Happiness at work, the key to productivity?

According to a study from the University of Warwick in England, the productivity of employees who feel “happy at work” is 12% superior to that of their colleagues.

But, what does it mean for an employee to be happy at work? And how can companies cater to that sentiment of happiness?

Before going further, let’s define “happiness at work”.

“Happiness at work involves safety and health in an organization run by competent leaders as well as a community of workers who feel that their work is meaningful and useful, and represent it as a factor in supporting the management of their lifestyle” – Definition from the European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO).

Value and implicate employees

Before even thinking about introducing services such as daycare, organic canteen and yoga classes, it is, therefore, necessary to cultivate a corporate culture that implicates and values each employee, no matter their hierarchic level. This recognition can be formal or informal: sending a simple email or a thank you card to an efficient employee, granting additional days off, celebrating a birthday or sending congratulations following a wedding or the birth of a child… There are plenty of ideas.

However, this recognition needs to be personalized, immediate, specific and above all, sincere. This may seem easy and obvious but, according to a Gallup study, at least 91% of employees in France do not feel engaged at work!

Health comes first

Employee health has become a major issue for employers. Certainly, limiting the number of sick days is a priority but beyond that, it is a question of constantly promoting productivity.

According to a British study in 2015, companies that invest the most in employee health have observed a decrease in losses related to productivity (16% decrease for the 25% of companies that invest the most).

Consequently, many “fitness” programs have been implemented in recent years. In the United States, some companies have gone as far as reducing employees’ social security contributions if they accept to follow programs that will help them stop smoking or lose weight, for example! Given the current regulations enforced in France, it is unlikely that these initiatives (and their incentives) would be repeated here, but, still, this provides food for thought.

Improve employee life

The Silicon Valley has taken up the subject and is recognized today as one of the pioneers on the matter. Everything is done to encourage employees and limit “burn out” as much as possible. Working time has been improved and family life is gradually no longer being pushed aside, particularly with the opening of on-site childcare centers.

Beyond ergonomic future, open and luminous workspaces, Californians no longer hesitate to set up a suite of services worthy of the best hotels: laundry, quality food (often bio and at will), massage, yoga and meditation sessions, etc. Some startups have gone as far as recruiting Chief Happiness Officers and they are being emulated, even in France.


Schedules are more flexible, employees refrain from joining the competition and, ultimately, productivity increases. These facilities are a win-win for both employees and the companies. However, it is important to ensure that they do not become simple gadgets designed to seduce new recruits but, instead, that they respond to a tangible need for employees.

Generation Y: willing to sacrifice pay for balance

While remuneration (wages and benefits) has long been the focus for employees and has remained the number one criterion for job seekers, the new generation takes into consideration other factors and is more concerned with the “quality of working life” (up to 58%) than their pay.

A study carried out by Fidelity states that this generation is the happiest at work: more than 86%, even if more than half remains open to new opportunities. They are willing to sacrifice up to $7600 of annual pay in exchange for a better quality of working life! Their favorite criteria are neither the services nor the extras but their company’s social responsibility. In fact, according to them, the more a company is concerned about the fate of the community, the more it is susceptible to better consider their expectations and needs.

Involvement and valorisation, social responsibility, health and complementary services that are useful and well-thought out, all contribute to this sentiment of happiness at work, which guarantees productivity.

With such a vision, employees are no longer mere commodities for companies, instead, they have become recognized partners entirely essential to the company’s development. This reciprocity needs to be established. And for this to become sustainable, it is necessary to develop more “extras” for employees. This implies a new form of leadership and a real culture of “Happiness at work”.

Have you implemented actions destined to make your employees happy? Share your experience with us!