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03 April 2020

#PositiveIC: the business case for happiness

Recognising superstar colleagues in challenging times isn’t just good for your colleagues’ mood – it’s good for business too.

Unprecedented. Challenging. Anxious. Whatever words you’re hearing on the news, reading on social media or listening to from the people in your life, they don’t seem to be particularly happy ones right now.

Of course, we can’t hide from the facts – these are unprecedented, challenging and anxious times – and organisations have a duty to keep employees up to date with the latest COVID-19 news and how it will affect their working lives.

But this is also a period where we’ve seen great examples of community spirit and charitable giving. Not only in our local areas, but in the businesses that serve us – and that some of us work for.

KFC took to Twitter to celebrate their employees who took it upon themselves to share spare food with hospitals and others in need before they closed their stores. B&M Bargains thanked their Hednesford team for taking care packages to a nursing home. And supermarkets across the world have organised priority shopping hours for NHS workers and people who are elderly and/or vulnerable.

These are just scratching the surface. We bet if you think back over the last couple of weeks, you can think a few stories of people going the extra mile to help – both inside and out of work.

With the need to keep employees motivated and engaged more important than ever, tapping into and sharing these stories is a fantastic opportunity to spread a little joy in your organisation.

The science of happiness

So, beyond social and ethical implications, why is this joy, and these kind of stories, important? Well, in a time of crisis and uncertainty, they help people feel connected to their colleagues and part of the bigger strategic picture.

It gives employees that important sense of purpose, combating what Bruce Daisley, host of business podcast ‘Eat Sleep Work Repeat’, describes as that voice in their head wondering: “If I didn’t show up at work today would anybody care? Would anybody notice?”

It’s also a scientific fact that sharing positive internal stories (or #PositiveIC as we’re calling it) and recognising colleagues has an important business impact.

For example, employees who are happier at work are up to 50% more productive.* And one research study showed that cooks who could see their customers as they worked produced higher quality food – and this increased even more when the customers could see them too. As the lead researcher said: “Being appreciated makes work more meaningful.”**

The ripple effect

With the Edelman Trust barometer citing “my employer” as the most credible source of information about COVID-19, organisations have an important role to play in sharing the celebratory along with the challenging.

It could be the unsung superstar who’s helping with IT issues, someone who’s found a great workaround in covering for a colleague off work, and group and local initiatives to support employee mental health. You could even look outside of work, to someone making a difference in their local community.

And the more you share these stories, the more likely it is that others will follow suit, helping to build support networks and boost connections across your organisation – and even into the communities that surround you.

On top of that, intrinsic rewards, such as “helper’s high” and doing something because it’s the ‘right thing to do’, have a greater impact on our productivity and innovation than extrinsic rewards, such as money or promotions. In fact, in some cases, the latter has been shown to decrease it.

And selfishly, it’ll be good for those running COVID-19 response at your organisation. After weeks of not only consuming, but creating, communications about this uncertain and concerning situation, focusing on the good and kind in your organisation is bound to lift their spirits, and boost their engagement too.

* Wharton / Harvard Medical School

** Harvard Business School / University College London


Sequel is recognising the power of positivity by helping clients show their appreciation of employees who are going above and beyond to help colleagues and support business objectives and the wider community.

Interested? Contact [email protected] for details of how to get started. And for an example of how we’ve helped colleagues spread happiness across their organisation, check out this case study: Bupa Thanks.