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How employers can help boost the happiness of their employees (and how you can boost your own happiness).

Yesterday I made the case that employers should care whether their employees are happy: happier people outscore their less-happy peers on performance and productivity.

So how can employers help make their employees happier?

Control
Research shows that people’s happiness is affected by their sense of control over their lives. Being able to do your own work in your own way, or to influence your environment, gives a big boost in satisfaction.

Employers can look for ways to amplify employees’ sense of control over their work, schedule, and environment. In particular…

Commuting
Bad commutes are a major source of unhappiness. People feel frustrated, powerless, and stressed.

Employers can consider whether telecommuting or staggered start/end times for work might be practicable, to allow people to avoid rush hours.

Wasted time
According to a recent study, one factor that most upset people’s daily moods was having tight work deadlines.

One way to free up work time to meet deadlines is to stop having long, inefficient meetings.

Employers can take a look at meetings – how often are they being called? Is anything actually being accomplished? Could conference calls substitute? One easy fix: have a meeting without chairs. In Bob Sutton's book The No A****le Rule (he also has a great blog), I read about a study which compared decisions made by groups where members STOOD during the meeting compared to decisions made where members SAT. Groups that stood took 34% less time, with no loss in quality. (Might cause a lot of grumbling, though.)

Social connection
Studies underscore the critical importance of social relationships to happiness. Also, interacting with others gives people a boost in mood – surprisingly, this is true even for introverts.

To foster strong connections among employees, employees can consider office designs that make social interactions more pleasant and convenient, encouraging office celebrations, like birthday or holiday parties, and other ways to help people have closer relationships.

Health and energy
Corporations pay a heavy cost for stress-related illnesses, such as hypertension, gastrointestinal problems, and substance abuse.

Employers can consider ways to bring down the stress level of the workplace. Employers can also take steps to educate and encourage folks to take steps that will help them manage stress:
 Sleep – surprisingly, lack of sleep (which many of us take for granted as a part of daily life) is a major disrupter of people’s daily moods.
 Exercise – exercise is one of the most effective and easiest ways of lifting people’s moods, and even a ten-minute walk will boost a person’s spirits.

An atmosphere of growth
People have a strong desire for growth, progress, and advancement in their lives.

Employers can consider creating benchmarks for people whose jobs don’t provide a sense of completion and accomplishment, providing opportunities for training so employees can expand their skills, giving employees a chance to take risks and enlarge their responsibilities.

Surprise!
Even a small treat can boost people’s happiness – and people get a bigger kick from an unexpected pleasure.

Employers can consider some kind of intermittent small benefit or give-away. This might seem kind of childish, but we've all seen adults scrambling for little freebies in very undignified ways. People love a treat.

But these suggestions don’t just hold for employers. We should all be trying to bring these elements into our own lives. Find a way to bring “an atmosphere of growth” into your day, get more sleep and exercise, make plans with friends, surprise your family with some little treat.

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Yesterday I had coffee with blogger and entrepreneur-since-age-12 Ben Casnocha, who’s in town to help promote his new book My Start-Up Life. My copy hasn’t arrived from Amazon yet, but I’m a fan of his blog so am eager to read it.

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