Now a business imperative, five years ago 'happiness' was a fluffy concept

Chloe Chambraud, Business in the Community Gender Research and Policy Manager shares an overview of a recent event for gender and wellbeing campaign champion members explaining why happiness at work should be a business imperative.


The business case for happiness
Think of a time at work when you performed well and felt at your best. Now think about the factors that contributed to this. For most of you, it will be a time when your line manager supported you, when you felt in control when you were autonomous, or when you had a sense of freedom.

If employees feel happier, evidence shows that they will be, on average, 12% more productive'1

For Louise Aston, Director of the Wellbeing Campaign, ‘this is just a no-brainer; mental wellbeing should be business DNA’. Five years ago, ‘happiness’ was a fluffy concept. Now, there is a wealth of evidence showing that happiness leads to higher engagement, motivation and productivity.

What makes people happy at work
To understand what makes people happier at work and how organisations can enhance employees’ well-being and performance, we invited Vanessa King to our Champion Wellbeing Breakfast. Vanessa is an expert in positive psychology and the author of 10 Keys to Happier Living, A Practical Handbook for Happiness.

According to her, work is fundamental to people’s wellbeing. The longer people are unemployed, the unhappier they become. So how can companies ensure that their employees are happy?

What organisations can do

  1. Business leaders need to ensure that the organisation is providing the right conditions for all individuals to thrive. For instance, agile working patterns that accommodate people’s needs both at work and outside of work – such as childcare, caring for sick or elderly relatives, study or other life events – increase engagement, even more so than a pay rise.  
  1. Line managers can empower their team members by being supportive whilst giving them autonomy and a sense of volition. After three years of research, Google found that its most effective teams are those where people experience ‘psychological safety’. They have a higher sensitivity to their colleagues’ emotional states, they feel free to speak out and they have the same air time during meetings.

Employee wellbeing is part of CSR
What positive psychology has demonstrated is that there are recipes for happiness. These are based on scientific research and evidence-based interventions and companies need to make the most of it. For Vanessa, promoting wellbeing is part of corporate social responsibility; ‘there is no point doing charity work if a company does not take care of its employees’. 

As Kathryn Nawrockyi, Director of the Gender Equality Campaign pointed out after the talk, this is not just about building individual resilience – but the role of the employer to create the conditions for people to thrive.