Never underestimate impact of happiness on company staff, bottom-line
Mariam Azmy, Chief Human Resources Officer at Dubai-based ASGC, is an award-winning human resources expert, and an avid voice for women’s empowerment and leadership, diversity, and inclusion.
In a recent interview with Economy Middle East, we had the chance to discuss her views on workplace happiness, another one of her passionate subjects.
Is happiness at work a new concept driven by new Gens?
I don’t think so. Happiness at work has always been a concept only that the dimensions of it are now changing drastically. The younger generations are bringing a new perspective to it. They prioritize happiness and personal well-being, and work-life balance and are less compromising.
Unlike the older generation, some of the newer generations would rather be unemployed than be unfulfilled at a job. The older generations were more attached to their organizations and colleagues, and the benefits they would reap from staying there longer. Also, the system was different then, with barely any emerging technologies. But they accepted that setting.
For the younger generation, however, happiness at work is summed up by flexible working locations and hours, incentives, professional development opportunities, seeing that their contributions make a difference, and feeling trusted by the leadership and appreciated for their effort. Anything out of their ‘normal’ is viewed differently.
Happiness at work to newer generations is fundamentally different from those who began their careers many years ago, but it is definitely not a new concept.
Some might argue that older working generations, who were not digitally connected, were happier. What is the relationship between workplace (un)happiness and mobile/digital technology?
It’s interesting how we assume that the years without digital connectivity were happier. I believe that the different generations have different parameters for happiness and each group faces different challenges which would understandably put some in an unhappy camp.
The older workers have spent decades developing relationships, work habits, schedules, and a sense of identity that hinges on their workspace. These are people who read newspapers, books and watched TV and they stayed informed and thrived in this kind of space.
The younger generations who have an affinity to the digital world and have grown up with broadband, smartphones, laptops, and social media being the norm, expect instant access to information on the internet, and also thrive in their space.
For both generations, this could be a good or bad thing.
But most of the older generation have a lesser grasp of key digital business tools and may be more stressed by technology. The younger generation may be stressed by the lack of it.
So, for me, happiness, on a bigger scale, is a personal choice and does not have much correlation with digital technology. As individuals, we have a role to play in ensuring that we are responsible and in control of our own personal happiness at work. Technology will affect us differently and so we just have to create spaces that make us thrive in our various jobs. And our world today is undeniably digital, just how much escape from technology can you have?
How do you overcome office toxicity dotting the workplace, be it from people in top management, or down the seniority echelons?
Naturally, when faced with a hostile environment, our first thoughts probably lean toward finding ways out of the situation. I understand that nobody should have to endure a toxic workplace, but leaving your job is not the immediate solution – or at least shouldn’t be. Knowing whether you are the problem, or the workplace is, establishes a great beginning to handling the situation and getting through it relatively unscathed.
I would then recommend seeking help. Having an unbiased third party that can help you sift through your feelings and get to the root cause of the issue is important. Then establish a support group outside your workplace where you can constructively discuss and share with friends or family. Just remember not to overdo it—you don’t want them to end up as frustrated as you are. Also, find something to do after work so that you are living a fulfilling life after work.
All said and done, toxicity wreaks havoc on your mental health, and damages your confidence, motivation, and even your career trajectory. Find ways to ease your journey through the murky waters and you will be better equipped to handle office toxicity if any.
Is there a way to quantify the impact of happiness on companies’ bottom line?
Sure, there are ways. Ideally, when the workforce is happy, productivity increases. Organizations are noticing that happy employees give better results which are reflected in higher revenues.
There is a chain of impact at different working levels so you can tell if the goal was achieved or not and if not, you should be able to identify which link(s) in the chain was(were) broken and work on them.
So, if we are lagging on expected results that are directly connected to the bottom line, there is a problem, and we should look into a solution that will improve the business.
On the other hand, organizations are making mental health and work-life balance a priority and investing more in professionals to help their workforce. Before, people weren’t expressive about mental health at work and work-life balance. But now, they are open to accepting that they have a problem, or they are at risk and need to be connected to treatment or support. When they are better, their productivity improves. If the numbers are high, it should surely prompt you to action.
Also, the retention rate speaks volumes. I would be worried if the bottom-line turnover is peaking continuously as that would mean a lesser job satisfaction situation.
Yes, there are parameters to quantify the impact of happiness on an organization’s bottom lines, however, it’s not a one size fits all approach. Use what works well for your organization.
Does a multi-cultural, gender-equal office mean it’s more conducive to workplace happiness?
Not necessarily. It all comes down to company culture. You can be an inclusive organization but with a toxic culture making everyone unhappy. I’d say that this kind of diversity does create an environment that enables tolerance which is a great start towards workplace happiness.
You know, when you are embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual, it builds acceptance and respect. By nurturing diversity, organizations open the door to workplace happiness – when our staff members feel that they are understood, welcome, and embraced, they naturally feel happy at work.
To feel happy at work we have to feel like we belong. We should feel respected and comfortable. And this should happen regardless of gender or culture.
How high on the agenda of workplace happiness are the following:
- Salary/bonuses: Rank 2
- Trust/Responsibility: Rank 1
- Teamwork: Rank 3
- Games/entertainment/exercise: Rank 6
- Celebrating accomplishments: Rank 5
- Job security: Rank 4
How does the happiness concept manifest itself differently with remote work?
Unlike fully working from the office, working from home means no long commutes, no lunch rush, and no long hours away from family or friends or conflicting schedules. The increased autonomy and flexibility help achieve a work-life balance more easily enhancing wellness and general health experiences.
More and more organizations are also taking up flexible work schedules to support their employees’ overall well-being. Businesses cannot obviously compromise everything, but they are doing what they can do best to foster higher morale and create a more positive workplace.
Remote work is still however still evolving and both individuals and organizations are continuously working towards an arrangement that encourages them to be more fulfilled wholly.