employee engagementLook up from your desk for a moment and survey the people and the atmosphere around you.

Are employees happy and smiling? Getting on with their work, but finding time to exchange pleasantries or enjoy the odd joke with colleagues?

Or is the atmosphere a bit grim? Everyone with their heads down, looking miserable and avoiding eye contact?

You might think that happiness is a personal issue (and, of course, there are many reasons unconnected with work as to why people may or may not have a smile on their face), but paying attention to happiness at work can pay dividends.

At a recent CIPD conference on the future of work, Stephanie Davies, founder of consultancy Laughology, pointed out that how happy we feel affects how we “react, respond and relate to challenges.” Humour also helps to break down barriers, makes it easier to talk about difficult issues and makes learning more memorable. Of course, a happy ship is also generally a more pleasant and productive place to work.

Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that HR starts performing stand-up or that managers start upping the joke factor in team meetings. ‘Enforced fun’ (you know, those team-building events that everyone hates) also need to be treated with caution. Paintballing, escape rooms or assault courses are not everyone’s idea of fun and if not handled carefully, can end up being divisive rather than engaging.

But according to Stephanie Davies, there are some small, free behavioural changes that managers can make that can have a real impact on how people feel at work. These are the top ten happiness hacks she shared at the conference.

1. Turn on your people before you turn on your computer.

You’d be surprised how many managers march into the office, eyes down and head straight to their desk without exchanging a word with anyone. Make sure you acknowledge everyone with a smile on your way in – and make the happiness of your people a priority.

2. Focus on small goals with teams.

Sometimes, people feel overwhelmed by what they are being asked to achieve. Break the overall objective down into small goals so that people can see that however big the task, they are making progress along the way.

3. Collaborate.

Make sure everyone has a voice and everyone has a chance to get involved. Social connections are an important part of being happy and people will get an enormous amount of value out of the opportunity to work closely with others and see how together they are making a difference.

4. Encourage ‘what’s right’ thinking rather than ‘what’s wrong’ thinking.

Try to shift the team’s mindset away from what’s gone wrong and how to fix it, towards what’s going right and how everyone can do more of it. People are generally happier and more productive when they are playing to their strengths.

5. Make contact to congratulate.

Sometimes all it takes to give people a buzz is a small gesture. An email to say thank you, a phone call to say job well done, a bar of chocolate or bunch of flowers.

6. Awards of the week.

Don’t wait until the annual appraisal or big corporate awards scheme to tell people how well they’re doing. Have an award of the week – for best customer service, going above and beyond or whatever is appropriate in your circumstances – to give people regular praise and encouragement.

7. What’s on your environmental checklist?

People’s surroundings can have an enormous impact on how they feel. Being stuck in a dark dusty corner where there’s not enough space is enough to plunge anyone into the doldrums. Find out what you can do to improve the environment your team are working in – even small changes can make a big difference.

8. Notice and know everyone.

Get to know your people on a personal level. What interests them? How are they feeling about the job? What kind of work do they like or not like doing? People need to feel that their manager is interested in them and what they do.

9. Make it simple to get the job done.

What quick fixes can you put in place to make people’s lives easier? Is there a piece of equipment that needs mending or replacing? Or maybe it’s time to review an overly bureaucratic process? It’s the small, daily frustrations that often grind people down.

10. Develop a growth mindset culture.

People who have a fixed mindset believe they are born with a certain level of intelligence and ability and they can’t do anything to change it. Those with a growth mindset think they can be good at anything and that skill comes from practice. Develop an environment that builds people’s self-esteem and helps them see that learning is possible.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.