The Price of Unhappiness at Work? $350bn

Much has been said about the importance of having an engaged, motivated and happy workforce to drive winning outcomes and many smart companies take steps to bring some joy among their ranks.

Disengaged employees cost the US economy up to $350 billion annually in lost productivity according to Gallup, and research from Sigal Barsade of the Wharton School of Business suggests that positive sentiment across an organization makes it more open and more prepared to take risks.

But what makes workers happy? Online career database CareerBliss recently released its findings on the 50 happiest corporations in America, with pharma major Pfizer, NASA and the US Department of Defense taking the top three spots. The analysis, based on worker-submitted reviews, assessed a range of different factors such as work environment, workers' relationships with their colleagues and bosses, company culture and reputation, daily work and control over daily tasks.

Steve McClatchy, founder of Alleer Training and Consulting, which helps its clients, including Pfizer, to improve employee productivity, morale and effectiveness, says happy workers don't stay in one role for too long. Movement and improvement is what creates fulfilment and the status quo results in burnout.

Happiness and meaning are closely linked and what makes workers happy is actually having a meaningful impact on those around them, says Jennifer Aaker, General Atlantic Professor of Marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business. When we cultivate a culture of mindfulness and meaning in all we do, we can influence our own well-being as well as the well-being of our friends, family, colleagues and the wider community, according to Aaker.

A happy workplace is a place where employees' achievements are recognized and praised and where people feel their happiness at work matters to their bosses, says Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.

The happiest workplaces, according to Shelley Prevost of Lamp Post Group, are the ones which recognize that employees are human beings first, and workers second. People want to work in such places because they feel valued, purposeful and connected, she adds.

Delivering Happiness at Work's CEO James Key Lim says there is no magic formula for happiness at work, adding that his company puts the emphasis on work/life integration rather than work/life balance as being passionate about work affects the rest of your life.