Employee engagement: why happiness at work matters and how to encourage it

happiness at work
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In today’s challenging economic environment, measuring whether employees are happy may not seem like a top priority, but ignoring employee engagement can hit businesses where it really hurts – on the bottom line.  

It’s a widely known fact that happy people are better workers. Those who are engaged with their jobs and colleagues work harder and smarter. Despite this, many people are not engaged.

According to Gallup’s recent research, there is a worldwide employee engagement crisis. The percentage of employees engaged globally has sunk to an all-time low of 13%.

It appears that not that many people are emotionally and intellectually committed to their employer and organisation, and a small number are actively disengaged.

This means that they are likely to be projecting negativity at work, which can often manifest itself in covert behaviour, sabotaging projects and undermining others.

How employees feel at work and their mood does matter. Research now shows that there are clear links between what we feel/think and what we do and how we behave.

When we are in the grip of strong negative emotion it’s only possible to focus on that. We do not process information well, think creatively or make good decisions.

Any kind of frustration, anger or stress causes the part that is thinking and engaged to simply shut down. 

Carrying those sorts of feelings around at work and the behaviours they result in create negativity, less productivity and impact relationships.

Turning the tide

So how do you increase engagement? What do people need to feel engaged and happy at work?

1. They need a meaningful vision of the future

Generally, people want to be able to see the future and how they fit into it. What is important here is for leaders to be able to communicate a compelling vision that links to personal vision.

This is about creating an environment where people can thrive and work to their strengths. When the future can seem so uncertain and fast moving, this assurance is vital. 

A lot of this comes down to how the company vision is communicated and to what extent employees are allowed to demonstrate their strengths and ideas as well as making employees feel that their job is important to the overall vision.

2. They need a sense of purpose

People want to feel valued, to feel that their work and their contribution matters. Not only that but they also want to feel that their organisation is doing something big that matters to others too.

How does their work link to the company’s larger purpose? What unique strengths and skills are they bringing that make a difference?

Then it is about recognising and valuing those strengths in small ways as well as larger gestures and rewards. It’s also vital to give plenty of opportunities for employees to learn and grow and that there is someone at work who actively encourages their development.

3. They want great relationships

People join an organisation but they usually leave because of another person or a boss. Bad relationships with leaders/bosses can be stressful and draining, as are bad relationships with colleagues.

Trust and supportive relationships link with state of mind generally and how well people contribute in a team. Do everything you can to encourage strong and mutually supportive relationships.

Collaboration amongst employees is one of the best ways to determine if you have a fully engaged team. So look around to see if everyone is working happily alongside one another. If so, you are witnessing a room full of engaged employees.

To be fully engaged at work people simply need vision, meaning, purpose and great relationships. 

Make sure you are talking openly and clearly about engagement and what it means to everybody. Make sure that most of the things people need to feel engaged and happy are being met.

Ask them, find out and get any potential issues or negative feelings out into the open. Identify leaders in your team who are allies in encouraging engagement and make sure they are empowered to actively engage others to form tighter bonds.

Interested in this topic? Read more about emotional intelligence at work

About Emma Sue Prince

Emma Sue Prince is author of “7 Skills for the Future” available now to pre-order from Amazon. Emma Sue Prince is a specialist in experiential learning and believes strongly that this methodology is key to developing life skills and soft skills as it is the only way to develop self-awareness, upon which all behavioural change is based. She delivers powerful workshops in this regard and does so with many different target groups including “closed” groups such as Muslim communities in Bangladesh and North Africa and diverse groups in the UK including lawyers, doctors and software engineers. 


Emma Sue provides consultancy in emerging economies and travels regularly to India, Bangladesh and Tanzania advising on a range of large funded projects. She runs a free membership site – Unimenta – for practitioners working in soft skills. When not working Emma Sue runs a local gospel choir in her home town of Godalming, Surrey and is an avid baker.




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