“Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” 

Easier said than done, Mr. Confucius. 

Creating happier, healthier workplaces is one of those lofty endeavors that’s easy to talk about, yet much, much harder to accomplish within the realities of any business. 

Thankfully, the pursuit of professional happiness has become more prioritized in recent years, reinforced by studies that draw a direct line between employee morale and client satisfaction. 

One such analysis by Harvard Business Review measured customer satisfaction scores against company star ratings on Glassdoor — where users can anonymously review their past and current employers. 

It found that each one-star improvement a company achieves on Glassdoor correlated to a 1.3% boost in customer satisfaction — and in highly customer-facing industries like food service, retail, and healthcare, the impact was 3x as great. 

Money doesn’t buy happiness…but it might work the other way around. 

It should come as no surprise then that a happy team can significantly boost your bottom line. 

In fact, Gallup research suggests that companies with happier employees report 147% higher earnings per share.

An argument can be made as to whether this is a causal or correlated relationship. But it makes perfect sense that people who feel positively about their team and role within it are going to invest a lot more of themselves into the company’s shared success.

In fact, research by Oxford University Saïd Business School suggests that happy workers are 13% more productive than their less-than-thrilled counterparts. 

And the story gets even more interesting when you consider which team members you should be focusing on….

Happier vs. Happiest 

An interesting wrinkle in this discussion: it appears the greatest impact on team morale comes not from making everyone exceptionally happy, but by focusing on moderate improvements that improve things for your most disgruntled employees. 

The Journal of Happiness spent 7 years studying the link between team morale and mission success amongst 900,000 military soldiers — a workplace where the stakes are far, far greater than any pitch deck you might be working on right now. 

During this experiment, it was observed that the jump in performance between someone who goes from “unfavorable” to “moderate” satisfaction far exceeds the bump seen in those who go from “happy” to “ecstatic”. 

In other words, it’s a lot more impactful to squash big, ugly pain points in your workplace — ex. too many meetings, off-hours emails, etc. — compared to above-and-beyond perks that seem sexy on the surface (all-you-can-eat snack bar, anyone?) while failing to address the root problems that frustrate your least satisfied team members.

So, what actually makes a workplace happy?

Spoiler alert: it’s not another ping pong table. 

Marketing agencies are perhaps rivaled only by Silicon Valley startups and tech titans when it comes to elaborate office perks…

But there’s a big difference between flashy office amenities and true culture

Honest communication, genuine feedback loops, and democratized workflows where every single team member has a chance to be heard — those are the kind of foundational practices that help you hold onto people.  

And in an industry where the average turnover rate is 30% (not pretty, and not good for your clients), our agency, it’s about time we invested more energy into these basics.

How can you measure something as subjective as happiness?

It’s an inexact science, for sure. But it all starts with promoting an open and frequent dialogue between team members, managers, and HR leaders.  

That said, our agency has found some great tools that help.

One of them is utilizing Gallup’s popular Q12  Survey, which does a nice job of distilling employee engagement into a dozen questions. 

Forget about the numbers….

It should go without saying, but increasing profits by a few percentage points is the last reason you should be concerned about your team’s happiness. 

The trickle down effect of a positive work culture will improve every aspect of your business. You’ll feel it in every interaction, meeting, and client relationship your team builds. 

And though it might still feel like “work” (sorry again, Confucius) — we can guarantee that putting happiness ahead of performance will ultimately accomplish both goals at once. 

-Brook Johnston