Investing in employee happiness pays you back in the long run as you end up with passionate, engaged team members. But how exactly can you do this? If you have all the funds in the world, you could triple their pay, build a theme park in the middle of your office, and give them each a personal chef. That would make pretty much anyone happy. But as a small business, you're just starting to pull in the money and that's perhaps not the wisest way to spend your funds.
So here are a few easy things a manager can implement to keep employees happy – all at little to no cost to your company!
1. Have flextime policies.
According to the Gallup State of the American Workplace Report, flextime has the strongest relationship to overall well-being among employees. It promotes self-direction while at the same time ensuring a greater work-life balance for many people. What makes flextime especially great is that it lets employees work whenever they want to, without compromising on the number of productive hours worked.
- Has the biggest impact on employee well-being and engagement
- Same number of hours worked
- More productivity per hour
- Won't work well with 9-5 client-facing businesses (but your customer service hours might dramatically lengthen if you have a combination of employees who like working at night and during the day!)
- Scheduling meetings will be trickier
- If you only have a few employees and they are all working at completely different schedules, it may prevent a sense of community
2. Allow remote working.
Ever since Yahoo's Marissa Mayer banned working from home for Yahoo staff, businesses have been abuzz on whether or not remote working had detrimental effects on a worker's productivity. Yahoo claimed that working remotely decreased collaboration, and was therefore hurting productivity. However, the move was widely criticized at the time, and for good reason. Remote workers frequently log more hours and are more engaged than their on-site counterparts. The sweet spot for the amount of time worked remotely appears to be just around 20% – any more and you risk starting to lose productivity again.
- Employees are more likely to be engaged, and less likely to be actively disengaged (i.e. causing their colleagues to become disengaged)
- More hours logged
- When paired with on-site working, employees enjoy an ideal balance of freedom and collaboration
- Only works if employees are self-directed
- If employee is already disengaged, excessively working remotely (more than 20% of the time) exacerbates it
3. Have a mix of private and open work spaces.
Open work spaces are all the rage right now with small businesses, which makes sense because it's affordable and perfect for collaborative work. Drop the cubicle walls and push the tables together. Once you have your employees facing each other, you will suddenly realize that an idea will jump into an epic reality. However, while open work spaces encourage collaboration, the lack of privacy in an open work space can hurt both the company (especially if you are dealing with sensitive information) and employees who need private spaces to think and focus. So mix it up! Have a few offices employees can use periodically for focus, with a main open work space that they can return to.
- Caters very broadly to the different environments people prefer to work in.
- Greater collaboration and engagement
- Cheaper than installing individual cubicles and offices
- Requires quite a bit of space! If your office is too small to have both private and open offices, cubicles with shorter dividers may work better
- If your small business takes phone calls regularly, open work spaces will just be a mess of noise
4. Host community events (like company games)!
When you think back on your favorite memories on the jobs you had, hopefully things like “afternoon meetings” and “sitting at my desk with a bag of chips” aren't what you think of. It probably would run more along the lines of “that time my team won the company basketball game” or even “when we had that company party”. And that makes complete sense! We don't remember the mundane, no matter how fun it was, but we remember the things that were out of the norm. Community events at a job are just that. They tap into the joy of anticipation, and the comfort of remembering. They boost morale, build camaraderie, and create the perfect environment for colleagues to become friends.
- Builds camaraderie and friendships without taking away from work hours
- Easy to organize
- Might be uncomfortable for more introverted employees
- While easy to organize, good planning is necessary to make sure it's not a complete flop (you don't want to discourage people from attending the next event!)
5. Invest in technology like CRMs.
Any business that works with other businesses benefits from CRMs. Why rely on Excel and Post-It's when technology has allowed you to digitalize all of that? Technology like CRMs make employees happy because they simplify lives. Not having to continuously do mindless activities to deal with data prevents people from feeling like they're in a rut. Other software like project management or expense management tools also simplify lives by being easily accessible and easy to use. You can read more about whether a CRM fits your needs here!
- Huge number of affordable CRMs on the market that are specialized in different industries, so finding one best suited for your small business shouldn't be difficult!
- Customer service improves dramatically when you have the technology to track leads
- Not doing mindless manual work frees up time for creative tasks
- Depending on the software you choose, it can get very costly very quickly
- Learning curve: it usually takes some time for people to start getting used to new technology
6. Set short term goals.
Employees are most motivated and engaged when they feel like they are gaining headway in their projects. What better way to make this possible by setting short term goals? Monthly or quarterly goals can be hit quickly and by achieving them, both you and your coworkers are inspired by the success. Also by discussing goals, every employee will have a clear, defined path which they know they can take. When it comes to small businesses, everyone's in it together and short term goals remind everyone of that!
- Are in line with overall company goals
- Doesn't cost a cent!
- Motivates success and boosts morale
- If goals are too vague, they become more detrimental than helpful
- Too many easily attainable short term goals might undermine the value of achieving them
So there you go! Contrary to popular belief, happiness doesn’t come at a price (especially when it comes to small businesses). It’s easy to keep your employees happy while balancing your budget, and the rewards that you reap are, for a lack of a better word, priceless.
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