Wellbeing and the workforce: can you measure happiness?

Written by
Changeboard Team

15 Mar 2019

15 Mar 2019 • by Changeboard Team

Some 88% of job-seekers consider the mental health policies of their prospective employers - but can you measure happiness at work?

The following insights are covered in depth in our free, exclusive HR whitepaper in partnership with Workday: The rise of social enterprise - what business leaders need to know about the 21st century career.

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It is now accepted by all but the most obstinate and dusty managers that a healthy and happy and workforce equals healthy profits and happy bottom line. At forward-thinking organisations, employees’ wellbeing is now as much a part of a business strategy as IT systems or marketing. Many of the biggest and most successful companies in the UK are reaping the benefits of a more progressive approach to mental and physical health, with greater productivity and creativity, and decreased absence.

It’s also something that people look for in a prospective employer. A survey by recruitment consultancy Robert Walters revealed that 88 percent of job-seekers consider the mental health policies of potential employers.

Organisations now need to think about social capital, not just fiscal. Not to mention the fact that making people happier is simply a nice, human thing to do.

But how do you know if someone’s happy?

Nic Marks is a statistician by trade. His company Friday has devised a ‘two-minute pulse check’ to measure employee happiness.

“We know the big drivers of happiness at work,” he says. “They are relationships, fairness, autonomy, challenge and meaning, purpose. At Friday we call that connect, be fair, empower, challenge, inspire. We encourage HR groups or senior leaders to think about how those are displayed in their organisation and we measure against them so we can give scores for each.

“Of course, most people think it's rather missing the point because you can't put a number on happiness. But it's really quite simple. Friday, as its name probably suggests, is a weekly tool. We ask people on a Friday how happy they were at work this week: very unhappy, unhappy, okay, happy or very happy. People click on the button and will tell us how they are. They're really telling their team leader how they are, because the results are fed back on a Monday morning. We encourage teams have a meeting about how the last week went – to share their own celebrations, shout out somebody else's, thank somebody or share their frustrations.”

It may be simple, but sometimes simple is the most effective way of seeing direct correlations. For example, the large organisations Friday work with who have unhappy teams, have a higher staff turnover.

Marks points out that Friday is a way of showing an organisation who they are, rather than an instant fix for negativity. As he points out, accounting software doesn’t automatically make you more profitable. But he also notes that the mere act of measuring can have positive effects.

“We see with things like Fitbit that once people start monitoring their steps, they start doing more” he says. “When people start monitoring their - I'm going to call it happiness, the positive side of mental health – they become happier. We’re definitely seeing teams edge up on happiness over a period of time simply from using the tool.”

If you’ve implemented fruit baskets, free cinema tickets, company paintball days, free membership to gyms or the National Trust, mental health first aid, counselling sessions, dog-friendly Mondays, flexible working, even more flexible yoga classes – whatever wellbeing measures you’ve taken – you can look at absence, profit, workplace accidents, staff turnover to judge their effectiveness. But you can also ask that one very simple question: how happy are you?

To read Workday’s white paper on the rise of the social enterprise, click here

download HR whitepaper