Whether you like it or not, as a boss you have a profound impact on the happiness of your employees.
You just have to look at the case of France Telecom (now Orange SA), where former CEO Didier Lombard is facing legal action over claims that a culture of harassment led 35 former employees to commit suicide, for an extreme example of what can happen when workplace toxicity seeps into daily life.
Of course employees don't necessarily have to be happy to be successful, but they do have to be engaged. As it's pretty hard to be engaged if your job makes you miserable, there's a business benefit in keeping your staff cheerful.
We’re not suggesting it’s easy, but it doesn't have to be complicated either. Here are three simple steps all businesses can implement.
Nudges for goodness
The charity Action-for-Happiness create free wellbeing tools to improve mental health within organisations and society in general. Each month the charity releases a downloadable calendar that prompts people into daily ‘good behaviour’.
These could be as simple as a reminder to get outside for five minutes, think of something good that’s happened that day or simply remember to take three calm breaths. The point is they help to cut through the daily bombarding of advertisements, bad news and corporate stresses that can sometimes get too much.
"You are being constantly influenced by often unhealthy, unconstructive nudges, so this is just trying to encourage better ones," says Geoff Mulgan, CEO for the innovation charity Nesta which helped to set it up. The app has already received over a million downloads.
Train them to well
If you want an example of a happy business, look no further than healthy fast-food chain Leon. Amid a perfect storm of well-documented high street troubles, the brand has grown sales by 20 per cent during the first quarter of 2019 and is well under way with its international expansion plans.
Aside from a sound business strategy, says co-founder John Vincent, Leon’s success so far has been down to the focus that goes into "creating the conditions that enable employees to thrive."
The company monitors the happiness and health of its workers, asking them to score themselves as part of a quarterly wellbeing survey, and offers training in how they can live more mindful lives. Leon also equips all of its managers with advice books that they are expected to pass on to colleagues and twice a year expects them to attend wellbeing weekends including reiki massages, acupuncture and fireside chats.
Not every business has to go to such extremes, but Vincent says that helping your employees live happier lives has a direct impact on the bottom line. He recommends reading The 4 Pillar Plan by Dr Rangan Chatterjee as a good starting point.
Let them sleep
People who sleep more are generally happier; they’re more productive too. An often cited report by Rand Europe declared that sleep deprivation shaves nearly 2 per cent off of UK GDP.
Bosses are slowly waking up to the fact that there’s a business benefit in helping your team get their forty winks and that’s why companies like Podtime can charge upwards of £3,000 for specially designed sleep pods that fit neatly beside your standup desk and self-blending smoothie machine.
The idea of cluttering your boardroom with company branded, ergonomically perfect, Lost-in-Space-esque tube-beds might not be to everybody’s taste (or budget) but there are some easier, much more practical wins: introducing more flexible work hours that take into account commuting times, an adjustment in office lighting levels or even just asking your staff how the company can help to ensure they get more shut eye.
Last year Business In The Community, in conjunction with Public Health England, released a sleep and recovery toolkit for employers. The toolkit details the impact of getting more sleep, your legal obligations as an employer and practical ways you can help your staff get more of the good stuff.
Ultimately there is no quick fix when it comes to employee wellbeing. It’s a consequence of a good culture that extends far beyond a grauitous Granny Smith or biannual feedback survey. The best businesses genuinely listen to what their employees want, and act on it.
No amount of acupuncture can fix a culture rife with presenteeism, micromanaging bosses and 24/7 emails.