Three ways HR can boost happiness at work

How ‘happy’ is your workplace? Do jokes get thrown around the office? Are people smiling and engaging with one another? Or is a silent, uncomfortable atmosphere where everyone keeps their heads down?

Recent research by Ivan Robertson and Carry Cooper tells us that employees’ happiness at work is, to some extent, determined by the personality and traits of the individual. If you’re inherently a positive person, you’ll bring that attitude with you to work.

That being said, the research also shows personality factors account for only 15% of peoples’ happiness at work, leaving 85% determined by situational factors – i.e. the relationship an employee has with their manager, the resources available to them, their work/life balance or the physical work environment they’re in.

It’s no secret happy workers are more productive. Employees who come in everyday with a smile on their face and feel fulfilled by their work are unsurprisingly more engaged and less likely to leave.

The unique position HR holds in a company means they’re well placed to influence and improve employee wellbeing in the long-term as well as the short, so here’s some ways you can do your bit to boost the happiness factor at work.

Illustration of employees jumping in the air

Make soft skills a priority

At some point in your career, you’ve probably worked under a difficult manager and will be aware of the damaging impact it can have on how you feel about your work. A YouGov survey last year found that 55% of respondents had left a job because of bad management, and 58% did not think managers were equipped to deal with the human and emotional side of their role.

Part of the solution is to focus on the importance of soft skills in the future of work. Cary Cooper amongst others has highlighted the need for line managers to be equipped with strong social and emotional intelligence, encouraging all companies to conduct a soft skills audit.

For HR, that means taking a step back and looking at the overall picture, so you can ensure training budgets are spent in the right areas. Training programmes have traditionally focused on hard, technical skills, but with a greater demand for human and emotional intelligence amongst managers in the future, soft skills training should be a priority.

Build teams around positive players

If those employees who are intrinsically happier are more likely to be productive, surely employers should look for happiness as a quality when recruiting? Although logical, it’s rarely that simple – some employees who have very strong, specific skills may find it more difficult to have a positive day at work, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable.

Assigning them onto projects with employees who are more openly positive can make a big difference to their overall wellbeing. After all, happiness is infectious, and will spill over onto those who are exposed to it.

Talk to team leaders about how to build optimal teams, and what their own attitude and approach can do to lift moral.

Take a fresh look at your company’s culture

As management guru, Peter Drucker, is alleged to have said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. If exit interviews, high absence levels, poor staff retention, online reviews in sites like Glassdoor or simply gut feel, suggests the majority of your workers are having more bad days than good, chances are there’s a fundamental problem with your company’s culture.

Culture usually starts at the top, so arm yourself with the facts and go talk to the senior management team. If you can show how much high levels of absence or staff churn are costing the business, and have ideas on how to fix it, you should find it easy to win their backing.

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