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Happy employees are just good business. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore the incomparable benefit happy and fulfilled employees are to any company, whether it be a large, limitless corporation or a small start-up just getting off the ground. Over the years, evidence has continuously been compiling to support the notion that happy employees are more productive, more creative, and more invested and engaged with their work.

The challenge, of course, then becomes, “How do I make my employees happy?”

A loaded question.

The greatest difficulty being that happiness isn’t a perpetual state of being and humans aren’t generally inclined to be endlessly happy. There’s an idea that has ingrained itself into the collective consciousness–success is a prerequisite for happiness. But success isn’t characterized by any one achievement or quality. It is flexible, adjustable, and as such, there’s always some new target to chase after. There’s always one more thing you have to do before you can be really, truly happy. Rather, the cultivating positivity within ourselves, our relationships, and our environments sets precedent for positive outcomes and leads to a greater sense of general well-being.

A positive work environment sets the stage for happy employees and increased productivity, but how, exactly, do you create one?

    1. Trustfall!

It can be assumed, based on the fact that you hired them, that your employees are qualified and ambitious. Trust your employees to get the job done, give them the space to work creatively, and encourage them to leave their comfort zones. Not only does this instill confidence in your employees, but granting new responsibilities and creative endeavors keeps them engaged in their work and the goals of the company.

     2. Frequency and Variety Take Priority Over Size

Business feedback shows that smaller and more frequent positive responses will keep employees happier than large, but infrequent positive events. The happiness from the large event can’t be sustained over the course of 6 months or a year, and the feeling is forgotten in favor of others. They “wear out.” Similarly, there has to be variety. If the same reward or praise is given routinely and frequently, then it becomes discredited. Rather than a happy surprise, it becomes an expectation, removing the significance and genuineness of the event.

     3. Happiness Isn’t Necessarily Conscious

The space people work in can actually make a significant difference in the overall work environment and the happiness of individual employees. Music, sunlight, comforting scents, and even certain colors can trigger subconscious positivity. These tactics are used to shift consumer opinion in favor of a brand or to encourage a certain attitude about a product or service–it’s the very reason any good realtor will encourage you to make cookies or light a cinnamon candle before a big open house, or eco-warrior startups generally have clean-looking, green logos. We naturally associate certain colors, smells, and even spaces with different feelings–though it should be said that not everyone will respond the same way because of personal associations. Generally speaking, if you make your space feel open, comfortable, and receptive, your employees will be imbued with that same positivity.

     4. Investment

No, I’m not talking about shares. Encourage your employees to emotionally invest in your company. What does that mean? That means looking for your employees’ buy-in. What inspired them to commit to this company? What is it that makes them look at their work with pride? These are the kinds of  things that motivate individuals to take ownership of something, to say, “I am a part of this.” When employees emotionally invest in a company, rather than just investing their time, they are instantly more engaged, more productive, and more motivated because they associate a part of themselves with the work they are doing and the company for which they are doing it. A leader can do this by keeping their employees informed of the bigger picture and encouraging an open dialogue that positively responds to employee contributions.

     5. The Power of Positive Thinking

I’ve been hinting at positive thinking throughout this post, but I have yet to explicitly mention it. It may sound a bit absurd, or even overly simplistic, but leading cognitive research suggests that a simple shift in our mental framework can result in astronomical changes in behavior. By enforcing a positive approach internally to what we are experiencing, we actually do become more positive, happier, and more fulfilled. In this case, what is true for one person holds true for many people. By shifting the company perspective towards a more positive interpretation, you can elicit more positive behaviors from employees.

It’s as simple as this: shift the focus onto the achievements and accomplishments of your employees rather than mistakes or what needs to be done. Common sense, right? It feels a lot nicer to hear that you did a good job than to hear that you did a bad one. That’s not to say that you can’t be corrective. But by adjusting the attention to what was done right, you have the opportunity to remove the negative association with mistakes. You can turn them into opportunities for improvement, or a chance to learn a new skill. This way, you commend the good work your employee and simultaneously encourage their ambition to be better.

     6. Make Interactions Actionable

The workspace can easily be bogged down by meetings, phone calls, emails, Skype calls, teleconferences, etc. It can be discouraging to receive information that’s not driven by purpose. Sustain every interaction with employees by purpose–even if that purpose is something somewhat difficult to measure, such as establishing a sense of being part of a “team.” When interactions are propelled by a clear purpose, so is the work that results from them.

When employees are happy, they are better collaborators, more innovative, and more engaged in the workplace. It pays off to inspire positivity in the office. Cultivating passionate, excited employees is not unproductive, or a waste of time–any interaction that brings team members together in a positive, interactive way will encourage long-term productivity.

Photo by Eversheds Sutherland International

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