Unless you’ve been living in a soundproof cave for the past few months, you’ve probably heard Pharrell’s gleefully catchy hit, “Happy.” And you may have seen the “We Are Happy From…” YouTube responses to the song.
In these videos, people all over the world get together to make a “Happy” video montage, dancing and singing in streets, museums, colleges, parks, homes, and on top of buildings.
But I can’t seem to find too many videos of people dancing at work.
And small wonder—how many of us actually feel “happy” at work?
“Why You Hate Work,” a recent New York Times op-ed by Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath of The Energy Project, points out that disliking one’s job may be more widespread than we think. The Energy Project conducted a worldwide survey showing that out of 12,115 workers surveyed, 50% felt disconnected from their company’s mission, while 49% felt they lacked a “sense of community” at work, and only 45% felt comfortable enough to “truly be [themselves]” in the workplace. Schwartz and Porath also found that dissatisfied employees account for significant losses in productivity.
Improving employee satisfaction and engagement is a complicated task. But one clear step leaders can take is to focus on better communications. At the end of the day, people who feel included, informed, and heard tend to be happier.
So: how can leaders use communications to create a happier workplace?
Practice open and frequent one-on-one communications. Regular and personal communication between supervisors and employees creates a sense of value and engagement. Schwartz and Porath note that employees who feel valued by their supervisors are “1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged” than workers who feel undervalued by management.
Create pathways for two-way communications. Managers will show they value employee opinions if they commit to an open-door policy—and back it with a sincere readiness to listen to employee feedback. Let people speak their minds at Town Hall meetings—and then be direct about what you will address and what you can’t.
Be transparent with company-wide communications. Transparency from leaders ensures everyone feels involved in the company’s goals and mission. Being open about decisions can help employees find meaning and significance in their work: a factor that Schwartz and Porath attribute to a happier and more productive workforce.
Welcome creativity. Too often we expect employees to do things in predefined and familiar ways. Although businesses need to target definite results, employees who are encouraged to be creative and autonomous in their problem solving are more likely to feel better about their results. When communicating to your direct reports, or to your organization as a whole, let your team know that you value their taking different and inventive paths to reach positive results.
Loosen up and encourage fun. By allowing yourself to enjoy work—including making room for creative, recreational, or lighthearted pursuits—you will set an example for others to do the same. How about an outdoor walking meeting? Or song parodies at a summer picnic? Or including humor (tasteful please) in executive communications?
“Put simply,” Schwartz and Porath write, “the way people feel at work profoundly influences how they perform.” Open and creative communications helps employees feel valued and involved, and creates a better workplace for everyone.
Your employees may not jump up on their desks and make a video singing “Happy,” but they are more likely to actually be happy—and more productive!