September 23, 2014

Workplace wellbeing

As a small business gets bigger it increasingly becomes a people business. Chief Happiness Officer at The Happiness Institute, Dr Timothy Sharp, explains the importance of culture in an organisation and how a person’s immediate manager becomes most vital to a sense of wellbeing.

In the age of Facebook, many people may boast upwards of 100 or even 200 friends. That’s not really possible, says Dr Timothy Sharp, Chief Happiness Officer at The Happiness Institute. Or at least it’s extremely rare. “Social psychology research shows that five or six good friends are more than enough.”

Similarly, in the workplace, the ideal work group is comprised of six to eight people and it’s these smaller groups that govern a person’s sense of wellbeing.

Admittedly, the overall culture of an organisation is important. But once a business creeps over the 50-person mark, says Sharp, it holds less relevance – as does the owner or founder of that business. Rather it’s a person’s immediate manager who becomes most vital to a sense of wellbeing.

“Never ignore, or take for granted, those middle managers. They’re going to drive your culture, your workplace ambience and be the key players in the engagement and retention of your people,” says Sharp.

Ultimately, a person will leave a manager, not an organisation. “While money can obviously play a role, one of the most commonly cited reasons for leaving is feeling underappreciated by their manager. They aren’t being told they’re doing a good job.”

It’s not that people ignore money altogether. Certainly it impacts on their wellbeing. Yet, maintaining a person’s happiness doesn’t necessitate excessive amounts of money, says Sharp. “Ultimately they want what’s fair and reasonable.”

Also imperative to a person’s sense of wellbeing in the workplace is the opportunity for growth and progression. Clear expectations are critical too – knowing what’s expected and then having access to resources to do that.

Adds Sharp: “One of the biggest stresses in the workplace is unrealistic or uncertain expectations and the impossibility of meeting them due to a lack of resources, whether that’s people, money or tools.”

Meeting the emotional needs of your employees can be one of the great growing pains of a small business.

“As the business gets bigger, owners need to understand it’s increasingly a people business,” says Sharp. “It’s not just about manufacturing widgets or even providing whatever service you do. That’s the conundrum for small business owners. The technical abilities that got you into the business in the first place become less and less relevant. Instead it becomes all about managing people.”

This article was first published in Business View magazine (May 2014). For more articles and interactivity, download the iPad edition of Business View for free via our new app NAB Think.

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