Essential items for a happy work-place

Sometimes it goes a little wrong. For example, one day in October when a relatively new client arrived at our offices to be met at the front door by our MD dressed as an orangutan. It wasn’t meant to work out that way. It was the end of the day and the client was running late. We had promised our local zoo we would help with some fundraising and the two collided in a moment that could have gone either way. Thankfully, the client saw the funny side and appreciated the sentiment behind it, especially when he saw lots of decorated desks, smiling people and collecting boxes.

Of course, most days are routine, as in any business, as we all go about what we need to do. But with job enjoyment by far the top motivator, even ahead of bonuses and other financial incentives according to the Institute of Leadership and Management, we all need to be keeping our fingers firmly on the pulse to understand what’s important to our own employees and what ultimately makes them happy at work.

Many of us watched with interest the BBC 2 fly-on-the-wall insight into Iceland supermarket, whose HQ is just a few miles away from our own. One message that came across loud and clear was how important a happy workplace was to them and what a difference it makes to the way people feel about their jobs.

After all, we spend more time with our work colleagues (around 1,800 hours a year if we work full-time) than with our own family, apart from when we’re asleep. So, would we be happy and feeling at our best at home if we felt undervalued, unloved and taken for granted? Probably not.

Rewards mean different things to different people and it doesn’t need to always be about money. In fact, as in life, it’s often the small inexpensive things that mean the most. The ILM highlighted ‘praise’, ‘good working relationships’ and ‘fair treatment’ as vital to job satisfaction, but in reality how often do senior managers take the few seconds needed to drop a quick email to a member of staff to say ‘well done’ or to check if they are doing OK following a problem?

A clear organisational structure with a built-in appraisal system and open lines of communication sets clear parameters to encourage a sense of belonging and ownership. Mutual buy-in of a shared culture, goals and values will hopefully follow and yet day to day it’s the little things that count. Keep management doors open, be approachable, listen and make sure no-one is too proud to put on a brew!

Make yours a business people want to work for and a workplace people want to work in. Invest in your surroundings; make them colourful, cheerful and welcoming. A simple idea which also brightens any workspace is to recognise good performance with a ‘currency’ of flowers. Teams or individuals can save up their flowers, with a nominal value of £10 each for example, until such time as they have enough to ‘cash them in’ to do something special like a night out or a pamper session.

Encourage staff to share their thoughts on how to improve the way you do business and reward those ideas, whether that be through a monetary ‘thank you’ or with something simple like a certificate or plaque on the wall. Recognise non-absence and those staff who regularly go ‘over and above’, do spontaneous things on special days like Valentine’s Day and Easter. 

How much does a red rose or an Easter egg cost and yet it just shows staff you were thinking about them. Every member of staff at Moneypenny, once they reach ten years’ service receives a star in the reception ‘walk of fame’ and a parking space with their name on it. On hot days, our MD has been known to call up a local ice cream firm to deliver treats to everyone and what a smile it brings to everyone’s faces when they arrive to work one Friday to find a little ‘thank you’ card with a surprise £50 inside.

Have fun together and if you have the opportunity, take pride in working together to support good causes. Another great way to generate good feeling while achieving something positive. Recognise these activities with words and pictures on display internally and spread the word a little wider from time to time with well-placed external messaging.

Your people are your business and you won’t go far wrong if you follow the adage of treating others as you would want to be treated yourself. A happy workplace makes for happy and motivated employees, low staff turnover and greater productivity, which has to make great business sense all round!

Joanna Swash is the commercial director of Moneypenny.

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