Are your employees happy? It’s a tough question to answer simply because it’s hard to define happiness. It’s also hard because what many employees find easier to vocalise is their unhappiness with issues from pay to working relationships. Their viewpoint (and vocal strength) can often skew the perspective towards unhappiness, or at least, to the causes of that unhappiness.

In an interesting if somewhat provocatively titled blog for Forbes, stress resilience expert Paula Davis-Laack describes various methods for, in her words, “how to handle jerks at work”. Apart from some very practical tips, Ms Davis-Laack hones in on the need to connect with the meaning of work.

She identifies three behaviours that can help develop more meaning at work:

  • to trust and respect fellow workers
  • to have more control over working time and choices
  • to fully understand how the business works and your place within it

As she says:

“Organizations need to prioritize meaning in the same way they prioritize the bottom line.”

These tie in with her studies into how happy people behave differently from others. In an article for Psychology Today, she lists factors that differentiate happy people, both at work and at home.

One of these is to express gratitude. As Davis-Laack explains:

“Gratitude does the body good. It helps you cope with trauma and stress, increases self-worth and self-esteem when you realize how much you’ve accomplished, and often helps dissolve negative emotions.”

Linked to this is the happiness habit of “it’s good to do good”. Citing research by Post*** in 2005: she says:

“Research shows a strong association between helping behavior and well-being, health, and longevity. Acts of kindness help you feel good about yourself and others, and the resulting positive emotions enhance your psychological and physical resilience”

Third, she explains that in terms of happiness

“Material wealth is only a very small part of the equation… Not only does materialism not bring happiness, it‘s a strong predictor of unhappiness.”

Finally, she cites more research into the way that happy people have direction through the creation of meaningful goals. “Happy people have values that they care about and outcomes that are worth working for (Diener & Biswas-Diener, 2008).”

So, why given all the evidence above, do many businesses believe that employees will be more engaged if given financial incentives, the occasional top down nugget praise, and feel more motivated by goals they have no part in setting?

One of the reasons could be that these businesses have no methodology for the practice of happiness-inducing behaviour. If you can’t be kind or help someone within your working day, even at a distance, that’s a happiness opportunity lost. You can’t set goals or have personal direction if you’re not sure where your department, let alone the company, is heading. Therefore, some businesses might see the whole idea of promoting happiness as being in the ‘way too hard’ basket.

This is a great shame, because at the root of all Paula Davis-Laack’s suggestions is one simple concept; better communications. When communication becomes easier, so does the opportunity express gratitude to someone, to say thanks you for a job well done. With smarter communication, employees can collaborate on projects that interest and excite them.

With targetted and segmented communications, executives can share insights into the business that make the employee more aware of the importance of their role – and receive feedback too. Through all of this interaction and engagement, employees can learn who they can trust and rely on within their organisation too.

At TalkFreely, we have developed a communications solution that provides the ideal hotbed for cultivating happy employees. Our Employee Network supplies both a cloud-based platform and a proven method for communicating with and engaging employees, whether desk based or in the field.

A Employee Network may not be the single key to true happiness, but it’s a good way to begin. For more details, call us at TalkFreely.