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Just How Happy Are Your Employees?
by Ngozi Weller
September 24, 2021
According to my calendar, this week is the ‘International Week of Happiness at Work’ (IWHW). I’ll admit that I had no idea this was a thing until one of my team members put it in the diary. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to keep track of most of these sanctioned periods of focus. Moreover, I’m not entirely sure I’m on board with them. Every time one of the more famous months comes around, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pride Month, I do sit and wonder why we insist on assigning a short period of focus to topics that are relevant every day. I think the same when I see ‘International Happiness at Work Week’ marked out on my calendar, to a smaller extent, of course, but the feeling is there.
This all said, am I going to miss the opportunity to milk the segue that IWHW provides? Of course not. Although I will start by saying that I think happiness is a difficult word to throw around if you want to avoid being misunderstood. Happiness is a very idealised term that conjures up false images of sunshine, rainbows, and perpetual joy. However, a happy life is not a life in which one is happy all the time (no one is happy all the time); instead, I think it’s better to describe happiness as the state of feeling positive and comfortable about where you are. Happiness is liking the path you are on to the extent that you’re willing to put in the work to maintain your course rather than leave it. This definition translates very easily to a work context- happy employees are employees that want to stick around.
Perhaps I should get in touch with IWHW’s marketing team, because I think if they rebranded their event to the ‘International Week of How to get your Employees to Stick Around’, more people might be interested. After all, employee retention is the topic of the moment; workers are quitting left, right, and centre, so much so that the trend has been dramatically dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’. Therefore, employee happiness is a very relevant and important conversation if we get into the specifics of what it truly means.
Happiness is liking the path you are on to the extent that you’re willing to put in the work to maintain your course rather than leave it. This definition translates very easily to a work context- happy employees are employees that want to stick around.
Where Are Companies Going Wrong?
This significant rise in the rate of resignation has shocked a lot of businesses, many of whom feel that the trend is somewhat unwarranted. This train of thought is understandable but not very helpful. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the hours, schemes, and benefits that your employees are currently enjoying have served everyone well for ‘x’ number of years, and therefore shouldn’t fail now. However, this outlook doesn’t consider the catastrophic impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the world.
Regarding mental and physical health, much of the population are in a worse position than they were two years ago. For example, to throw just one statistic at you, a survey conducted last year by the Office for National Statistics revealed that almost one in five adults (19.2%) were likely to experience some form of depression during the COVID pandemic, an increase of 100% from the pre-COVID levels which stood at about one in ten (9.7%). Figures like this make it clear that needs have changed and the problem has grown, which means that our responses must change too. Companies must update their policies to reflect the new post-COVID reality because the measures that made people feel secure and supported two years ago are likely much less effective in the current climate.
Another trap that employers must avoid falling into is the assumption that no news is good news, that an absence of employee complaints speaks to a general sense of contentment, because this is far from the truth. A recent report by Benenden Health revealed that over a third of employees have a health issue they haven’t informed their manager about, the majority of which fell into the category of mental ill-health. Statistics like this speak to an absence of communication and psychological safety within many workplaces, which results in employees feeling as though they can’t speak up with their issues. This silence is itself detrimental to employee happiness because these unspoken problems go unsolved. However, it is also detrimental to management’s understanding of employee happiness because leads them to assume that all is well, which stops them from addressing the culture that keeps their employees silent and miserable. It’s a vicious cycle.
What Can You Do?
To break the cycle, company bosses and their people managers must find a way to check in with their employees. My first piece of advice? Send out an anonymous survey. It takes such a small amount of time, but it can be a reasonably effective and very immediate way of taking the temperature of a room. It will let you know if there are issues that have gone unnoticed and put you in a position to start addressing them.
Once you’ve done that, check in with your workplace culture. Have you cultivated an environment in which all employees feel as though they can speak up with ideas, questions, mistakes, or concerns without fear of being punished or humiliated? It can be a hard thing to recognise and an even harder thing to do, so if you need support, then reach out. We can have a chat about how Aurora Wellness can help meet your companies’ wellbeing needs, and ensure that your employees want to stick around for the long haul.
At Aurora Wellness we are all about mental wellbeing & productivity. To discover ways in which you can empower your people and maximise their full potential, contact us for information about our face to face and online mental wellbeing and productivity programmes.