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Happy @ Work

Why does it seem that everyone is talking about “happiness at work?” Whether its WSJ blogs, Inc. Magazine or McKinsey & Company, happiness at work is a hot topic in business. In our puritan-based workplace, “happiness” might feel like a guilty pleasure. A lot of business managers think laughter in the hallways must equate to slacking off. But all these learned folks are talking about the positive impact happiness can have at work. Can being happy at work really make us more productive?

Celebrating business person dancing happy

The WSJ Opener Institute for People and Performance research says there’s a positive effect. Employees who are happiest at work are twice as productive, stay 5 times longer in their jobs, are 6 times more energized and take 10 times less sick leave.

Inc. writers cover Tony Hsieh, co-founder at, the best shoe store (in my humble opinion). Hsieh
founded his company on having happy employees and happy customers. Even the shipping boxes are “delivering happiness.” Now he has a consulting firm to help other companies drive happiness. His calculations are that unhappy employees can cost a company over $10,000 a year per person in lost productivity, sick time and staff turnover.

So other than spending the big bucks on the huge perks like those that Google and Apple provide, how do you get happy employees? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Attitude. “Lessons from the Royal Navy,” a recent McKinsey & Company Quarterly Journal article, had me expecting an article about instilling structured, proper, British organization principles in American business. Not so. The topic was bringing “soft” leadership skills to the workplace and used the British Navy to illustrate that techniques like cheerfulness and effective storytelling can drive superior performance. “It is the captain, invariably, who sets the mood of a vessel; a gloomy captain means a gloomy ship. And mood travels fast.” True, as we all know. No one wants to follow a pessimist.
  • Leadership. People are happiest when they have clear goals and well-articulated objectives that lead to those goals, the tools to be effective at work, and good feedback. So one practical thing companies can do is learn how to give great feedback. Another is to value your employee’s time and give them the right tools to get the job done well.
  • Importance. It’s not just Gen Ys (those born in the 1980s) and millennials (even younger) who care that they are making a difference through their work. We all want to be part of doing something worthwhile. Like “delivering happiness” in Zappos shoe boxes or working with a team of great people.
  • Hire carefully. Hsieh says he only hires people who smile. Happiness is partly a choice.   Given we spend about 25% of our lives at work, employees need to take responsibility for being happy at work as well.

So it seems you really can put a value on happiness at work. How do you make happiness work?

Guest Post by Zena Brand

Read more guests posts by Zena Brand
Simple Love: Falling for the Who’s Working? App
TIME TRACKING ON THE BOTTOM LINE: How to Get More Value From Your Greatest Asset
Do or Do Not. There Is No Try.

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software analyst

 Zena Brand has a “Passion for Products and Partnerships”. She specializes in developing relationships with Fortune 500 and Inc. 500 companies to drive business growth through better market understanding, productive partnerships and developing products that people love. Prior to pursuing her dream to build a consulting organization, Zena was SVP, Product Strategy for ADP Employer Services. She led development of two partnerships with SAP AG and the highly successful product launch of GlobalView®, ADP’s multinational HR/Payroll solution. She managed product in 12 countries to increase sales and client retention, contributing to doubling the International division revenues in 6 years to $1B. In one five-year period, Zena and her team launched 12 new products – all of which achieved significant commercial success. Zena has an MBA in IT and a BA in Economics.

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