Five ways HR can boost happiness at work

Tackling employee mental wellbeing is an ongoing challenge for managers and HR teams. There’s a constant struggle in figuring out what keeps people motivated, engaged and happy.

It’s no secret that happy and positive emotions bring about many benefits not just in the workplace but to one’s overall wellbeing. Employees who come in every day with a smile on their face and feel fulfilled by their work are unsurprisingly more engaged and less likely to leave.

happiness at work

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. Here are some ways you can do your bit to boost the happiness factor at work.

1. 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. Part of the solution is for managers to focus on the importance of soft skills. 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 and ensuring training budgets are spent in the right areas. Training programmes have traditionally focused on hard, technical skills. With a greater demand for human and emotional intelligence in managers of the future, soft skills training should also be a priority.

2. Build teams around happy 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 happy and positive day at work, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable.

Assigning ‘less happy’ employees to projects with happier employees can make a big difference to the former’s overall wellbeing. After all, happiness is infectious and can spill over onto those who are exposed to it. Just keep an eye on the team to ensure the more positive members aren’t deflated by their less happy colleagues.

HR should talk to team leaders about how to build optimal teams, and what their own attitude and approach can do to lift morale.

3. Take a fresh look at your company’s culture

If exit interviews, high absence levels, poor staff retention, online reviews on sites like Glassdoor or simple gut feel suggest the majority of your workers are having more bad days than good, chances are there’s a fundamental problem with your company’s culture.

With 36% of the UK national workforce having worked from home at some point during the pandemic, it’s no surprise that there will be some changes in your company culture. And with allegations of bullying, discrimination and other problematic issues in the workplace coming to light in recent months, HR needs to ensure these problems don’t go unnoticed.

Tackling negative aspects of a company culture can be hard. Start by arming yourself with the facts and talking to your senior management team. If you can show how much high levels of absence or staff churn, for example, are costing your business, and present your ideas on how to fix it, you should find it easy to win their backing.

4. Embed gratitude in the workplace

Homeworking for a long time may have left some employees feeling invisible and unappreciated, which can be demotivating and further increase a sense of loneliness. These issues can be mitigated when employees feel that their time and effort are appreciated.

A shoutout on your company’s HR portal or handwritten thank you card to employees for their latest project, sale, etc. can go a long way in making sure your employees know that what they do matters.

5. Be inclusive

Everyone is experiencing the pandemic differently, especially with the various social issues that have been raised at the same time. When implementing major changes, like work-from-home policies or DEI initiatives, employees from diverse backgrounds and with different viewpoints (from across the organisation) should be invited to voice their opinions before changes are made.

People feel happier when they know they’re listened to and their thoughts are taken into consideration. This is also a good way to get buy-in, after all, employee participation is essential for the success of people initiatives.

While being happy is, at the end of the day, down to the individual, you’re highly likely to reap benefits by making your workplace as positive an environment as possible.

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