Happy Hours at Work? Yes! Well, Sorta.

In a lifetime, most of us will spend an average of 90,000 hours at work. To keep us engaged (or to just keep us…period), employers would be wise to make most of those “happy hours.” We’re not promoting a cash bar in the office, but it’s definitely time to bring joy to the workplace.
After you read why happiness is worth the effort, read on for simple ways to make it happen.

Happiness Boosts the Mood and the Bottom Line

Studies have found quantitative value in keeping employees happy.

  • Increased productivity — a Warwick University study found a 12% productivity increase when people were offered a treat or watched a comedy show before performing math tasks.
  • Better retention — happy workers hang around longer than miserable ones. Harvard Business Review shows that nine out of 10 people were willing to earn less money to do something meaningful that made them happy.
  • Improved collaboration and creativity — in “The Happiness Advantage,” author Shawn Anchor shows that the brain solves problems easier and more creatively when a person is in a good mood.
  • Reduced health care costs — a review by several psychology professors found that “greater contentment, optimism and a sense of purpose are tied to better health…and even avoiding acute illnesses.”

One Write On Target client has embraced this concept with a creative workspace unlike anything we’ve ever seen. “We designed our headquarters to maximize collaboration and creativity. As we work together to make the world a more thoughtful and caring place, the design and layout of our building give our associates options to thrive as individuals, and as teams, in this creative workspace,” says Chris Haffke, General Counsel and Chief HR Officer at American Greetings.

Bring the Joy without Breaking the Bank

Employee happiness generally comes down to three things, according to Annie McKee, author of “How to Be Happy at Work”:

  1. Purpose — what’s my company’s vision for the future, and do I fit in?
  2. Hope — are my efforts here making a difference in my personal vision of the future?
  3. Relationships — are there people around here I like, and can we do things together?

The first two can be addressed by merely spending time with your employees, professionally and socially. Sure, schedule monthly or quarterly check-ins, but also roam around the office and chat. Hang out in the break room. Be a regular person. Make those check-ins matter by talking about how that person is contributing to the company’s bottom line and to the future vision.

To address the third happiness factor, employees need to have great relationships in an environment that encourages teamwork. Great relationships are hard to form if people don’t have opportunities to easily and casually talk. And to encourage teamwork, you need a space that’s inviting and inspires creativity.

One quick fix is to start meetings with something positive. It can be as simple as dedicating the first 15 minutes to snacks (you’re buying) and camaraderie. Everyone will be happier and more engaged during the meeting.

Take a break to clear the cobwebs in the brain and make room for new ideas. Schedule short “get up and move” breaks for everyone. For a longer outing, try something different like going to a movie or meeting at a local park.

If you’re not a social planner, designate a Team Fun Force and give them a budget to lighten the load from time to time. Find ways to unplug and have fun.

Look around and take in your workplace vibe from an employee’s perspective. Are your walls scratched and faded? Is the lighting dull and yellow? Paint is inexpensive and light bulbs come in brighter hues. Is your break room truly broken? Invest in bright new furniture, let people hang their kids’ art on a big bulletin board, or inspire them to make their own at an office art table.

With some creative thinking of your own, you can create a workplace where employees walk in with a smile every day. And you can walk out with a smile, too, knowing you have people happy to help take the company to the next level.