Kleopatra Kivrakidou at Ergotron explains how organisations can promote happiness and productivity at work during and after the pandemic.
It used to be that workplace happiness was defined by experiences like direct engagement with colleagues, bike-to-work schemes, and even the office space and furnishings. For most of us in 2020, all that has changed.
The global lock-down caused by the pandemic triggered a remote-working pattern that has forced us to view being happy at work in an entirely different way. With the lines between work-life and home-life becoming blurred, a focus on mental and physical health has become increasingly important.
This is because the environment in which we work heavily affects our mood and attitude towards work. And this in turn has an impact on how productive we are.
As we all try to navigate our way through what continues to be a challenging year, International Week of Happiness at Work is a good time to think about how we define workplace happiness. What can employers do to support their workforce so that they are content, engaged and productive at work?
Start with the meaning of ‘happiness’
Happiness can be defined as an overarching richness of life, within which you experience a mixture of emotions, from contentment to anger, while maintaining a sense of purpose. Businesses should be taking this definition into consideration when they are brainstorming new initiatives and schemes to achieve happiness at work.
One way of looking at this is to think about the four keys to happiness:
All of these can be promoted with different training, design and cultural choices. Doing this will deliver long-term benefits.
Supporting a flexible, hybrid workforce
The current pandemic has created – for the most part – a much more home-based workforce. But lock-down restrictions in the UK have begun to loosen in recent months, meaning that many office workers, who had been working from home, have received the call that they can resume working at desks they have not seen for weeks.
While many have welcomed the return to a more structured workplace environment, others have had reservations about returning to the ‘old normal’.
These people argue that there are significant dangers from working in close proximity with colleagues. But others feel that the dangers are trivial. This difference of opinion is bound to cause a divide. It is up to organisations to put in place a set of protocols that make people on either side of the argument feel that, if they are returning to the office, they are returning to a safe and healthy workspace.
As a result of the pandemic, many organisations have discovered that productivity can be maintained or even increased when people work from home. This is important because the reality is that many businesses will now be catering for a hybrid pattern of work, with some office working and some home working.
This change to work patterns will probably become the ‘new normal’ way of working, especially as restrictions look set to tighten again in the UK.
A new workplace design for new times
The environment in which we work heavily affects our mood and attitude towards work. Since the introduction in recent years of benefits such as working from home and flexible working, the traditional office environment has come under much scrutiny. This has only been amplified by current global circumstances that have enforced flexibility.
Even before this, however, 37% of employees said they would change jobs for one that offered them the ability to work where they want at least part of the time. Now more than ever before, workers are searching for a healthy work-life balance.
In correlation with society’s improved understanding of mental health, there is an increased focus on poor mental health and stress levels. Having the choice to work where you want, when you want, can help improve mental health and reduce stress.
To match this, the office space itself must also become more flexible. More companies are now following ergonomic principles, for instance around the choice of furniture, as a route to achieving this.
The core ergonomic principles are:
These four core principles are very closely linked to the keys to happiness mentioned earlier. A focus on them can help businesses analyse their office environment objectively and see what changes need to be made.
Ergonomic products, such as sit-to-stand desks and adjustable monitor arms, help bring these principles to life. They are flexible to employees’ needs, which helps boost productivity and keeps workers engaged for longer. When comfort levels are increased, it becomes easier to build up physical resilience. And perhaps most importantly, movement-friendly furniture is kind to mental and physical well-being.
Encouraging a deeper sense of happiness at work leads not only to day-to-day health but also to productivity and ultimately career advancement. All of these are truly in the interests of both the business and employee.
Happiness is a direction, not a place
Even before the onset of the pandemic, and all the effects it has had on our way of working, the workforce was shaping and shifting. As older generations began to leave it, and millennials and Generation-Z began to enter it, attitudes towards work changed.
Soon, companies who don’t provide better benefits and schemes for their employees will be left behind. There is no better time than right now for businesses to take the lessons learnt from the changes to traditional working and start placing greater importance on happiness at work.
In the words of the founders of the International Week of Happiness at Work, Maartje Wolff and Fennande van der Meulen: “Happy people perform better.”
Kleopatra Kivrakidou is Channel Marketing Manager at Ergotron.
Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com