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Measuring the effect of happiness in the workplace

30 September 2015 Liane McGowan, Happy Monday
Liane McGowan, founder of Happy Monday CC.

Liane McGowan, founder of Happy Monday CC.

While global human resources campaigns have been targeting employee engagement from a happiness perspective for quite some time, South Africa has lagged behind in this approach. Although local companies are slowly beginning to realise the impact of mental wellbeing and cheerfulness in the workplace, many still pose the question – how do we measure whether or not our employees are happy? Even more are asking – how do we measure whether or not we will get a return on investment from making our employees happy?

These questions are asked the world over and it seems the simple answer is; happy means productive, productive means profits. But for many a conglomerate, this isn’t quite enough. “Within corporate South Africa, the question remains, how can we measure both the prevalence and the impact of happiness and emotional wellness at work?” asks Liane McGowan, founder of Happy Monday CC.

Some technology has been developed to measure and report on the employees’ moods, such as the current wearable technology like the Japanese Hitachi ‘happiness meter’, or online ‘happiness calculators’. “While there may be a need for wearable technology in some instances, we need to move away from the reactive form of employee engagement. What will this technology tell us? That our employees are unhappy? We already know that!” states McGowan.

According to *research conducted at the University of Warwick, a series of experiments were conducted to determine whether there is a real correlation between happiness and productivity. These experiments tested both peoples reaction to positive stimuli (testing whether happiness would make them more productive), and whether the reverse applies (that people are less productive when they are bereaved or sad). The results indicated the existence of a positive association between human happiness and human productivity, noting that levels of job satisfaction might well be predictive of future stock-market performance.

“The reality is that businesses are falling short with regard to employee engagement. The onslaught of ‘thank goodness it’s Fridays’ and ‘blue Mondays’ is testament to that fact,” concludes McGowan. “To foster a productive, profitable staff complement, real engagement is required. We need to know why employees are unhappy and how we can address the issues within the organisation to ensure a shift in corporate culture, creating an environment where employees are genuinely excited to come to work. Developing the measurements for this engagement should be a priority across all industries.”

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