The Secret to Workplace Happiness

Last Updated: 
January 18, 2023

Happiness seems to be a philosophical concept; everyone has a different definition of it and how to achieve it. However, even the Declaration of Independence holds up happiness as something people should be free to pursue. 

However, being happy at work is a large order to fill. Can work make you happy? Probably not, but people's approach to work and their employer's approach to workplace culture can make it easier to experience happiness as everyone earns a living.

Defining happiness

According to Fast Company, happy people are dedicated, immersed, vibrant, and have a purpose. 

Dedicated people are engaged with their work and are keen to see it through to the best of their abilities. The recent rash of "quiet quitting" is fueled by detachment. If people don't care about their work, they won't be dedicated to it and will find it hard to be happy employees.

If someone can immerse themselves in their work, losing track of time, they will likely be happy. Immersion can block negativity from the environment and keep the person from making unfavorable comparisons to others.

Vibrancy is the energy sent out by an individual and received from others. A vibrant environment where workers can accept energy and transmit it to others creates a happy workplace.

People need purpose. If they can find meaning in their work, they are more likely to be happy doing it. If the work matters, they can see better outside themselves to the world around them.

Who is happy?

According to Stack Overflow, software developers in India, the U.S., Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom are the happiest at work. 

On the other hand, according to this same report, technology companies have the highest industry resignation rate (4.5% in 2021 over 2020), showing quite an increase in quitting. Strangely, nearly 80% of technology workers are not looking for a new job. What does that mean? It means these developers have higher dissatisfaction with the current company than the desire for a new employer.

Reasons cited for what makes developers happy at work include:

  • Salary - 60%
  • Work-life balance - 58%
  • Flexibility - 52%
  • Productivity - 52%
  • Growth opportunities - 49%

Interestingly, salary is not more heavily weighted. 

Why do developers leave? This list from the Stack Overflow piece closely mirrors the reasons for happiness at work noted above:

  • Feeling unproductive at work
  • Low salary
  • No work-life balance
  • Absence of growth opportunities

People who are constantly interrupted or cannot get their work done are the most likely to leave.

How to be happy at work - employee-style

The most important thing anyone can do is find a career they enjoy. Throughout school, teachers tell you to follow your passion, find meaning and personal fulfillment in your work, or do something that makes you proud.

There is more than a grain of truth in that advice. However, work isn't the whole of life. Work-life balance, one of the fundamental reasons developers are happy at work, is crucial to mental, emotional, and physical health.

There used to be something called a busman's holiday. That meant a man who drove a bus for a living and then drove his family around for vacation. Find something to do that is different from your job to increase your happiness potential.

Take charge of your professional development. You know better than anyone, especially your employer, what you have planned for your life. Develop a plan and goals for your career, then pursue them. Ask your boss for specific, meaningful advice. Take stretch assignments and create connections with those around you.

Ask for a lot of feedback; request details and examples. Use open-ended questions and then actively listen to the response. 

Make commitments, but only if you can keep them. Know what's happening at work — reach out to learn instead of waiting for someone to tell you what's happening. Your manager may not know there is a communication breakdown until you mention it.

Avoid negativity. Do you know those coworkers who always gossip and complain? Stay away from them, and don't partake in their negativity. Instead, remain professional and redirect the conversation away from negative subjects. 

Make work friends and learn how to engage with others without conflict. Don't take it personally if someone questions your ideas; listen to understand. At the least, tell the person you will take it under advisement. You can stand up for your principles without being disagreeable.

How to create a happy workplace - employer-style

Engagement is one of today’s watchwords. But, unfortunately, it has come to mean high-stress, cut-throat competition rather than feeling valued, secure, supported, and respected. A Harvard Business Review study showed the consequences of disengagement

  • 37% higher absenteeism
  • 49% more accidents
  • 60% more errors and defects

The financial cost of rework and healthcare is enough to blow your mind. If people don't come to work, everyone is less happy as they take up the slack.

As an employer, what can you do?

Here is what you shouldn't do - don't hover. Micromanagement drives off too many employees, especially those with high skill levels and self-motivation. Micromanagement devalues other employees, telling them they can't do a good enough job.

Find the laughter at work — not at others, but with your team. If the boss can loosen up enough to laugh, others feel more comfortable sharing ideas and taking risks.

Promote a positive culture. Hostile environments spawn high turnover and low productivity. Conversely, Deloitte found that 94% of their executives and 88% of their employees said company culture is critical to business success.

Reward people for their hard work and intelligent ideas. A well-rounded recognition program does wonders for morale. Ensure the reward reflects the value of the work or vision. Give more than a $5 gift card when an employee saves you $10 million.

Other ways to show appreciation and promote happiness are spot bonuses and anniversary gifts. Many employees prefer experiences to stuff. So instead of five-year pins, provide gift cards for restaurants, movies, spas, amusement parks, or other types of entertainment. 

Finally, make the work fulfilling. Offer career advancement plans so people don't feel stuck where they are. They may not realize the opportunities that await. Give stretch goals to those who want them. Learning new skills keeps everyone fresh.

Wrapping up

Happiness at work is a big deal and a significant source of retention. If employees are happy, they are productive and innovative. Provide a positive workplace with chances for advancement and rewards for hard work; happiness will bust out all over.

Ready to Supercharge Your Productivity?

Fill out the form to connect with a Worca expert who can learn about what your business needs and how Worca can help.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.