Joy at work. Does it sound more like an oxymoron, a thing of the past or a new goal?
Many HR pros want joy to be part of the company culture. Most employees hope they find joy – either at their current workplace or the next one.
But it’s probably never been more difficult to infuse happiness at work. Employees don’t interact as much as they once did. Front-line managers can’t give their ideal level of hands-on coaching. Not to mention, people are stressed about everything.
Still, joy at work matters. Happy employees are 12% more productive, according to University of Warwick research. They also have better health and relationships in and out of work than their less-happy colleagues. Generally, happy employees make their companies better, the researchers said.
So it’s important for HR leaders to ask: Is there joy in our workplace?
Here’s what challenges the joy of employees these days. Plus, we have ways you can help everyone in your organization – yourself included – overcome challenges to create a better, joyful culture.
Regardless of working circumstances – on-site, remote or hybrid – many employees feel isolated. The loss of workplace normalcy, routines, physical contact and personal connections made work less joyful.
Even employees who were anti-social before the pandemic feel it. For instance, a colleague of ours at SuccessFuel, the parent company of HRMorning, was the least likely to join in group events or do more than nod at passing co-workers. When the company reopened doors for flexible work, the quiet worker voluntarily signed on to come in every day.
The employee found joy in routine and normalcy.
Joy regained: Sometimes the cure to issues such as isolation, is to change up life outside work. Give employees opportunities to:
- Get involved with positive projects, people and activities. You might point them to service groups to help others – and grant them time to be involved. Or direct them to form or join in Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).
- Get outside more. They might schedule walking meetings. Invite employees to create ERGs focused on outdoor activities, too.
Lack of upward mobility
More than 85% of employees feel their professional growth stalled due to the pandemic, according to Monster’s recent Job Index Poll.
Many aren’t happy because of uncertainty: Will they gain skills? Where is their career headed? How will they get ahead?
Joy regained: The most direct route to help employees regain joy through professional growth is to offer more opportunities to train and learn. You may want to set a regular cadence for career growth meetings and documented plans between managers and direct reports.
Create a library of virtual training courses or ask a trainer to keep an updated internal website of webinars employees can take on a variety of topics.
Loss of productivity
For the last year and a half, many employees felt they were under so much pressure, they only got urgent tasks done. They fell behind on the things they felt would get them ahead.
Fifty-five percent of employees feel productive only half of the work day, according to a Paychex survey.
Many of those employees are drained by that feeling of being less productive.
Joy regained: Instead of just pedaling to keep up, set time to work on your strengths each day, suggests Rebecca Newton, author of Authentic Gravitas: Who Stands Out and Why. Newton recommends you first ask yourself, “When are times recently that I have felt energized at work? In these situations, what was I doing?”
When you identify your strengths, schedule them in your day. For instance, if you recognize you love strategic planning, schedule that for the hour you’re generally most productive. Or if you get excited about creating new things, allow your mind to wonder for an hour at the end of each day.
Managing other people’s issues
This shouldn’t be too surprising: Dealing with drama and dilemma takes the joy out of work for managers, in particular.
Nearly two-thirds of managers said handling employee issues has been more challenging this year because of the hybrid work structures, according to the HR Acuity survey, People Leaders and Employee Relations: The Case for Technology.
Front-line managers are stressed and overwhelmed. And they often end up neglecting their own needs when they’re trying to help employees overcome issues. That’s draining.
Joy regained: Give front-line managers platforms and opportunities to open up about what they face and how they feel. You might facilitate groups where managers are prompted to talk about challenges and share best practices for overcoming them. Also, amp up communication about the benefits you offer on stress management. If managers feel more in control at work, they’ll find joy – and likely spread it to their employees.
Fear can suck the joy out of everything – not just work. And employees have felt more fear in the last year and a half.
Right now, more than 40% of employees don’t want to return to work because they’re afraid they’ll contract COVID-19 or expose family members to it, according to a Conference Board survey. Other employees are afraid they won’t be able to juggle child- or adult-care with office work.
Some fears are with remote work, too: Employees are afraid their career will fizzle from home. Others are worried about the lack of connection with colleagues, the Conference Board researchers found.
Joy regained: HR leaders and frontline managers will be challenged to combat fear and revitalize joy. Granted, not all of your employees live in fear. But everyone can use reassurances on everything you do to keep them safe and healthy. You might want to talk regularly with employees about the challenges they face balancing work, life, childcare and professional development to create working situations that make them feel secure. From that vantage point, joy can blossom.