The benefits of happiness in the workplace

There is one habitual behaviour that has a noticeable impact on behaviour. Rhodri Wyn Jones tells us about happiness.

We take happiness very seriously at the National Assembly for Wales. Our recent staff survey showed that we had an engagement index score of 72% (based on the Civil Service People Survey), and of those organisations with their main base in Wales, our score was the highest in terms of comparative data.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to happiness – so why do we bother? From our experience, we haven’t come across any system, tool nor methodology that can compete with an employee who genuinely enjoys their work. If other organisations are serious about performance then happiness should be top of their priority list.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do” Apple founder Steve Jobs.

There are a number of initiatives and strategies that can be put in place to achieve happiness, but we found that empowering employees to promote positive behaviour was far more effective than trying to impose ideas from the centre.

By focusing on happiness, organisations can engage employees and kick-start a whole set of positive changes. Without widespread commitment, organisational values are undermined and employees become dis-engaged with their work. Here’s what has worked for us:

Practical steps to happiness

  1. In the loop
    • All employees should be encouraged to take personal responsibility for knowing what’s happening at work. Being engaged and making sure that all employees have access to the same information can nurture a culture of trust and enables employees to align their work with the organisational vision.
  2. Feedback works both ways
    • Positive feedback helps affirm positive behaviour, while constructive feedback can help personal development. Inviting employees to provide feedback to their line managers can help empower teams to find solutions to problems, rather than worrying about their work.
  3. Build bridges not walls
    • Building positive relationships between co-workers is one of the most effective ways to increase happiness at work. Encouraging collaborative working with senior management also reaffirms organisational values and gives opportunities for employees to contribute to wider projects.
  4. Take ownership of development
    • All employees are responsible for their own personal development. Although line managers can provide meaningful support, it is the employee who needs to prioritise personal development.
  5. Spread your happiness
    • Letting others know when they’ve done something above and beyond is highly motivational. Sharing personal experiences usually encourages others to do the same and can create a positive movement. By sharing personal experiences we’ve found that this usually encourages others to do the same and can create a positive movement.

What does happiness look like?

Happiness at work is a direct result which stems from engaged employees. An “engaged employee” is one who is fully-involved and enthusiastic about their work and will act in a way which champions their organisation. This is reflected in our staff survey where it comes through crystal clear that engagement and happiness are related. As a result we continue to find ways to promote engagement and see real benefits to the organisation as a whole.  


Happiness at the Welsh Assembly by Rhodri Wyn Jones

Happiness at the Welsh Assembly by Rhodri Wyn Jones

At first glance this seems like the perfect circle, but a closer look will underline how fragile happiness can be without constant nourishment. These principles are the foundations for happiness and we consider every building block to be as important as the other. It is only when these blocks are absent that holes start to appear, but it’s never too late to re-build. Employee engagement and happiness go hand-in-hand at the Assembly and it’s no coincidence that performance is directly linked to this relationship. When the four come together they have a positive momentum that can make a real difference.

It really starts with you

Although ‘top tips’ can be a good starting point, they’re superfluous if individuals fail to take positive steps to implement these suggestions. Everyone within the organisation takes personal responsibility to lead with their actions as well as their words, which leads to a positive working cultural. Happy people make a difference!


About the author

Rhodri Wyn Jones is the Organisational Development Manager at the National Assembly for Wales. You can follow them on Twitter here @AssemblyWales and Rhodri’s personal Twitter feed here @rwj84.


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