Happiness has taken the world by storm. The deluge of self-help books and social media ‘inspo’ on the subject tells us so – usually in 10 easy steps. And why not? After all, everyone wants to be happy. Not only does being happy make your feel – well, happy – but it  it has been proven to lead you to live a longer and be a better contributor to society. 

Given that the average person spends a third of their entire lives at work, it’s no surprise that this focus on happiness has filtered over to the world of work. You’ve probably heard about Google and Zappos’ introduction of ‘Chief Happiness Officers’ and a growing number of offices with slides, games and even open bars designed to keep their employees happy. To some, these initiatives seem like mere gimmicks and the focus on happiness a fad. But should businesses be taking happiness at work seriously?

Well, let’s look at some stats. Studies on the effect of happiness in the workplace have been ongoing for the last two centuries, so we’ll just focus on those in the past few years:

How unhappy are we at work?

Pretty darn unhappy – Gallup calls it a crisis. There’s the often-quoted Gallup survey, which in 2016 maintained that only 13% of workers worldwide are actively engaged in their work.

Another interesting study undertaken with an app called Mappiness over a number of years, found that out of the 40 activities people participated in in their lives, they were the least happy undertaking paid work. Basically, they were happier anywhere else rather than at work.

So, it’s safe to say that there’s a huge opportunity-gap for businesses to improve happiness in the workplace!

But why should businesses care?

Why should businesses bother to invest in making their employees happier? The obvious benefits include winning over new talent, retaining employees and improving public image. What can be more difficult to ascertain, is the financial impact. After all, most businesses operate to make a profit, or at least to remain financially viable.

A recent lab-based study at The University of Warwick – using 4 different exercises with 700 participants – showed that happy people are 15% more productive undertaking work tasks. 

Another study by the University of Warwick – this time with the University of Pennsylvania – discovered a positive correlation between worker satisfaction (those that were listed on the Great Place to Work© index) and stock market performance.

Closer to home, A PwC study estimated that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion per year. This comprises $4.7 billion in absenteeism, $6.1 billion in presenteeism (at work, but not doing work) and $146 million in compensation claims. 

The above is just a sample. There is plenty more compelling evidence out there that corroborates that it makes financial sense for business to invest in a happier and more engaged workforce.

Any investment they make does usually pay off financially too. The same PwC study also showed that for every dollar spent on initiatives to improve mental health in the workplace, businesses can expect an average return of $2.30. A 230% ROI is pretty good by anyone’s measure!

Happiness hits mainstream corporate Australia

With workplace happiness currently at such a low – and the financial benefits to business clear – it’s no wonder initiatives to improve workplace happiness are becoming more popular in corporate Australia. Sign up to blog updates from The Serenity Collective to read what happiness initiatives companies are rolling out across Australia and further afield. Plus, lots of inspiration and insight on workplace resilience, emotional intelligence, leadership and more.

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