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How to... make your workforce happy

Happy employees are more productive, friendly and successful at work. This isn't just positive psychology, it's scientific fact. To prove to your board that good people policies really do make good business sense, follow these steps to make your workforce happy.

1 Give back control

Most people want to succeed at work and in their relationships. If they have to short-change one for the other they inevitably become resentful and dissatisfied. By assessing people on the quality of their work, and not the time they put in, you can create an environment where people can stretch and challenge themselves but also leave on time. Empowering individuals to balance their lives will make them energised and motivated.

2 Eliminate distractions

When people are successful and productive at work it stimulates their brains, making them more alert, and better able to listen and communicate. It's a positive cycle that employers can kick-start by eliminating distractions. Watching email while we work reduces our IQ by 10 per cent, making it tiresome to complete tasks. Find out what disrupts staff and help them to eliminate this so they can work more easily and gain a greater sense of achievement.

3 Set the rhythm

We are most productive when we focus exclusively on something for 120-150 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of recovery. Encourage employees to work in sprints to achieve a certain goal, followed by a recreational break. If employees don't feel comfortable taking a break, consider introducing a company-wide break at the same time each day so that everyone knows they have "permission" to stop for a chat after their morning burst of activity.

4 Create routines

It's easier for someone to go to the gym at the same time every morning than it is for someone to go once a month at a time of their choosing. That's because the more we do something at the same time every day or week, the more it becomes a mindless habit. Help employees to avoid feeling guilty about putting off tasks by getting everyone to do things they don't like at the same time each month.

5 Encourage healthy eating

Employees who work through lunch will find themselves feeling flat and depressed. Numerous scientific studies show the better our nutrition, the happier, more energised and alert we are. If it isn't already an established ritual in your organisation, ensure everyone has a daily lunch break of at least 30 minutes and invest in a nutrition or happiness workshop to send a clear message that you expect people to look after themselves.

6 Support emotional well-being

No matter how good an employer you are, issues outside of work can and do affect employees. Consider putting in place an employee assistance programme to help employees with any issues affecting them. Also, if anyone acts out of character, or seems down, talk to them in a caring manner to find out what's wrong and ensure they are directed towards appropriate support.

7 Encourage friendships

Get people to work in pairs, or shadow each other, and regularly praise each other and share success stories, so that they get to know and appreciate each other. Tandem learning based on reciprocity is highly successful.

Key points

- Measure outcomes, rather than input.
- Help employees to focus on one task at a time.
- Encourage two hours of work followed by a break.
- Reduce procrastination over boring tasks by setting a routine.
- Support good nutrition and daily lunch breaks.
- Offer people help to overcome their personal problems.