Distributed Teams Deserve to Find Happiness at Work

Happiness in the workplace is tricky. First, agreeing on a definition of happiness is problematic in itself. Second, the remedy for unhappiness at work is open to much speculation. Does happiness even have a place at work? And do distributed teams benefit from working remotely? Or does the distance and not seeing colleagues undermine some of the advantages of working from home?

The speculation over the relevance and importance of happy employees is healthy. Speculation, however, cannot be the end of the process. We need to progress past discussions and explore real solutions that can elicit happiness.

In “normal times,” some companies may forego looking into ways to improve employee happiness. Now, however, a growing number of employees are showing signs that they are unhappy. In our recent study on distributed team trends, here’s what we learned:

  • 57% of employees struggle with feeling isolated
  • 52% of managers told us that they are tired from working long hours
  • 31% of managers say they are stressed due to the impacts of working from home
  • 34% of employees say it’s hard to focus while working
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What Is Happiness?

Let’s begin with a shared understanding of happiness. Professor Martin Seligman says to understand it better, we can look to PERMA to maximize the emotion.

P – Positive Emotions: happiness, kindness, optimism, for example

E – Engagement: absorbed in what you’re doing—flow

R – Relationships: connection to people who are meaningful in your life

M – Meaning: a sense of significance in what you’re doing and why

A – Accomplishments: goals and ambition in life

Then, happiness isn’t only a fleeting emotion that we experience because something such as a pay raise delights us. Happiness, at least the type that this article is focusing on, can come from within. It’s not dependent on something outside of us. It’s what we feel when we’re satisfied in the moment or with our work—in-person or remote. A more intrinsic notion of happiness comes from the pursuit of becoming a more fully functioning human being.

Distributed Teams and Happiness at Work

Why should executives and managers care about employee happiness at work? Here are some stats that might convince you of its place in the modern work environment.

  • Happier employees take one-tenth the sick leave
  • When employees are happy they are six times more energized
  • Happiness inspires loyalty. Happy employees stay with companies twice as long.
  • Happy employees are twice as productive

Five Happiness Solutions

What can you do to influence the happiness levels employees feel? Perhaps it goes without saying, but you can’t make someone feel happy. What you can do is shape the conditions that could help someone find happiness.

Mobility. Lindsay Witcher, Director and Practice Strategy at RiseSmart, a Randstad Company, says millennials are on to something regarding mobility. “For a while, senior leaders have been afraid of mobility because it often means upward. This is a misconception,” explains Witcher. She sees mobility as an opportunity to help your employees learn and grow. “[Organizations] are hemorrhaging talent because mobility to grow or lateral opportunities aren’t leveraged.”

Meaningful work. Today’s distributed teams want work that has significance. As a leader, focus on three-way wins. Be clear about how projects and assignments help the organization, the employee, and the customer.

Flexibility. Employees are two times more likely to stay in their current position when they have a high degree of work-life harmony. Obviously, in these times, finding a workable mix of responding to work and life demands is vital to employees’ wellbeing. They are four times more engaged at work with flexible work arrangements. Ensure leaders in your company are empathetic to the challenges sheltering in place has on employees.

Satisfaction over performance. Witcher advocates a focus on raising employee satisfaction. If satisfaction is low, so, too, is an employee’s performance. Examine the reasons for low performance. Low work satisfaction could be the cause.

A sense of belonging. We want to connect. When we feel like we belong and fit in, we reduce the focus on time-wasting thoughts like, “Are my ideas silly?” Help employees connect in virtual, in-person, or a hybrid of the two.

These five solutions are just a handful to get you started in your workplace. Other examples include offering health and wellness solutions, creating a positive workplace and culture, and having financially fair practices when it comes to pay.

While happiness can be a tricky work reality to address, the benefits far outweigh the cost—in emotional stress, time, and money when it’s done effectively.

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About the Author

Shawn Murphy
Shawn Murphy
Director of Organizational Behavior, Bluescape
Shawn is our Director of Organizational Behavior and Workplace Trends. His second book, Work Tribes is out now. Shawn's first book, The Optimistic Workplace is out now. Inc. has listed him twice as one of the top leadership speakers in America.

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