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Why employee happiness should be a part of your 2024 strategy

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Do you want your business to outperform the competition and find success, regardless of the outside influences or challenges? Of course, you do!

So let’s not beat around the bush: The secret is employee happiness — not motivational speeches, pizza parties, free tumblers or even bonuses. The secret is creating a workplace where employees are happy, empowered and trusted.

Easier said than done, right?

While creating such a workplace doesn’t happen overnight, there are some simple strategies you can do to start improving in 2024. With these tips, you’ll gradually see your culture improve, which will lead to the ROI you’re hoping to see. (And no, none of them are related to more money: Haven’t you heard that money doesn’t buy happiness?!)

State of employee happiness at work

Before going over the best practices, let’s lay the foundation of why this is an important topic. Here are some stats that show the current state of our workforce:

  • According to research from BambooHR, employee happiness has declined at a steady rate from 2020 to 2023 — a rate 10 times faster than the previous three years.
  • Fifty percent of the global workforce is disengaged and not putting much effort into their work. Eighteen percent are openly unhappy and sharing their unhappiness with others.
  • Only 32% of employees are engaged at work, the lowest number in a decade.
  • 65% of employees say that their work is a moderate to significant source of stress.
  • While quit levels are back to pre-pandemic levels, 39% of employees who have been at their jobs for fewer than six months are planning on quitting soon — proving turnover is still a concern, especially for newer hires.

Employees are unhappy, disengaged, and stressed, and many of them aren’t quitting anymore — which means companies may have many unproductive, unhappy people. When a workforce is full of these negative emotions, productivity sinks and performance drops.

That’s why happiness needs to be a focus this year and beyond. Happiness can transform your culture and lead to impressive business outcomes.

The benefits of happy employees

The benefits of happiness may seem somewhat nebulous, but there are research-backed stats that show why you’ll want to make it a focus in 2024:

Employee happiness isn’t an afterthought or a happy accident — it’s the key to unlocking a productive, engaged, and successful workforce that will stay longer at your company and contribute to greater success for the organization.

3 strategies to improve happiness

So in the current work environment, the majority of employees are unhappy and dissatisfied at work, which lowers engagement, productivity, performance and retention. How do we, as business leaders, change that?

1. Recognize them for their performance

Creating a clear link between meaningful performance and memorable rewards is the No. 1 thing you can do to improve employee happiness. In other words, employees are happier when they feel like their work matters, they’re doing a good job, and that someone else notices.

Recognition doesn’t have to be monetary to be meaningful, either. The important thing is to show employees that their contributions matter and that they are appreciated for who they are and what they do.

2. Give work more purpose

One of the main reasons employees feel disengaged or burned out is that they don’t feel any meaning or purpose in their work. This lack of enthusiasm makes it almost impossible for a person to be happy at work. Instead, they feel like it’s a waste of time.

To avoid this, companies must present and support a compelling vision that involves everyone. By connecting employees to the company’s goals, you can drive enthusiasm for their work. In relation to that, each individual contributor must have a purpose for their work. Help employees see their work’s impact and how it’s helping people and the company.

3. Create opportunities to build friendships

A hustle culture is fine in small doses, but leaders have to give their employees time to get to know each other, have fun, and build relationships. Research has found that having friends at work boosts job satisfaction, performance and wellness, while also lowering stress and burnout. In other words, having friends at work increases happiness.

It’s time to bring back recess. Let teams have a short break each day to play a game, go on a walk or have lunch together. Ensure separate teams have chances to collaborate and get to know each other. And encourage peer-to-peer recognition to strengthen those bonds.

When work is more enjoyable, your people will perform better and stay longer. And friends at work make work infinitely more enjoyable for almost everyone.

Make happiness a goal for 2024

Happy employees perform better. It’s that simple. So this year, instead of investing your time and effort into convoluted efforts trying to coerce employees to work harder, make goals to improve their happiness. You may be surprised just how much your organization benefits from such a focus.

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