Happiness at work in the time of Corona – back to basics

COVID-19 is a massive challenge for workplaces all over the world as well as a massive challenge for employees’ private lives and mental health.

Knowing that unhappy/stressed employees are less productive and less innovative (right when we need everyone to contribute to solutions to these challenges) it becomes crucial for companies to figure out how to make their employees happy at work.

Paradoxically, many of the traditional perks and activities that companies use are currently impossible or irrelevant, including things like:

  • Office gyms
  • Fancy coffee machines
  • Workplace parties
  • Team-building events

So on the one hand it’s incredibly important to focus on employee happiness right now but on the other hand many of the traditional approaches are completely impractical.

If you’ve followed our work at all, you know that we’re critical of all of those perks listed above anyway. We argue that they make employees satisfied rather than happy and are therefore mostly a waste of time and money.

What do we do in that situation? We go back to basics and focus on the things that really make people happy at work: Results and relationships. I talk more about that in this video:

Results

We all want to get results. We all want to make a difference, know that our work is important, get appreciation and do work that we can be proud of.

One of our deepest psychological needs, is the need to control our environment. If we’re placed in a situation where we have no control, where nothing we do matters, we feel terrible. On the other hand, we love to make a difference. Accomplishment feels great. As Franklin D. Roosevelt put it:

“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”

Relationships

We all need to feel valued as human beings and have a good connection with co-workers and managers or even to customers, suppliers, shareholders, and the organization’s wider community.

Relationships at work matter so much because we will be spending a lot of time with people at work. When you think about it, you’ll be spending more of your waking hours with them, than with your friends and family.

How do we do this

So this is the secret to happiness at work: Results and relationships – doing great work together with great people. This is what we must give our employees every single day.

Figuring out how to do this given current limitations is a crucial challenge. I’m not going to pretend that I have all the answers but here are some ideas that might work.

Online stand-up meetings

IT company Menlo Innovations start all work days with a brief stand-up meeting where all employees share what they’re working on today to check in and coordinate work. This meeting has now moved online and is still a crucial part of making sure that everyone knows what’s going on.

They recently shared how they have managed to create remote work days that almost feel like being in the office.

Online lunches

When everyone is in the office, connection happens automatically and randomly throughout the day. When people are working from home, you have to plan consciously to make them happen. One friend of mine works at an IT company where they have scheduled online lunch breaks where they can relax and chat together.

Check in with people

Similarly, when people are in the office, you can get a sense of how they’re doing. If someone seems worried or stressed you have a chance to notice and act on it. If you don’t see people for weeks at a time, this gets a lot harder, and you need a better way to check in with them. You can schedule regular brief meetings with each employee or you can use some online tool to measure your employees’ workplace happiness.

There are approximately a million different apps and tools for this out there – find one and try it. We are currently offering all workplaces a free 3-month trial of HeartCount which is (in our humble opinion) the best tool for measuring happiness at work. Sign up right here to try it in your workplace.

Online praise and recognition

Praise and recognition is crucial in the workplace but a lot harder to give when you don’t see people every day. Online systems can be a great alternative to let people praise each other and see what others are being recognized for.

Use online systems to highlight and communicate progress

Most work is being coordinated online already, but very often these systems are mostly used to communicate what we still need to do.

For instance: Do you have some kind of online todo list? What happens when you complete an item? In most systems, it disappears from the list and all you ever see is all the stuff you haven’t done.

I think we need to turn that around and use online systems to systematically highlight and overcommunicate our achievements and accomplishments.

What has worked for you?

What has your team or your workplace done that worked well? Please share your best ideas in a comment.

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