Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 3rd 2014 Contents APRIL 2014 • WEEK ONE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG19
Happy employees are central
to the success of a business.
We all instinctively know this,
but it can be hard to pinpoint
why. Nobody would argue
that employees should be sad
and downtrodden, yet it seems as though some
businesses and their managers set out with
the intention of presiding over a group of mis-
erable people, and then succeed in doing just
First, the scientific evidence: Research
released this month by the University of War-
wick in Britain confirms that on average, hap-
piness makes people 12 per cent more pro-
ductive. One of the researchers, Andrew Oswald,
said in a press release: "Companies like Google
have invested more in employee support and
employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For
Google, it rose by 37 per cent; they know what
they are talking about. Under scientifically
controlled conditions, making workers happier
really pays off."
How can you make your employees happier?
The researchers offered their test subjects
chocolates and fruit and the chance to watch
comedy clips before they set them to work. A
business can t rely on snacks, unfortunately;
eventually the effect would wear off. The most
common rewards that businesses offer, bonuses
and raises, also have a limited effect. After all,
there are lots of people who are very well paid,
yet miserable in their jobs.
Whether you re launching a startup or man-
aging an established enterprise, you have to
go out of your way to make people happy; it
doesn t just happen. Create this job for yourself,
just like the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan
created the Gross National Happiness Com-
mission, overseen by a secretary whose task
is to look after the population s happiness.
You need to think about what your crew
needs to stay engaged, and what motivates
them in the long term. The basics are well-
designed offices with plenty of sunlight, stim-
ulating tasks to work on and a fair reward.
Research also shows that a healthy workforce
is a happier one; people are more productive
and out sick less often. Building on that, a few
years ago we invested in Virgin Pulse, a business
that is focused on helping companies to encour-
age their employees to be more active through
a reward program.
We at Virgin also find a flexible working
policy to be very effective. These guidelines,
which we have introduced at almost all our
companies over the past few years, effectively
mean that as long as they do their work, our
employees can work whenever they want, from
wherever they want.
It wasn t easy to put this system in place:
Our team invested in research beforehand to
make sure it was workable, and once we all
agreed, we had to encourage a change of culture
across our offices. Yet that was a small price
to pay, because it s what our employees wanted,
and we knew that demonstrating respect and
trust in our employees would boost their hap-
piness levels, and in turn, their productivity
But beyond creating good policies, you need
to think about what makes your company dif-
ferent, and help your employees to celebrate
that. If it s the sense of mission, then give them
the tools they need to keep in touch with how
your business is progressing toward its goals.
If it s engagement with customers, then
empower your people to take the lead as they
help your clients. If you need clues about where
to begin, pay attention to where the happiest
employees are in your business, since this can
indicate that something is working very well;
something that can be replicated elsewhere.
And finally, keep in mind that you became
an entrepreneur because it s fun. So celebrate
your achievements and those of your employees,
because each one is a step on the road to your
business success. If you ve been working on
a project that has required people to work long
hours, when it s done, let loose a little and give
people a chance to reconnect outside the office.
Last year Virgin Management moved from
its London office to a new spot in Little Venice,
West London. It was a big few months for the
team, who put in some long days and even
longer nights preparing for the move. After
the job was done and everyone had settled in,
we decided to throw a pirate-themed party to
thank the group for all the hard work.
We had a great time! But the next day we
found ourselves on the front page of the local
papers, because the neighbours had called the
authorities to complain about the sound of
our steel drums on the roof terrace, which per-
haps played a little later into the evening than
they should have. While we did apologise for
the inconvenience, that was a night nobody
in the office will forget, and it did wonders for
reviving our team spirit.
You will probably find your position as man-
ager of jolliness very satisfying. A few days
ago someone sent me a link to a video made
by Virgin America staff; a recreation of the
video for Pharrell Williams song "Happy"
(http://bit.ly/1lkowbI). In turn, that display of
employee satisfaction made me very happy.
(And, by the way, nice moves, guys!)
(Richard Branson is the founder of the
Virgin Group and companies such as
Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin
Mobile and Virgin Active. He maintains a
blog at www.virgin.com/richard-
branson/blog. You can follow him on
Twitter at twitter.com/richardbranson. To
learn more about the Virgin Group:
(Questions from readers will be
answered in future columns. Please send
them to RichardBranson@nytimes.com.
Please include your name, country, e-mail
address and the name of the Web site or
publication where you read the column.)
Value of happiness
Why is employee happiness important?
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