Employee happiness and well-being is a key focus for many organisations. It’s clear why: if employees are happy, they’re more likely to perform well, to be engaged in their role and to buy into the philosophy and direction of the organisation. They’ll stick around for the long term.
But all too often well-being and happiness at work are dumbed down and associated with the superficial: pool tables and games rooms, discounts on gym membership and restaurants or a visiting masseuse.
So do these employee benefits indicate a genuine concern for employee well-being or do they allow organisations to avoid looking internally at their own culture and at what will impact on people’s real workplace experience?
My feeling is yes, they do.
If they are used in isolation, these short-term strategies divert attention away from the creativity, thought and investment needed to genuinely impact on human happiness within the workplace.
Our relationships, leadership styles, feeling connected to what we’re actually doing and having an understanding of our place in the narrative of the organisation have far more of an impact on our happiness levels than a weekly massage.
To feel fulfilled as human beings, there are fundamental needs that should be listened to and then met; they’re at the heart of what it is to be human and so they need to be at the heart of our organisations – how we develop and support our people.
Our need for Activity
This is about how we engage with our lives. It’s fundamental to who we are, to getting things done, to the practical activity of our personal and professional lives; to our organisations. It’s true that some of us can get so caught up in ‘doing’ that we don’t connect activity to our bigger sense of purpose and direction; it becomes activity for its own sake. It’s then that we can become stressed and overwhelmed; it’s then that we might start to think of what we’re doing as pointless.
Our need for Interaction and relationships
is about our ability to relate - to understand ourselves and others. It’s here that we lay the foundations and set conditions for mindful, healthy relationships. Relationships can, of course, become a means by which we take power or act out our own insecurities. We can choose to manipulate, control, criticise or judge. The route we take and the values we attach to our interactions may determine our outcomes and how we feel about ourselves and others.
Our need for Direction
Here we ask questions about why we’re doing what we’re doing, our place and purpose and the role we play in the wider narrative of work and life. Feeling that we have a part to play, that we know where we’re headed contributes hugely to personal feelings of well-being and high self-esteem. Often this is where teams come unstuck: great at interacting and highly skilled in their areas of expertise, but lacking in the emotional connection and buy in to what the organisation is trying to achieve.
Our need for Wholeness
There is a fundamental need within human beings to feel mentally and emotionally healthy, grounded and in a good relationship with ourselves. When we don’t feel this way many of us may seek help to put ourselves back on track; others may choose to ignore it or perhaps not even recognise it in the first place. At our healthiest, we’re aware of the impact of our mental states on those around us; we recognise the importance of owning those mental states and holding ourselves accountable. When this doesn’t happen – both personally and professionally – the consequences can be life changing. Many of us have felt the impact of the leader who doesn’t own their own stuff, who is quick to blame others, who lets their personal life intrude unacceptably in the workplace. Working with a team of people with a degree of self-awareness can certainly influence our mood and sense of well-being in the workplace.
Our need for Meaning
People who’ve spent time developing meaning in their lives create, communicate and sustain their vision. They are bifocal; they have an eye on the bigger picture but they’re also very much engaged in activity and doing to make it a reality. Those people who have really changed the world haven’t sat around waiting for meaning to come to them – they’ve gone out there to find it. Where we lack meaning as people or in our teams we lack an awareness of the wider impact of what we are doing. Organisations can be well meaning, concerned with the wellbeing of their people but lack the sense of how their philosophy is internalised in the fabric of the culture.
Listen to and meet these needs
Happiness and well-being in the work place – as in life generally - come from listening to these needs, trying to meet them in some way and supporting our employees to do the same. By looking at our own activity, interaction, direction, wholeness and meaning and building these into how we lead and manage our teams we can create healthier, happier workplaces – so that a massage or discounted gym membership become just the icing on the cake and not the cake itself.
Wisdom Fish work with organisations to explore how these needs can be brought to life and embedded into employee experience and organisational cultures. From performance management, personal development and individual coaching and mentoring to training and praise and recognition systems, if you want to have a chat, then get in contact with firstname.lastname@example.org.