Employee Happiness: A Little Goes a Long Way

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Sometimes the job of keeping employees happy, focused and engaged in their work seems almost insurmountable. The larger the organization, the more complex the system of interactions that impact people every day. Removing all the stress and struggle from the workplace is impossible—and not even desirable since a certain amount of stress serves as a catalyst for growth, achievement and change. But finding a simple way to smooth out the daily bumps and improve employee happiness? That's something worth considering.

Improving Employee Outlook and Motivation

Mood Matters at Work

If we can’t reduce the complexity of work and eliminating stress is not an option, what can we do to help improve employee outlook and keep them plugged in at work? Employers have tried everything from sugar highs to unlimited vacations, with inconsistent results. Perhaps we’re thinking too big. Maybe, as a recent report from Plasticity[1] suggests, it’s not that complicated and little things really do mean a lot.

One of the most interesting findings in their research is the fact that happier employees are less stressed at work–even when their work is exactly as overwhelming as their co-workers’ jobs. Happier workers are simply harder to overwhelm and stress out. They’re also more focused, have a more positive outlook and are willing to do more work.  What’s more intriguing is how Plasticity arrived at these results by measuring the impact of one little intervention. 

They divided a sample set of employees into two groups and asked them to complete a brief survey about their mood, stress levels etc. Before responding, half the sample was given a brief task to complete that “involved identifying something positive in five different spheres of life – work, relationships, meanings, emotions and personal growth.” This one small activity led to significant differences in the responses of the two groups.

Here’s what they found:

  • Only 3% of respondents who completed the task indicated that they were “very stressed at work” compared to 37% of those who didn’t complete the task.
  • Respondents who completed the positive task reported 16% higher rate of overall happiness than their counterparts, who didn’t complete the task.
  • 65% of those who completed the task reported “High Focus” compared to 15% of those who didn’t complete the task.
  • Those who completed the positive task expressed a more positive perception of their work, found it less difficult and expressed greater willingness to take on additional work.
  • H.E.R.O.[2] index scores were 7% higher among those who completed the task compared to those who didn’t.
  • Those who completed the exercise also rated their overall Life Satisfaction at 16% higher than the control group.

The results of this study suggest that something as simple as reminding employees of the many positives in their lives is enough to significantly elevate their mood and generate a waterfall of side benefits. Who knew?

Three thoughts stay with me after reading this report:

  1. When it comes to employee happiness, a little can go a long way, but employers still need to identify which little things make the biggest difference to their people.
  2. Gratitude is powerful. As Melody Beattie so aptly stated: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” 
  3. Given the evident power of gratitude, Employers might also benefit from a self-imposed task requiring them to identify positive things about their team, division, company, etc.  


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[1] Scott Leith (2014) Improving Employee Outlook and Motivation: The 5 Spheres of Activity. http://www.plasticitylabs.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Improving-Employee-Outlook-Motivation1.pdf

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Motivation in the Workplace: What Drives Us?

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Employee engagement has to be the #1 HR buzz phrase for this decade. How do we get employees to plug in and turn on at work? How do we foster the level of emotional and mental connection with the company and the job that allows them to put forward their best efforts, and love doing it? In their efforts to compete and achieve sustainable growth, employers offer everything from foosball to catered lunches and unlimited vacation to keep employees happy. Sometimes it works and people shine and companies win awards for being great places to work. But sometimes it doesn&rsquo …

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Employee Engagement is Intrinsically Social We know that employee engagement is both important and also woefully low in most organizations. Despite all the resources put into traditional engagement initiatives, the needle still isn’t moving. Why? The problem with traditional engagement efforts is that it is viewed as the domain of managers. Meaning, let’s give data and leadership training to front-line managers, and they’ll do a better job of engaging their workers. That’s a good start, but it doesn’t tap into the most powerful force for engagement: the workers themselves. According …

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