5 Case Studies in Authentic Workplace Happiness
What does workplace happiness look like?
It’s different for every company and dependent on a positive culture, engaged workforce, and involved, authentic leadership.
Happy employees share many characteristics — productivity, optimism, creativity, dedication — you can feel when a culture resonates with employee happiness.
Sadly, there’s no magic bullet for building workplace happiness. That’s why it’s helpful to look at case studies of company cultures (and even cities!) that champion authentic workplace happiness. We bet you’ll be inspired to create your own unique engagement program by studying others.
Read on for real-life examples of workplace happiness and the profound effect they have on employees. Does your culture have Arbejdsglæde?
Case Studies to Inspire Real Workplace Happiness
You can’t fake happiness. Building true workplace happiness demands more than perks and employee parties; it’s the product of a company culture that celebrates great work.
1. Cross-Functional Collaboration
Farm Credit Services of America has a well-documented reputation as a standout employer in Omaha, Nebraska. It’s been named one of the Best Places to Work in Omaha seven times since 2003, in addition to two Sustained Excellence Awards.
The way the company solves problems and makes decisions is a major reason for its high employee happiness, according to Quantum Workplace’s ebook “3 Stories from America’s Best Places to Work.” At any given time, Farm Credit Services uses 40 to 50 cross-functional teams — teams made of up employees from multiple departments — to tackle company-wide decisions, such as how to use office space or which employee wellbeing strategies to implement.
“Cross-functional teams are one of the absolute strengths of this organization that get us to both culture and business results that we have,” Vice President of HR Kurt Kline tells Quantum Workplace. “The power of that is bringing in diversity of thought and getting buy-in. It’s a little slower, it’s a little harder, but we believe it gets us to the best outcome.”
2. Helping Others = Happiness
The happiest workers in the U.S. live in Los Angeles, where “volunteerism beats out more glamorous roles such as producer and personal assistant on the satisfaction ranking,” according to the Indeed Job Happiness Index 2016.
Not only does Los Angeles come out on top, “the best-reviewed jobs reveal a diverse mix that undercuts the stereotype of the city as a place obsessed with superficial glamor.”
In general, jobs focused on helping others rank highly for happiness, Indeed concludes. But here’s the thing: all jobs help others in some way! That’s why communicating to employees how they’re helping is so essential to building workplace happiness.
3. The Best Workplace? Home
Some companies find that the best workplace for their employees is at home. At Massachusetts’ Blue Cross Blue Shield, about 20 percent of employees work from home on a full-time basis, according to The Atlantic’s “The Happier Workplace.”
It saves the company $8.5 million in real estate costs, cuts out employee distractions, improves productivity and eases the stress of long commutes five days a week.
One employee reported how this new-found flexibility affected her job satisfaction: for every day she doesn’t commute, she gains two hours of personal time, and because of her easier schedule, she’s going to the gym more and has lost 10 pounds. In addition, she says she also spending a little more time working.
4. The Comeback of ‘Employee of the Month’
“Employee of the Month” programs used to be the standard for recognition. In recent years, however, they’ve become the object of mockery. Research shows that “Employee of the Month” programs are ineffective in the absence of a more comprehensive recognition strategy and commonly considered a relic among HR pros.
But Forbes contributor, author and motivation expert Rodd Wagner makes the case this week for “Why You May Need An Employee of the Month.” He researched “the most memorable recognition ever received” according to a representative sample of American workers. The responses surprised him: a significant number brought up being named “Employee of the Month.” Why?
- “It showed that I was important and hard-working above others, that I do an outstanding job.”
- “I got an award and got to pick my schedule for the month.”
- “I got applause from my colleagues.”
- “You are voted on by your peers, including management.”
- “It showed that I was appreciated.”
- “Being able to savor all my hard work for a month.”
- “I loved the award and recognition.”
The takeaway here may not be to immediately revive your Employee of the Month program, but to instead make employee appreciation efforts as simple, personal and memorable as these employees describe.
5. The Danish Concept of Arbejdsglæde
In Denmark, workplace happiness is so common there’s a word for it: arbejdsglæde.
Arbejde means work and glæde means happiness, so arbejdsglæde is “happiness at work.” The word exists in the other Nordic languages but is not common in any other language on the planet, according to “Happy Hour Is 9 to 5” author Alexander Kjerulf.
In a Fast Company article, Kjerulf — a native Dane — explains how arbejdsglæde reflects Danish attitudes to work.
“There is a word for it in Danish because Danish workplaces have a long-standing tradition of wanting to make their employees happy. To most Danes, a job isn’t just a way to get paid; we fully expect to enjoy ourselves at work,” he writes.
Kjerulf encountered a different attitude in the U.S.
“Many Americans hate their jobs and consider this to be perfectly normal. Similarly, many U.S. workplaces do little or nothing to create happiness among employees, sticking to the philosophy that ‘If you’re enjoying yourself, you’re not working hard enough,'” he writes.
Workplace happiness really is a cultural commitment! Does your company culture have “a case of the Mondays,” or is authentic workplace happiness supported and celebrated?
Interested in Learning More About Workplace Happiness?
Check out our list of “9 Essential Books on Building Employee Happiness.”
Plus, learn how to build and sustain workplace happiness day-in and day-out with gThankYou’s FREE Day-to-Day Celebration Calendar!
Download this one-of-a-kind eBook for tips on how to plan daily recognition and organize regular celebrations throughout the year. You’ll find practical advice, month-by-month guides, case studies, research highlights, how-to recognition advice and celebration ideas for specific holidays and anytime.