In the week which contains what is apparently the most depressing day, it would seem that the new year new me mantra didn’t last very long. It could, of course, be that this is load of nonsense, our mood is the same as on every other Monday. Or it could be that there are a number of things that make us feel down… Here’s how companies can help to try and create greater happiness at work.
1. Beware the pressure of the New Year, new me mantra
Just like the failure of yet another diet, the pressure to perform at a more enhanced level at work can be extreme for some. This along with a new set of objectives, sales levels returning to zero and a reminder of the goals and focus for the organisation can leave people feeling overwhelmed. According to the Mental Health Foundation, almost 80% of us fail to achieve our New Year’s Resolutions, yet the sense of accomplishment we can get from successfully attaining our goals gives us confidence and belief in our abilities.
2. Connect with employees and give them a voice
According to Action for Happiness, connecting with people is one of the keys to a happier life. Maintaining positive social connections and feeling able to talk openly and freely really matters. At work, the employee survey helps us connect with our employees across the organisation. A new employee engagement survey, a bit like a new year, can give us a sense of positive anticipation. “For this year’s survey we will do it really well – we’ll ask the right questions, get a great response rate, share results and most importantly take action better than last year…” But often the motivation to see it through – particularly the post survey action planning part – dwindles and we can be left feeling a little blue when our initial good efforts don’t result in positive change while our employees question how much their organisation really values what they have to say.
3. Get regular
When setting goals, good practice is to develop a detailed plan and schedule regular dates to check in with the action, see how it is going, and ideally track its progress. And that is as true for achieving our personal fitness or healthy eating goals as our workplace objectives. It is perhaps not surprising then that organisations with the greatest confidence in how effective their annual surveys are at driving improvement are the ones that supplement these with regular pulse surveys to check progress and measure change (our recent HR Reflections survey found that 81% of organisations that use annual survey and regular pulse are confident they see improvements compared to 65% that only survey annually).
Trust is a major determinant of happiness in society and Action for Happiness shows that levels of trust vary widely between countries. Only 30% of people in the UK and US say that most people can be trusted, which is a dramatic fall from 40 years ago when this stood at 60%. We could blame the internet for a rise in scepticism with a rise in information, but in Scandinavia the level is still over 60%, and one of the happiest places to be.
To build trust in an organisation, authenticity is key. Authentic leaders must show that they have a genuine belief in the organisation’s goals and openly role model the values. Being consistent in word and action is critical, both as individuals and as a team. The senior, middle and line management must work together to create a consistent message. Trust breaks down when the senior management says one thing and line managers act in a contradictory way.
Many of the leaders we interviewed as part of our research mentioned humility alongside authenticity. Leaders are often assumed and expected to have all the answers and to be the experts, but having the humility to confess their limitations and encourage others to contribute their skills makes leaders more real and accessible.
5. Step up the health and wellbeing policies.
Health and fitness features somewhere in most people’s New Year resolutions but spending the majority of our time at work can make achieving those goals tricky. In our HR Reflections survey we found that 46% of UK organisations expect their emphasis on health and wellbeing to increase over the coming 1-2 years. It also found that organisations in Europe offer more health and wellbeing benefits compared to UK organisations, most notably 26% of European organisations said they provide stress management support to employees compared to 41% in Europe. Half of European organisations ergonomically design their office environment to enhance employees’ mental and physical health compared to a quarter of UK organisations.