Is employee happiness necessary to get the most out of your workforce?

By Sam Brake Guia September 28, 2017

How happy are we?

In an ideal world, we would all walk into our jobs, brimming with smiles, ready to get stuck into our work. Unfortunately, this can’t be said for every employee or company, far from it. This is highlighted by the fact that In the US only 27% of people said they strongly disagree that work is frustrating. Even though many companies strive to make their employees feel happier and more productive through team building events or after-hours activities, in the corporate world, the route to revenue doesn’t necessarily transect happiness.

Happiness or strict professionalism?

While it might be pleasant to walk into a happy office, it is not necessarily essential in order to obtain profits, and in some cases, the opposite environment can prove to be advantageous. For example, the colossal retail giant Amazon has built a large amount of its empire on its desire to set “unreasonably high” standards for their employees, pushing them to their limits. The company states that when they “hit the wall” from the unrelenting pace, there is only one solution “Climb the wall.”

On the other hand, many successful companies have excelled due to their desire to encourage happiness within their workforces, resulting in better customer experiences, happier customers and a greater level of recurring business. Southwest is a prime example of this: the Dallas based airline believes that employees should always be first, due to its knock-on effect for the customer. The company previously stated in a blog post, “We believe that, if we treat our Employees right, they will treat our Customers right, and in turn that results in increased business and profits that make everyone happy.”

The effect on young startups

For startups, identifying which approach to take can be an essential decision from the get-go. Within the startup culture, the majority of young companies might appear to adopt a happier culture, encouraging growth by selecting the right people to nurture a positive and constructive environment. This can be a particularly important motivator, especially in the early days when money is not an option to incentivize employees. Instead, team morale can be essential in order to turn an idea into a lucrative business. However, the culture of any startup is almost always dependent on their attitude and guidance exhibited by the founder. Therefore, if a founder takes the approach of work before happiness, this can quickly become a deeply entrenched aspect of the companies overall culture.

What Employees, Founders and Entrepreneurs think

In a recent post on Reddit titled “Question: What are your thoughts on your employees happiness?” numerous founders, employees and entrepreneurs discussed their personal approaches, and which they believe is more effective, with an interesting mix of opinions.

One user commented in favor of a happy workforce stating, “I work at a similar company (referring to a happy company) in the US and I can say it has had profoundly positive effects on my life, and I’m much more productive at work. Work life balance is a much higher motivator for me than more money, and I’m much more inclined to want to impress and perform well when the effects on my entire life are so palpable.” Another user commented, “My employees’ happiness is extremely important to me and our company,” adding, “If companies want a workforce, happiness and other forms of engagement should be the utmost importance. We simply can’t afford not to.”

On the other hand, some did express the importance of professionalism in the workplace, supporting the idea that work should come first as a priority. One user stated, “I’ll start with an opposing opinion. Employee happiness is not a considered topic at my company. Sure there are times of human touches where a death or event happens and you except some rules for the event. My expectation is that of professionalism at all times. I believe that discipline far exceeds the fleeting state of emotions. If you can’t keep you emotions in check to execute then we will part company. We are a team not a family. Get in position or get out.”

Making a decision

Overall, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for promoting a company’s culture. Instead, this is heavily reliant on what the company does, the type of person it employees, and above all, the vision of the founder. Though it might seem bleak and a little immoral to implement a slave like environment to get the most out of your workers, it can sometimes create a very industrious culture.

However, while it might lead to profits, if the same can be achieved through more positive methods, encouraging happiness along with growth, then it seems like a no-brainer to strive for a positive work envirnoment. And if these results are anything to go by then a happy workforce will probably do you and your business a world of good. Ultimately, this starts and ends with the founder. Their vision and goal of how a company should be run will eventually shape the company’s culture and success.