Be authentic in your efforts
It’s important for these strategies to come from a place of authenticity. If employees sense that you are more concerned about boosting the bottom line, these efforts could backfire. Demonstrating genuine empathy and regard for your employees’ well-being can help them find deeper meaning in their work. And, as noted in the Oxford study, happy employees get more done.
For additional strategies on improving employee satisfaction and productivity, talk with your insurance broker or benefits adviser. They can help you pinpoint employee benefits, hiring practices and a workplace culture that promote sustainability, work-life balance and mental health.
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