Happiness at work: how to achieve it and its benefits

22/06/2021 | Santander Universidades

How do you measure happiness at work? Have you ever wondered how companies manage to make their workers happy? Why is happiness at work an increasingly common topic? To answer these and other questions, we have to turn to psychology and the study of human needs.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in measuring, analysing, and understanding happiness using a range of resources and techniques.  This is especially true in the business sphere, where happiness at work can be defined as a state of mind that gives staff and teams more than just economic reasons to carry out their daily tasks. 

Companies are increasingly aware of the impact that happiness at work has on results, and ensuring it has become a fundamental part of many companies' business strategy. This is an adaptive strategy for the changing and demanding environment we face. 

Nowadays, there is much debate around what companies can offer staff to make them happy in their jobs, traditional practice is questioned, and pleasing new approaches are employed. From a human resources perspective, thanks to these new methods there is a shift from recruiting to retaining talent.

 

Money and happiness don't always go hand in hand 

The 8th Adecco Survey on Happiness at Work reveals data that show money isn't everything. 67.1% of respondents believe that workers with higher wages are not happier simply because of their salary, while 62.4% say they would be willing to sacrifice wages for the benefit of job happiness. So, why are money and happiness so closely linked as though they were a cause and effect?

A well-known study by Daniel Kahneman has revealed that the economic limit of happiness is €60,000 a year. In other words, above that figure, happiness levels don't increase, they plateau. So, if money is not directly linked to an increase in happiness over time, what other factors come into play in terms of happiness at work?

Ways to achieve happiness at work

There is a wide variety of approaches to achieve happier companies besides increasing salaries. For example, flexible timetables that allow for a work/ life balance, remote working, updating furniture to ensure a more attractive and pleasing workplace.

Does that really make us happy? What we do know thus far are the things that produce unhappiness. According to Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, the four activities that make us feel most unhappy are:

    Going to work: getting up early, traffic, transport, etc.

    Speaking to the person in charge: pressure, undervalued work, etc. 

    Working: even if we enjoy our jobs, we feel the obligation to work to survive and this turns into an unsatisfactory reality. We get frustrated working long hours, being exposed to annoying noise, feeling the pressure of deadlines, not hitting targets, etc. 

    Returning home can be stressful. We often encounter big traffic jams to get home. Then, once we do arrive, it can be difficult to leave work behind and focus on family life.

Given we can't avoid these four situations -just one or two at most, thanks to remote work- we must focus on what we can do and on what will have a positive impact on both the employer and employee.

Motivation is a key factor to sustain morale and consistently meet targets. A motivated workforce increases performance and thus, it has a direct effect on the company's profits.

It is also crucial for workers to feel valued for their work. When managers give feedback, they mustn't forget to focus on the positives to reinforce good practice and minimise less desirable conduct.

Offering the chance to participate in stimulating new projects, having an opportunity to get out of a rut and learn something new, also appeals to most workers.

Lastly, streamlining the decision-making process -dismantling hierarchies imposed by the company managers- affects how free staff feel when it comes to managing their own tasks, without having to check each step with their superiors.

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Happiness at work, everyone's responsibility

The HR department, together with management, are in charge of and responsible for fostering spaces where employees feel happy. Such activities form part of the talent development field.  

This can be managed internally or externally. There are companies that have implemented such frameworks and furnished them with people trained and qualified to take on the challenge. Others haven't implemented anything internally, but are equally concerned about being happier at workplaces and choose the outsourcing route.

Which option is better? Whichever leads with the best of intentions and determination, allocating resources to that end. It isn't so important whether the person managing this process is an internal or external employee, as long as they have all of the necessary information, resources and support to roll out the changes. 

Some companies, such as Mahou Sanmiguel, have realised the importance of this phenomenon and have created a happiness department, led and managed by a happiness manager and a supporting team to implement new measures. 

Other smaller companies, such as Ethikos, have published job offers to recruit a happiness director for the company. Ultimately, it's highly profitable. Think about it: when do you perform best? Does your mood influence your achievement of results?

However, one of the solutions implemented by companies that follow a healthy business model and focus on happiness at work is continuous training, both for those in charge of these areas and staff as a whole. The philosophy of Lifelong Learning posits the need to upgrade knowledge in order to remain active and skilled in a changing and unpredictable market.

That's why Banco Santander is spearheading Santander Scholarships. This scholarship programme offers opportunities for lifelong learning and to acquire new skills, techniques and strategies, via cutting-edge methodology such as learning by doing and online learning journeys, boosting enjoyment of the learning process.

Do you want to turn your career around? Then head over to the Santander Scholarships website and develop some new skills and abilities. The continuous education offered by these scholarships might just prove to be a great incentive in keeping up your motivation.