When I ask CEOs, “What is happiness at work?” the reactions are always different. Some are troubled by the question; they justify their lack of interest by believing there are more important issues than being happy. Others believe happiness is a right; it’s to be pursued by any means and is essential for the welfare of the individual and the benefit of the company. I agree with the latter personalities, and with Richard Branson when he says, “Happiness is the secret ingredient for successful businesses. If you have a happy company, it will be invincible.”

The reasons why happiness is so critical to business have been recorded in several studies. A survey by Gallup found only 13% of employees worldwide feel engaged at work, while a recent study by economists at the University of Warwick revealed happy employees were 12% more productive than their unhappy colleagues. Studies by Harvard Business School also show that happy workers are more creative, optimistic and motivated, better able to solve problems, make good decisions, and learn faster.

The good news? In order to seek happiness at work, you don’t have to quit your job, venture to the Himalayas and meditate in a cave for years. The simplest way to pursue happiness is to replace bad habits with good ones. On a personal level, it means improving your life habits; in a collective space, such as the workplace, it means changing the corporate culture.

Executives who care authentically about their employees create successful companies. Executives who are attentive only to profits create dissatisfaction, anxiety
and mistrust.

One of the pillars of happiness within an organisation must start from the top of the organisational chart. Executives who care authentically about their employees create successful companies. Executives who are attentive only to profits create dissatisfaction, anxiety and mistrust. 

All executives can play a key role in creating a happy working environment by placing the wellbeing of the employee within the company’s strategies and values. The most successful companies strive to build authentic relationships, show staff they honestly care about them, and put their employees first. If employees are treated well, they will in turn genuinely look after customers. The end result? Happy shareholders and a very happy business. 

Here are 5 habits to help you spread happy vibes at work:

  1. Be a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) first, then a CEO

    A CHO works to create a sustainable and successful company by placing happiness as a key value in the business model. Happiness applied in this way improves the organisation’s DNA. This doesn’t mean replacing the current business model; rather, it’s an opportunity to dive deeper into what your company is and what it represents in the marketplace before worrying about anything else.

  2. Act with authenticity and coherence 

    Genuine, authentic care of employees is the vehicle to communicate a new culture. First, you need to understand the profound value and meaning your people give the company: they’re what makes everything happen. Later, every action you take has to be coherent and real; it means creating an environment that listens to employees’ needs while also ensuring that if circumstances change within the company, such as a restructure, you stay consistent with your previous actions.

  3. Be spontaneously happy 

    Positive psychology has shown that happiness is contagious and executives can spread it by being happy themselves. Being happy means knowing how to deal with difficult times when they inevitably happen and enjoying positive ones, with the goal of having the best personal and professional life experience as possible. To smile is important but not essential. Be happy when you really are happy, and be focused on trying the rest of the time.

  4. Start taking care of your talents

    The contented nature of an employee starts on the first day of employment; in fact, there’s no second chance to make a good impression. CEOs can get in the habit of meeting new employees of the month, or at least the most promising talents, to figure out who they are.
    They can organise an informal meeting to discuss the history and vision of the company, and transmit to new employees the values of the organisational culture.

  5. Celebrate learning, not successes or failures 

    The learning that comes from both success and failure is essential for growth, and it’s for this reason that executives should help employees celebrate both — though promoting failures certainly doesn’t make sense. What you should encourage is the understanding of problems that happen during successes as well as failures. Executives can celebrate a few successes and talk of failures with all employees during key meetings, making it a ritual of organisational culture.

CEOs and leaders have a great opportunity to create a happy workplace where employees can achieve their full personal and professional potential. As the forerunners of the organisation, it’s their duty to build a happy culture, ensure the wellbeing of employees is front of mind, and make happy employees one of their highest priorities at work.

These actions will translate into a successful company. Applying consistently good habits over time will ultimately create a happier work environment, foster the motivation and engagement of employees, and inevitably lead to increases in innovation and profitability.