H is for Happy Workforce

10557212_583260071784487_3762945260306016564_nIs there something that in all honesty you take for granted?  I have to say, that for me, it was my work.  It wasn’t until quite recently that I sat looking out of my office, thinking how happy I was to be working in such beautiful surroundings, doing something I loved and working with some amazing people.  And feeling this way made me feel really optimistic and positive about what I could achieve.  It was at that moment, that I realised what a lucky person I was, because when you’re feeling positive, you feel more confident.  You see opportunities in front of you and you’re open to new ways of working.  Barriers to success become challenges and you’re more able to tackle them.  But it hasn’t always been this way.  There have been moments of self doubt when I’ve not had a clear focus on what I wanted to achieve and during that time, the world has seemed a much smaller and darker place.  However, when I was a little girl I remember receiving my first book of quotes and there was one that I read that has always stayed with me and it said ‘When you smile, the world smiles with you and when you cry you cry alone’.  Whether you believe the saying to be true or not, I know that it had a huge impact on the way I have managed my own life and I know that I haven’t got the nick name of being the sunshine spreader for nothing!

So can happiness add value?  Research shows that happy staff are more productive, if fact 31% more effective.  Over half (59%) of the British workforce is happy and this is because they feel that they are achieving and making a difference in the work that they do.  If you think about it, when your people are happy in their work, they are more engaged because they enjoy what they do and feel that they are needed and respected.  They see opportunities and look for ways to improve how they do things and automatically take ownership and responsibility for their work. Plus you see a drop in absenteeism and turnover, currently costing the UK £26bn a year.

I’ve recently watched a fascinating (and funny) TED talk by Shawn Achor who studies happiness at Harvard.  Please do watch it if you get the chance.  In short, he says that the reason that we aren’t as happy as we could be is because we have happiness and success on opposite sides of the equation and this needs to be reversed.  The way most people look at life is that if we work harder, we’ll be more successful and therefore be happier as a result.  However the truth is that when we’re successful we continue to alter the goals, making them more stretching and more difficult to achieve which puts more pressure on us to succeed and not enjoy the moment.

By turning this equation around and starting off in the happiness state, our brains detect our positivity and therefore increases the levels of dopamine we produce.  This hormone turns on all the learning centres in our brain which provides us with more energy, creativity, intelligence and therefore enables us to achieve better outcomes.

So what can you do to help your people be happier at work?

Don’t micro-manage.  Happiness comes from knowing what is expected of you and then being able to get on and do it without someone looking over your shoulder all the time.  In the same way though, when it’s going awry, it’s about offering a helping hand.  Of course, when it’s going well, or as expected, it’s about giving the recognition required.  And that comes down to being good at performance management – treating people with respect and having positive regard for them as well as yourself.

Help your people to build great team relationships.  The more they know about one another the better.  When we understand what makes one another tick, we start treating each other as individuals rather than creating a one size fits all approach.  And when people surround themselves with happy positive people they are more likely to perform to their potential and find ways around barriers and inconveniences.  The opposite is likely to happen if you surround yourself with people who have negative attitudes and approaches to problem solving will become more blinkered.

Make sure that you create great internal communications.  Be as transparent as you can possibly be.  If you are going through periods of change, make sure you spend more time communicating with your people.  Sometimes it takes longer for messages to sink in as people only hear the part of the message that affects them rather than the bigger picture.

Finally create some fun.  That doesn’t mean to say that you shouldn’t take your work seriously, it’s about not taking yourself too seriously. Earlier this year, I was working on a contract that meant I spent a lot of hours with one team.  We worked 15 hour days and didn’t really see anything else but the inside of the same conference room in a hotel, but instead we focused on the task in hand, finding ways to continually improve what we were doing.  We all had certain responsibilities within the team to make it flow properly and created some fun every day.  We named ourselves the ‘A’ team and made the hugely popular song ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams our theme tune.  Now, every time I hear the song, a big smile washes over my face as I think of the new friends I made and what we were able to achieve.  And here is the A Team!20140507_221353_Android

Of course there are some more personal things that you can do too.  And looking on my Facebook recently I see that some of these exercises are currently being played out by some of my friends.  Why don’t you try them too?

  • The first is to write down 3 things at the end of each day for which you’re grateful.  Do this every day for 21 days – your brain will soon start to focus on the positive things in your life rather than the negative. 
  • Secondly make sure that you carry out a random but conscious act of kindness each day. Giving and then seeing the positive impact we have on others helps us to feel happier. 
  • Thirdly meditate. We spend so much time trying to juggle things that we have to do and a lot of our time is future focused. For at least five minutes a day, spend some time concentrating on the here and now – you’ll be surprised how much calmer you feel. 
  • Fourthly, never underestimate the value of time off. We all need time away from our day to day business lives to help us appreciate what we have. I’ve just come back from a fabulous family holiday which has helped me to relax, unwind and refocus. Each time I come back to work after a few days away, I realise how important it has been to recharge my batteries. If we don’t look after ourselves, how are we ever going to give the best of ourselves to others?

Let me know how you get on.  I’ve a plethora of wonderful things to look forward to in the next few weeks – some fabulous clients to work with, some time away with friends.  But one thing that I always look forward to at this time of year is being a judge at the WOW! Awards.  The stories I hear from all the amazing people who take part fill me with a warm fuzzy feeling and make me wonder why more of the good things that happen in life don’t appear on the front pages of our newspapers.

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