April 25, 2012

Why a happy environment makes employees work harder

I spotted how this reciprocal behaviour could be achieved very early on school. I realised that teachers could determine the classroom ambience and how hard we worked during the class based on how they treated us. The way I remember it, even from primary school, was that I always went home and did extra work for the teacher I liked the most, by which I mean who was the nicest, the most engaging. This wasn’t because they had asked me to, but because I wanted to make them that extra little bit prouder of me.

It was no coincidence that the teachers I liked were also those teachers that made learning fun, and therefore I began to enjoy and understand the work more.

They’d be the teachers who let us work outside on a sunny day, would take on amusing accents during a scene of Taming of the Shrew and make us feel invincible whilst subtly catering for our individual needs.

Alternatively, later on, when growing up as a young and dramatic teenager with raging hormones, I was a classroom nightmare to the ones I didn’t like or who I was convinced didn’t like me. It’s pretty incredible how long teenage girls can hold grudges for, and with such venom, which can then lead to them turning off all spark and interest completely. Which then, in my case, lead to certain teachers alerting my parents to the fact I probably had an ASBO.

This theory is not too dissimilar in the workplace. Although there isn’t that layer of teenage angst getting in the way, the personality and temperament of your boss can make or break the way in which you react to their demands. By knowing before anything else that they care about your wellbeing and happiness in the workplace, it creates an extra level of energy when taking on a task. If there is a level of care to the relationship then they often begin to morph into more of a mentor rather than just shouting down at you like a scary headmaster. Inspiring your colleagues through sharing personal experience, knowledge and creating fun can often be more rewarding than sitting in a training room.

To me, this relationship with teachers/mentors is as simple as this: to respect someone, you have to like them; and by caring what opinion they have of you, makes you want to impress them.

Happiness in the workplace does not only come from having a nice boss however (although it helps). It also comes from having that support network of warm colleagues around you that ‘just get it’. Whether it’s going outside for an unadulterated rant or providing that knowing look of ‘me too’ when you are feeling overworked and under-appreciated, it’s those people that can easily turn a bad day into a great one. Being able to all join forces after the working day is over and discuss goals, inspirations, feelings and insecurities is all part of the development process. Happy teams are the most successful teams.

My top 5 positive things that occur when you’re happy at work:

  • You share more knowledge: When you like the place and the people at work, you care more about the bigger picture and the future of the company as a whole. This means not just investing your time and patience in the smaller daily tasks, but thinking outside the box and thinking of how you could help more of the long-term business strategies that will contribute to benefiting the company overall.
  • You learn faster: When you feel happy and at ease with your colleagues in the workplace, you feel more comfortable asking questions or opinions. This means more talking and less email. It also means more collaboration and more opportunity to learn, resulting in faster problem solving.
  • You are more creative:  Being happy means being more optimistic and therefore opens you to naturally believing that things are easily achievable. Whether it’s brainstorming, weighing up a possibility or writing a hefty document, if you are in a happy, fulfilling environment, you are more likely to make your idea come to life with an added feeling of motivation.
  • You put more effort in: Happier people have more energy. You only need to look at Tigger from Winnie the Pooh to see evidence. Physical energy is a key component of success, that motivational of wanting to do more, travel more, attend more events and make more of a difference overall by being present. Having this energy to want to succeed turns something you normally you just ‘say’ into something you actually ‘do’.
  • You stay at the company longer: A high employee turnover is not a good thing. Although of course it is important to get new, fresh people through the door, it’s also crucial to have a team of long-standing company campaigners who know how the system works and encapsulate the internal identity of the company brand. These are the people that keep the company firmly cemented as a something ‘one of its kind’ and not just another building with new employees constantly coming in and out.

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