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How To Get a Happier Workforce

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Laughing can help to create a better team climate which can lead to better results says Ralph Miarka. At the OOP 2015 conference he presented "Laughing at the Workspace", a session prepared by Marc Löffler and adapted by Miarka.

There is compelling evidence that happiness and positivity can lead to success. Löffler refers to “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor and Miarka mentioned the book Positivity by Barbara L. Frederickson which explores how positive emotions can lead to better results. “Experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative emotions leads people to achieve what they once could only imagine” says Frederickson. Miarka also mentioned research that Marcial Losada and Emily Heaphy published in “The Role of Positivity and Connectivity in the Performance of Business Teams”, which shows that the highest performing teams had a ratio of about 6:1 of positive to negative interactions.

InfoQ is researching the factors that influence the mood of agile teams. Intermediate results from this online survey show that “level of trust” and “freedom to do their work” are main factors that affect team morale.

How can you measure happiness? One way to do it is to ask people how happy they feel. Löffler and Miarka referred to the Happiness Metric that Jeff Sutherland described in Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time.

Löffler and Miarka provided suggestions for what you can do when you want to improve happiness in teams:

  • Do Gemba walks, go where the people work and show sincere interest in what people are doing.
  • Arrange for meeting rooms to be where people work, so that managers or visitors have a chance to see teams.
  • Sent praise emails to teams appreciating their work and things that teams have done.
  • Thank people by handing out appreciation cards before a event. Make it a habit to give them regularly.
  • Make appreciation cards available for people and suggest that they should write them and give them to colleagues.
  • Foster creativity, e.g. by helping people to think outside the box and come up with crazy ideas.
  • Use a solution focus attitude to see what is working and co-create a positive future instead of dwelling in problems.
  • Focus on the strengths that people have. Miarka suggested to work only on weaknesses when they hinder your strengths.
  • Build relationships to increases happiness. An example where this is done are agile coaching camps where people get to learn each other and share their experiences.
  • Provide the opportunity for people to do exercising. Some companies offering free exercise classes for their employees.
  • Organizing days out, but be sure to check if people would like it. Some people love to be away for a couple of days, while others don't want to be away from their family.
  • Encourage pairing. Working together can make people happy.
  • Support flexible work times and work places. Having the ability to work when and where they want increases people’s happiness.
  • Establish a joy or fun committee or appoint a chief happiness officer - though watch out for unappropriate ways in doing this.
  • Look for ways to make happiness visible in the organization.
  • Read about what other companies have done to increase happiness. Miarka mentioned two examples: Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and  Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan, CEO, Chief Storyteller and co-founder of Menlo Innovations

We can practice to focus on the positive said Miarka. For example, when you see an positive emotion you can ask what triggered that emotion. This can help use to learn more about what makes people happy.

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