This week Fast Company published an interesting article entitled, Why Your Boss Cares If You’re Happy.  The piece shares how companies from Etsy to Bank of America are investing in understanding how happy their employees are. And, most importantly, what they are doing with that information.

Below are a few interesting points we took a way from the article:

Ben Waber is president and CEO of Sociometric Solutions, a consulting firm that works to improve the workplaces of Bank of America and other Fortune 500 companies. In the article, Waber makes the point that massages and free, healthy food is a great perk, but not enough on its own. “If I lock you in a room by yourself, some days you’ll be happy, some days you’ll be sad, even if I give you massages and good food. If I create a culture where you get along with the people you work with, I don’t need to give that many other perks.” In other words, nothing is more important than your relationships. 

From their work for Bank of America, Waber and his team noticed that better-performing call centers had employees who had “strong, interconnected networks at work.” They tested the idea of the impact of relationships by altering the break structure at call centers so that more employees could take breaks together. They guessed that doing so would encourage more social interaction between employees and result in a more close-knit group. They figured right. The burn rate in the call centers decreased by 75%, along with a 23% reduction in call time - worth at least $15 million a year to Bank of America.

If you take a look at the other end of the spectrum of American companies today, young tech companies are interested in employee happiness for a reason beyond productivity. Kyla Fullenwider, co-founder of consulting firm Imperative, stated in the article that she’s observed that CEOs at Twitter, Bonobos, Elance etc., want to create and maintain a great company culture because they feel a “moral imperative of keeping their employees happy. They want to do it because they want happy, thriving employees because they care about them. That’s really it. It’s pretty cool.”

Ben Waber and his team have developed a technology that allows them to gauge employee happiness by monitoring how often employees talk to each other, where they have these conversations and how stressed they sound when they speak. They gather all this information through badges with special sensors embedded in them to detect and track employees - wow!  While it may seem intrusive, Sociometric has experienced that over 90% of their clients’ employees opt-in to be studied.

While there are many tools to measure happiness and study what’s happening at your company, if you really want to make an impact on your culture, begin with creating scenarios where employees interact more with each other. Consider forming a sports team, volunteering as a department or simply encouraging people to break at the same time. If you’re having trouble selling an interaction-building idea to your superiors, talk to them in their language: productivity. Point them towards numerous positive organizational psychology studies from the past 10 years that show happy workplaces yield productive employees (you can also toss this study in front of them, to scare them a bit about what happens when employees aren’t engaged!).

What stood out to you from the Fast Company article Why Your Boss Cares If You’re Happy ? Tell us below!


[Image via Fast Company]

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