Dr Marie Puybaraud: Happiness as the ultimate productivity hack

Happy

Businesses want productive staff. But how can businesses actually get productive staff? Simple. Make them happy. Happy, fulfilled employees are engaged, empowered and perform better while the company benefits in measurable ways.

The concept of happiness has evolved beyond simple joy. It’s increasingly about health, wellbeing and comfort. Employees want to feel that they share the values of the organisation they work for. But what can businesses do to achieve this and exactly how can they make their staff happier?

In our latest global study, Workplace powered by Human Experience, we asked more than 7,300 employees across 12 countries what they really wanted from their place of work. Our survey shows that for a staggering seven out of 10 employees, happiness at work is the number one priority to create a unique experience at work. Employers who put their people at the centre of the stage can foster happiness and fulfillment at work. At the same time, managerial approaches focused on recognition, personal learning and development also impact employee fulfilment and help drive organisational change. Fulfillment is the new happiness.

Fostering happiness in the workplace is certainly not a tick-box exercise, nor is it a case of wheeling in a ping-pong table, installing a shiny novelty slide or peppering a staff room with bean bags. In fact, JLL found that games are the least important factor to create unique experiences at work and only 12% of respondents thought that their office should facilitate games.

What employees want are not just tangible perks. They want to walk into a workspace they belong to, a place that brings out the best of them. Put simply, achieving happiness and fulfillment isn’t just about keeping up with the latest workplace fads or zany schemes. Employees want to identify with the values of the company they work for.

Nearly nine out of 10 respondents to our survey were positive about the idea of having a Chief Happiness Officer (CHO) at work; someone to act as the custodian of their wellbeing and create comfortable working environments. The UK’s responses were aligned with the global average of 85% per cent of respondents think a CHO would be a good idea/ would make a positive impact.

The importance of happiness in the workplace is one that has taken root recently in some of the world’s biggest corporations. Google already has a CHO, and Virgin, with its staff consultations on workspaces, is a pioneer in putting people at the centre of their business success. Other companies are now following suit.

Focusing on human experience in the workplace requires firms to be aware of the changing nature of its diverse workforce and what its employees want and need. Whilst some employees are, for instance, prepared to let go of their allocated workstation for a hot-desk environment (more than a third in the UK – 37%), not everyone is prepared to make such a change. Certain groups of employees, such as millennials or managers, tend to appreciate communal spaces more than others, whereas others – including 43% of German workers – prefer secluded spaces that enable them to meditate and switch off. In this vein, the new Sky campus in Osterley, London – replete with a gym, dry cleaning facilities and hair dressing salon reflects the diversity of its staff’s interest and places their wellbeing at the heart of its design.

The study also pinpoints a relationship between workspace density, or the number of people per square foot, and employee effectiveness. Open plans with a fewer than 50 people per shared zone allow employees to work more effectively. Above that, evidence shows that effectiveness begins to drop. An ideal work environment should combine a blend of collaborative space and support services to drive employee effectiveness.

Real estate and HR can work together to transform a business and unlock employee potential. Organisations will benefit in measurable ways by simply looking beyond the bricks and mortar. The secret to employee productivity is understanding the very real link between experience in the workplace and engagement levels, sense of empowerment and feelings of fulfillment. Real estate is a powerful productivity tool.

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