The cult of happy companies

Being an agency.

The recent rise of “happiness” seems to be taking over organisations keen to find productivity gains and competitive advantage

Led by companies such as Google, Virgin, Zappos and even governments, the drive to create jolly, mindful working environments seems to be the latest management fad. But is it all it’s cracked up to be? And why should we be cautious when it comes to measuring it.

Happy people are more productive.

This is classic truism. Individuals bogged down doing unproductive stuff in a disorganised and stressed workplace are always going to be less happy than folks who don’t have those same productivity blocks in place.

However, just trying to get unproductive people into a happy frame of mind is really not that effective. So, one major facet of happiness is the removal of workplace crappery. That includes killing pointless meetings,

Understanding this is the key to converting “happiness” into a source of competitive advantage as most clients and customers prefer their service partners to smile and be happy.

Creating extra happy

Once, and only once, you’ve removed the toxic activities and approach in the workplace can you then start to add extra happy. It might be something as simple as free good food, or on-site meditation, but it’s more likely that you’ll achieve success by simply listening to your staff and working out what makes them happy.

You don’t need a “happiness consultant” (or whatever they like to call themselves today), to work out what will work for your business. You do, however, need C-level understanding of the issues in the workplace and the buy-in to fix them.

And it must be the C-level as, sadly, the middle management layer is almost universally bad at doing stuff like this.

Measuring happiness

Subjectively, it’s pretty easy to work out if someone is happy, but formal measurement often require something more objective – a metric – and preferably one that can’t be “gamed”. Moodboards and smartphone apps have sprung up to try to quantify happiness, mostly they will fail due to inconsistent use or just plain gaming by staffers.

In times gone past, an employee might have had an annual 360 review, where he or she could discuss things about the workplace that make them unhappy. As once a year was woefully inadequate, companies shortened the period and some now even have weekly 360 sessions! Apart from being a total waste of time (and lowering productivity) they serve little real purpose.

Besides, not everyone wants to be happy all the time and, as measurement is a form of control, this probably infringes upon personal freedoms – it may even be a breach of civil liberty!

The takeaway

It’s admirable to aim for a happy organisation, but do that via practical means that make staffers lives more rewarding, and remove the process-driven driven drudgery that makes them miserable (yes, “toxic meetings”, I’m looking at you). And don’t get caught-up in the latest management fads.