Office

3 Myths of Workplace Happiness Debunked

We’ve heard it before, and if you’re building a company, an office and a workplace culture, you’ve heard it too. Hundreds of blog posts are written each year on workplace happiness, and how to facilitate it in your office.

Today we’re going to take a look at three of the most popular tips for workplace happiness, and explain why they’re false. Let the myth busting begin.

Myth #1: Fancy office technology makes employees happier and more engaged

The correlation between workplace tech and workplace happiness is not 100% proven, but there is some truth to it. Sure, a sit to stand desk and a laptop on your first day would make you pretty happy, but some of the most high tech offices have the most unhappy employees. Before you can build and incorporate stuff, you need to make sure the culture facilitates a place of inspiration where folks get excited coming to work every day.

A recent Inc article talks about six questions to ask before implementing office tech, and one is about asking employees what they want. Here’s what Elizabeth Dukes, the author of the post, had to say:

“For new workplace technology to take root, employees must adopt it unanimously. If they feel it complicates their job or takes too much time and effort to implement, you’ll end up with two camps: those who rebel and refuse to use it, and those who begrudgingly comply but feel it negatively impacts their work experience. Neither is a desirable scenario,” she said.

“Ask those who will be expected to use the workplace technology for insight and check with the provider about “test driving” the new technology before going all in.”

Myth #2: Free food and other perks make coming to work a joy

Most commonly seen in startups and in tech companies, but there’s a huge notion that having free food in the office or other perks will make employees happy. 

Steve Moore, the director of human resource operations at Insperity said it best:

“So while pizza every Friday is a great perk, it will likely not change the overall satisfaction of an employee if basic needs are not met first.”

If you’re interested in more on this, here’s the article that expands on that quote.

Likewise, there was a piece in the Huffington Post earlier this year on why employees stay at companies. The headline read, “Great Employees Don’t Stay for The Free Food” — here’s why employees DO stay:

  1. Opportunity
  2. Responsibility
  3. Environment

David Rodnitzky, the author of the blog post, said that perks tend to fall into the “compensation” category, and that depending on who you’re hiring (age, industry, etc.), perks can mean and be very different from company to company and person to person. Food and “stuff”, thus, are not an all encompassing silver bullet way to attract and retain talent, but can be an aid to why they’re excited to come to work in the first place.

The rest of that piece can be read here.

Myth #3: If you increase pay, employees will be happier

Sure, being incentivized for your work is great, but money is rarely the main driver in happiness at work. Lots of companies talk about work-life balance, and being able to do meaningful work. Those hold more weight in workplace happiness.

A few years ago, Kirsten Weir wrote a piece for the American Psychology Association about finding meaning in your work. Here’s what she had to say:

“Meaning doesn’t take money,” Weir said. “At any rank, people can make different meanings of their work, and also of themselves at work.”

A recent Fortune article echoed this sentiment. Here’s a soundbite for thought, by the author Pau Sabria:

Money and power will keep people at a job, but they won’t inspire the best employees to do their best work. Part of the reason is due to the idea of “habituation,” meaning, people get used to their circumstances over time. While a raise might dramatically improve the lifestyle of a younger employee making a relatively smaller salary, over time, as the employee makes more money and acquires wealth, increasing his/her income will have diminishing returns on his/her motivation and productivity.”

The underlying theme of the piece is that the system and culture you cultivate shapes the kinds of employees you attract as well as the things that motivate them.

What we learned

Whether your company is small or a globally known brand, employee happiness is something that will always be changing. But, through it all, there are facets of work that will always make employees feel that they’re doing meaningful work. Those should be in the DNA of your company, so that no matter the perks, the pay or the office tech, your employees will come to work inspired and determined to make an impact.

Thinking about moving offices? We just published a guide that tells you what you need to know.