6 ways to increase employee happiness at work

5 min read  |   6 July, 2023   By Aimée Brougham-Chandler

Two women high-five across an office desk. The woman facing the camera is smiling widely, looking happy.

All business owners want to keep their team happy at work.

Doing work you feel is meaningful means you're more likely to perform your best - and happy employees are more likely to stay working hard where they are.

After all, unhappy employees cause high turnover rates - and we know that recruitment is costly (especially for SMEs). 

But what actually makes employees happy at work? What should SMEs be focussing on in order to keep their people engaged & retain them in their roles? 

In this blog, we look at 6 fundamental ways SMEs can strive to help employees achieve happiness at work. 


What makes employees happy at work?


1. Flexibility

We all know how much the pandemic changed our working practices, and flexible working seems here to stay. Just 3 in 10 UK companies require employees to work in the office full-time in 2023 (down from 6 in 10 pre-pandemic). 

Gartner forecasts that by the end of 2023, 39% of global knowledge workers will work in a hybrid manner. 


2. Meaningful work & feeling valued

According to National Institutes of Health research, "meaningful work, feeling appreciated by co-workers & enjoyment of daily tasks significantly predict happiness at work."

We know that employees need to feel valued & appreciated in order to feel happy in their roles - why not take the time to show appreciation for a member of your team (or give them Kudos to thank them for going above & beyond?)

3. Work-life balance

Work-life balance is crucial to being happy in a job. Lack of balance can cause stress and even burnout.

In the CIPD's 2023 Good Work Index report, most people said they had  reasonable work-life balance. 54% of people said they didn't find it difficult to meet commitments in their personal life due to time spent at work (with 25% saying they did find it difficult). 

Treating your team like the complex humans they are & ensuring a good work-life balance will help people to be happier in their jobs (especially for those with caring needs or familial responsibilities).

A healthy work-life balance within your SME also supports good retention levels. 

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4. A positive environment

The environment that you work in has a huge influence on happiness levels. Some people might overlook physical surroundings, but everyone deserves to have use of good facilities at work. 

This applies to psychological safety as much as it does to the physical working environment, too. Knowing you're trusted, have autonomy & can work without fear of repercussions is a huge part of a healthy working environment. 


5. Being challenged

Research shows that people are happiest when they're engaged in difficult but achievable activities. Also known as ‘flow’, it’s a state that simultaneously benefits creativity, performance & wellbeing.

Finding work that is achievable enough for employees to feel a sense of satisfaction (but challenging enough to provide mental stimulation) is a balance for SMEs. 

6. The people

Last, but by no means least - we all know how much the people we spend our time with at work make an impact on our day-to-day. Employees are happier in their jobs when they have friends at work. It can make jobs more enjoyable, and even seem more worthwhile.

Having friendships at work is about more than just having fun, though - it's about pulling together over a common cause and having a sense of purpose.

If you can work with people you can easily communicate with, as well, you're more likely to solve issues quickly & find solutions. 

When it comes down to it, making your employees happy at work is about lots of factors. Job satisfaction, company culture and even the building in which you work all have an impact.

Why not find out what your team value at work by conducting an employee engagement survey?


Author: Aimée Brougham-Chandler

An IDM-certified Digital Copywriter as of February 2023, Aimée is Breathe's Content Assistant. With a passion for guiding readers to solutions for their HR woes, she enjoys delving into & demystifying all things HR: From employee performance to health and wellbeing, leave to company culture & much more.

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