7 Secrets to Keeping Your Employees Happy

The bestselling author of The Happiness Project shares her secrets to workplace happiness for your employees.
August 24, 2017

Many small business owners become entrepreneurs in their pursuit of happiness. Being their own boss and proving their idea can work is a big source of satisfaction for many of them.

Gretchen Rubin, New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project, knows a lot about what makes business people happy. She spent a year test-driving conventional wisdom, current scientific studies, and lessons from pop cultures about how to be happier at work and at life.

In my interview with her, many of the themes that Gretchen uncovered makes achieving happiness critical to every company’s success.

  • Happy employees are more productive. It results in less employee absenteeism, burnout and stress. When employees are happy, they are less preoccupied with themselves, more focused on their work and are willing to take on new challenges.
  • Happy employees are better leaders. They become more resilient, less risk adverse and can more easily bounce back from failures.
  • Happy employees are more creative. They are less worried about the day to day tasks and can dream of new possibilities.
  • Happy employees are better team players. They are more likely to help others and tackle the big issues confronting them at work.

So how do business owners encourage happiness in their employees? Here are Gretchen's seven secrets.

1. Recognize when employees are making progress. Pause and highlight milestones that people hit or challenges they have overcome. Ensure that people feel their contributions are rewarded by simply saying "thank you."

2. Make employees feel like they belong. To be happy at work, it’s important to  feel like “you have a friend.” This gets challenging especially when the company gets busy. People need to feel like they know each other and so time like this yields positive results.

3. Take an interest in who employees actually are. One of the key questions that always gets asked in employee surveys is "Do you feel like your boss cares about you and is trying to give you the tools to succeed?” This will lead to employees that are much more engaged at work.

4. Make it fun. Organizations that feel “light” where people can joke around occasionally with each other have stronger cultures. When mistakes happen, people can see the funny side and are not just focusedsolely on the downside. These provide additional moments of connection as discussed in poitn No. 2.

5. Let your employees disengage sometimes. Many employees feel like they are always working because they have "a cubicle in their pocket” that they can never turn it off. This makes employees feel tremendously harassed and stressed. Encourage times when employees are completely disengaged so they can focus on their family and set their own personal priorities.

6. Encourage exercise and sleep. Enough of both of these does great things for employees’ focus, attention, creativity, energy and mood. In the long run, consistently doing "all nighters" are counterproductive.

7. Stop calculating everything. As a business owner, stop keeping score every time an action is taken. Don’t always be thinking, "If I did this for an employee, they should do that.” Do what is right and don’t calculate.

A version of this article was originally published on April 3, 2012.

Photo credit: Juliana Coutinho