For businesses large and small, cutting costs is key to ensuring future success. One way to save considerable money is spend money on employee happiness.
Of course, it’s an old idea that happy, healthy workers are less expensive than those who are unhappy and sick. But the details are fascinating, and the problem is widespread. A recent op-ed from the United Kingdom explains:
But if there’s no one simple solution, clearly a little happiness would help. A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness in the workplace led to a 12 per cent spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10 per cent less productive.
As the research team put it: ‘We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity’.
The writer, Simon Parke, goes on to complain that an emphasis on employee happiness should not be such a challenge nor should it be so rare:
It’s not rocket science. Yet how many companies regard a commitment to well-being as a reluctant doff of the cap to some passing fad – rather than a serious investment in the future?
In my work I encounter stressed managers in the hospitality trade; despairing bankers who don’t see enough of their children; pressured recruitment consultants trying to seal the deal. Their emotional well-being is not a luxury, it’s the energy from which they’re able to perform – or not.
Why are businesses full of stressed out people? Why do managers and executives not work more diligently on employee satisfaction? I have a few theories.
Theory 1: Survival Is More Important Than Comfort
At the top levels of a business, leaders may be able to see just how close the company is to shutting it’s doors. They are talking to vendors and customers. They can see the cashflow. They know what deals are about to close and which ones are about to collapse.
And if leadership is worried that the company might have to lay people off or worse, that the company is shutting down, that means the last thing they are thinking about is making sure employees are feeling good about their work and their company.
Of course, the irony of this frame of mind is that one of the best ways to make the company healthier is to help the parts of that company be healthier.
Theory 2: People Can Be Replaced (Sort Of)
Another reason why management may not be concerned about employee well-being is that technically, people can be replaced. IF you have someone who is unhappy, you can always dismiss them and hire someone else.
But this isn’t really true. First of all: having a bad company culture will create more turnover. And second of all, it’s very hard to transfer knowledge. So much of what we know about our jobs we learned by doing them, not in an official training class.
Theory 3: Managers Don’t Always Treat Workers Like People
When you are stressed and trying to get things done on a deadline, it is easy to think of the other people in your organization just as resources, or as problems that are preventing your success.
Of course, employees are real, live human beings with hopes, dreams, and fears. They want to be engaged in the work and respected by their peers. But if managers treat workers as if they are just cogs in the machine, that machine will not run well.
If Nothing Else, Focus On The Savings
Parke makes this argument:
How will companies hold on to the staff they want to retain? Simple – by looking after them. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence estimates that an average company with a thousand employees saves £250,000 per year [~$400,000] by engaging with employee wellbeing.
So will the number crunchers now accept that it makes financial sense to care about employees’ happiness, and treat them with respect?
Be mindful of your employee’s happiness. It does make a huge difference; not just in their productivity, but in whether or not they will be around in the future.