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By Danni Rush, Chief Operating Officer at Virgin Experience Days and Virgin Incentives and Virgin Experience Gifts


People spend around 82,000 hours at work over the course of their lifetime – that’s a lot of time. Since we all spend a large portion of our time at work, it’s important to reflect on what makes us happy in our work life and how to maintain employee happiness.

In a recent survey, 61 per cent of employees cited that a better work-life balance and improved personal wellbeing is what they value most at work, and are what they are looking for in their next job. People are prepared to find ways to prioritise their happiness at work and want to be part of a business that recognises and supports this ambition.

If businesses want to remain efficient, buoyant, and attractive to new recruits then not prioritising employees’ happiness at work is not an option.

Pushing happiness to the top of the HR agenda

The last decade, notably the pandemic years, has turned work culture on its head, challenging outdated employee practices and putting employee engagement at the top of the HR agenda for businesses of all sizes. 

The always-on working culture has started to shift to a world where employee wellbeing and flexibility is embraced, and the overall focus is on employee productivity and building a people first culture.

Despite this, research has found discussions around burnout have increased by 48 per cent in the last year and it’s estimated that sickness absences costs the UK economy billions of pounds each year. Burnout and work-related stress doesn’t just impact the individual; it impacts the entire business, so HR leaders and businesses are having to put in place new policies and adapt strategies to help their employees.

Businesses that neglect their people’s wellbeing and happiness could also encounter reputational issues. People will not want to work for a company that’s known as a ‘bad’ employer, who’s employees end up burnout, exhausted and unhappy.

Businesses are introducing new practices 

If employers can make their workplace more enjoyable, then they should. Many businesses have acknowledged why health and happiness at work is crucial and are stepping up to introduce new employee engagement practices and re-evaluating their overall reward schemes. Employers are starting to adopt a more empathic approach to the pressures and impact that work can have on an individual’s overall life. Having a positive work/life balance is increasingly being acknowledged and encouraged.

Happy people are more productive, research has shown that employee happiness increases productivity by 12% – uplifted spirits promote natural energy which ultimately enthuses employees. 

Thank you’s 

Rewarding employees on a regular basis can help create a happy and engaged team. Surprisingly, employers should do this more. Our whitepaper found that nearly one in four (22 percent) employees have never received an incentive/ thank you gift from their employer.

If employees want to foster a happy workplace culture, then adopting a long-term employee rewards programme is a good place to start. Some businesses thank their employees for their hard work and contributions with financial incentives, for example a cash bonus. While a bonus is a good, short-term incentive it may not help to engage people in the long run. A long-term and frequent rewards and recognition scheme, or a long service awards programme, such as regular, personalised gift experiences, show employees that they’re hard work and loyalty is recognised and appreciated. It’s also a great way to generate a long-lasting relationship between employees and employers due to the personalised element of an experience gift/ gift card that people can use to treat themselves to an activity they enjoy most with family and friends. 

Celebrating employees’ personal milestones, such as a birthday, engagement/ wedding, loyalty and baby news, also demonstrates a business’s interest in their employees’ lives outside the workplace. Again, acknowledging key moments like these will be appreciated and remembered and serve the business well in the long run.


Alternative ways to promote happiness in the workplace

Open and transparent communication channels go a long way to creating a supportive culture. People like to feel heard and that their opinion is one that’s valued. Businesses could look at pulling together regular employee surveys, organising forums or company-wide Q&As. All of these are great ways for businesses to encourage an open dialogue between employers and employees.

Business leaders should also consider introducing a flexible working policy. ONS data shows that 78% of employees who have the option to work from home a couple of days a week, felt their work life balance improved. Remote working allows people to fit their home responsibilities, such as their family or exercise routine, around their working day. For some, this helps to reduce stress and improve their overall happiness (in all areas of life).

Finally, curating a culture where employees are constantly learning, growing, and developing as professionals will keep employees feel more engaged and motivated at work, likely leading to increased job satisfaction. If people feel there’s endless progression opportunities and that they’re employer is their biggest cheerleader, then this will not only help to retain the business’s top talent but attract it.

Many people strive for happiness in all aspects of their life. It’s no surprise that employees are prioritising their happiness at work and that employers are recognising the benefits of investing in their employees’ wellbeing. If business leaders want to guarantee success, employee happiness and enjoyment at work, needs to remain at the top of the business and HR agenda.


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