Can the Workplace be Joyful? How To Create a Happy Work Environment

Abby Haralson

Global employee engagement reached a record high in 2022, peaking at 23%. But workplace stress took the 1st place podium with 44% of workers saying they experienced “a lot of stress the previous day.”

Gallup’s Global Workplace Report also found that 60% of workers say they’re emotionally detached at work and 19% are miserable. Those are some doom–and–gloom stats right there. For most business owners, the goal isn’t to create a business just to make the employees happy; it’s to solve a problem and make some money.

But if you’re part of the lucky entrepreneurs that employ people, you have a perfect opportunity to create a workplace that is not only productive but also joyful. With the right strategies, you can make your company a place where people want to come to work every day, instead of counting down the hours until they can leave.

If you’re reading this blog, we think you want to do right by your employees. Here are some tips on how to create a happy work environment (that still drives profits):

Why Create a Happy Work Environment?

After 10 years as business owners, we know there’s a fine line between a happy work environment and making money. In fact, we think that if you do it right, happy employees will help you be more profitable. And it doesn’t take the highest pay in the industry, the coolest office, or the most extravagant perks to do it. 

The Benefits of Happy Employees

  • Increased Productivity: The University of Warwick (UK) found that happy employees lead to a 12% increase in productivity, while distressed employees led to a 10% decrease. You can get more done and improve the capacity of your teams when they’re happy to be working.
  • Better Employee Retention: A joyful workplace can reduce turnover rates and save you time and money on constant hiring and training.
  • Positive Company Culture: A happy work environment promotes a positive company culture that can attract top talent and improve overall morale.
  • Improved Customer Satisfaction: Customers can tell when employees want to help or are just there to get a job done. And since profits depend on customers, happy employees are a key to customer satisfaction.
  • Increased Innovation and Creativity: Creativity can only thrive when people aren’t worried about their job security or feeling stressed out. A happy work environment can foster creativity and lead to innovative ideas.
  • Better Health Outcomes: Stressful work environments can lead to physical and mental health issues for employees. But a positive work environment has been found to improve overall health outcomes, leading to fewer sick days and higher energy levels at work.

5 Ways to Help Your Employees Feel Happier

What divides companies who actually create a happy workplace and those that just tell their employees to be happier? Implementation. Here are five strategies that you can use to create a happy work environment:

Focus Less on Work and More on Relationships

Counterintuitive, we know, but stick with us. Read this quick story from one of our employees to demonstrate why this works: “My last year of college, I had a major semester–long group project. The class was essential for graduation and I think everyone in the class groaned internally when we heard it would be a group project.

They always seem to cause more stress and create 10x more work for just a few people. But our professor reminded us that “in the real world,” we would almost always be working with a team. Life is essentially one big group project. So, he split us into groups and gave us one assignment before starting the project: we needed to get together outside of school and follow a very specific rule.

We couldn’t say anything about the class or the project during our meet–up. We were only supposed to get to know each other and do something fun—only then would he let us start on the assignment. That project was the best group experience I’ve ever had.

I didn’t become best friends with each of my classmates but I knew what was important to them, what they had going on in their current lives, and what some of their strengths and weaknesses were. It made the project easier, fun even (never ever something I thought I’d say about a group project as a perfectionist introvert).”

Why should we ever expect our employees to work well together if the only thing they know about their coworkers is their job title? Build time into your meetings to ask fun questions, play games, run polls about who everyone thinks is a neat freak or the most spontaneous.

Take it even further by asking your employees how they like to get to know people and how comfortable they feel sharing things about themselves so you can create systems around your people.

Meetings have to be effective, we get it. But the few minutes you spend building team unity and trust are well worth it.

Encourage Employee Autonomy

No one likes to be micromanaged. Giving employees autonomy and trusting them to make decisions can increase their happiness at work. When employees feel valued and trusted, they are more likely to perform well and take ownership of their work.

Allowing your employees to have flexibility in their schedule or the way they approach tasks can also boost morale. It shows that you trust them to manage their own time and work process, which can lead to a happier and more satisfied workforce.

Incorporate Giving Into the Workday

Employees are more than their skills; they have causes they care about and people in their community that could use help. There are studies upon studies that show the positive impact of charitable giving and volunteering. What if you could be a facilitator for those experiences?

At Lemonade Stand, we give each of our employees $50 every month to spend on someone else. It could be the person behind them in the drive-through, the single parent at the grocery store, or a person in their neighborhood who just lost a loved one. 

Charitable donations to big corporations are great. But what about putting that money into the hands of your employees and seeing the daily good that comes from it? 

If you’re already donating money, it’s a simple shift that has incomprehensible benefits. (It’s also an unmatched HR benefit—90% of our employees say this program has influenced their decision to choose Lemonade Stand and stay with us.)

Create a Culture of Feedback

This one takes a bit more time because it may be a significant culture shift in your organization. But worth every minute, we promise.

A culture of feedback is when you give and receive feedback regularly, genuinely, and with the intent to help everyone grow. There’s no “gotcha” moments; there’s no internal gossiping about so–and–so. At our company, this looks like most teams having monthly or bi–monthly review sessions when coworkers come together and ask for help with a tricky project.

It’s in our C–Suite language—anytime we announce something or make a change, we encourage our employees to ask questions, push back with ideas or concerns. In fact, that’s not encouraged; it’s expected.

Creating a culture of feedback isn’t easy and can be uncomfortable at first, but when done right, it can lead to better communication, higher levels of trust, and a happier work environment.

Prioritize Mental Health

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it should be treated as such in the workplace. Creating a supportive environment for mental health can lead to happier employees and better overall health outcomes.

There is a lot that goes into supporting mental health, like your time–off policy and how your workloads are shared. Ask your employees if they feel comfortable taking time off. For example, if you say you have unlimited time–off but your sales team has a quota that stretches them until the very last day of the month, they’ll never feel comfortable about taking a day or two.

We’ve found that many business owners say they want to support their employees’ mental health but don’t allow themselves to take a day off or to have a slower month. This communicates to your employees that mental health isn’t a real concern and can discourage them from taking care of their own well-being. Any lasting change starts at the top and makes its way down.

Shortcut to a Happy Work Environment: Build Then Bless

The service program we mentioned earlier? We call it Build Then Bless. By giving our employees the means to serve, it helps them know we care about them and the things they care about. It builds trust, rapport, and empathy.

Build Then Bless started as our company mission and has developed into the cornerstone of our company culture. To simplify the implementation and help other companies do the same, we created a software that brings you all the benefits of Build Then Bless. Reach out to learn more about using Build Then Bless to create a happy work environment.

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