Does happiness determine your success at work?

'Happiness is no longer a nice-to-have, but it is a must-have'

Does happiness determine your success at work?

Workplaces of all sizes, in all industries, are impacted by poor mental health and unhappiness, with evidence suggesting psychological distress is most acute for sole traders, according to Anastasia Massouras, CEO of Work Happy.

The 2019 Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health Report conducted by The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance revealed one in five working Australians reported experiencing mental illness, which lead to absenteeism of up to 138 hours per person, per annum.

Moreover, a survey by Deloitte showed less than 20% of us are happy at work. This lack of happiness and decline in health has a significant impact on engagement, morale, productivity, performance and overall profit and organisational success.

Massouras added that evidence shows that mental health issues are becoming more prevalent in workplaces everywhere.

More than 60% of small businesses in Australia close within their first three years due to challenges like increasing overheads, payroll costs and lack of support or stress.

Stress is a growing concern for organisations and individuals globally. According to SafeWork Australia, pressure from work is the most common reason for stress leave.

Left untreated, mental ill health, stress and happiness cost Australian businesses up to $10.9 billion dollars every year, said Massouras.

According to Amanda Keogh from the icare foundation, these problems could be prevented with early intervention and support.

Investment in mental health initiatives to support business can yield a significant return. A PwC report showed that businesses could have a $14.50 return on investment for every $1 spent on mental health initiatives.

“Yet Everymind, an institute dedicated to the prevention of mental ill health, found that the majority of current workplace mental health programs are not designed or suitable for small businesses in particular,” said Massouras.

“With mental health issues becoming more prevalent in workplaces, this is an urgent issue. While employee health and happiness has previously been ignored as a driver for organisational performance, this growing research demonstrates the need to change.”

According to the Langley Group, happiness in the workplace raises business and educational outcomes, increasing sales by 37%, productivity by 31% and accuracy on tasks by 19%. Happy employees are productive employees.

Massouras also cited a Gallup survey found businesses that rate highly when it comes to employee wellbeing, report greater customer loyalty, productivity and profitability. Those in the top quartile on employee engagement averaged $80,000 to $120,000 higher sales revenue per month. 

Professor Andrew J Oswald, an economist for the research study ‘Happiness and Productivity’ reported that leading company Google’s employee satisfaction rose 37% due to investment in employee support. Currently, the average Google employee generates more than $1.2 million in revenue each year.

Happy and healthy employees translate into increased satisfaction, increased productivity, a reduction in absenteeism and a reduction in workplace leave claims. In addition, companies with a positive and engaged workforce attract and retain talent for longer.

Massouras added that implementing proactive measures to support wellbeing and create a safe culture is not only good for the people in the company, but those dealing or interacting with the business overall: stakeholders, customers and clients.

“With up to a third of our lives spent in employment, at work, in offices, it is good business sense that the overall health and happiness of everyone - leaders and employees alike - is imperative. Happiness is no longer a nice-to-have, but it is a must-have,” said Massouras.

“Australia’s mental health sector has undergone considerable reform over the past 30 years, but there is still a lot to be done to see effective and lasting improvement. This will have a significant impact not only on the workforce, but on society as a whole.”

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