These 5 Happiness Myths Can Wreck Your Office Culture

July 17, 2017 · 5 min read

A good work culture is hard to find, probably due to the abundance of myths surrounding this issue. How can you tell the myths from the truth? We've made a list that will make everything more clear. Go out and make your company a better place for everyone

True employee happiness is hard to find

True employee happiness is hard to find

Creating a company culture to please everyone can be a daunting task. Since individual preferences and requirements vary so dramatically, some may even consider it impossible. But take heart… There are a few universal rules to follow on the subject. Don’t believe these 5 common myths that plague offices around the world.

MYTH #1: More Breaks = Less Work

If you’ve ever eaten lunch at your desk because you have “so much to do” then you’re in for a crazy surprise.

All evidence on the subject shows that skipping breaks results in disengagement, dissatisfaction, and inefficiency.  Tony Schwartz, the head of a New York City-based productivity consulting firm called “The Energy Project” said it best: “The trouble is that, without any downtime to refresh and recharge, we’re less efficient, make more mistakes, and get less engaged with what we’re doing.”

There are a number of compelling and scientific reasons for this. First, to put it simply, boredom is the death of productivity. Taking breaks will keep you from getting bored, thus helping you stay focused! Secondly, when you’re working ceaselessly on the same task it’s easy to lose sight of your big-picture goal. And if you lose sight of the big-picture goal in your work, you can kiss job satisfaction goodbye.

The verdict on taking more breaks is spelled out pretty clearly, so why aren’t we taking more breaks? Guilt is the key word here. We carry around the idea that if we take breaks we’ll be seen as lazy. A study of office workers and managers by Staples discovered that more than a quarter of workers don’t take a break other than lunch. One in five employees said guilt was the reason they don’t step away from their workspaces.

What to do? encourage a break-friendly office culture.

MYTH #2: Free food and fancy perks will make people love their job.

“Spoiling employees is no substitute for engaging them,” found a 2013 State of the American Workplace study by Gallup.

Especially in the startup world, there seems to be an unshakable belief that free perks will bring your employees happiness. However, evidence is mounting that food and ping-pong tables won’t influence overall employee satisfaction if more basic needs aren’t being met. Studies show that you should instead invest your resources in creating a flexible workplace and fostering psychological safety. Frank Bosco, assistant professor of management at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business said: “If these basic needs are not fulfilled, then even the most extravagant perks will be little more than window dressing.”

What can you do? Start with the bedrock of any happy office culture: psychological safety: the unexpected key to great company culture

Office Culture Happiness

You’ll be happier without these office myths

MYTH #3: Working from home = Less productivity

Working from home has actually been found to be equally or even more productive than working from the office. Sure that’s cool factoid, but where it really gets good is the long term benefits gained like employee retention, employee satisfaction and lower workplace anxiety. “a good rule of thumb is to let employees have one to two days a week at home.” says Nicholas Bloom, professor of Economics at Stanford University. “It’s hugely beneficial to their well-being, helps you attract talent, and lowers attrition.” The airline JetBlue is famous for implementing a program like this. “When I asked the people at JetBlue about this policy, they said it helped them gain access to educated, high-ability mothers who wanted flexibility in their jobs.”

What can you do? Give employees the option to work from home one day a week, or the option to work a half day from home.

MYTH #4: flex time will decrease productivity

Speaking of flexibility, if you can’t quite swing the option to let your employees work from home, an equally beneficial option is offering “flex time” where employees work the same number of hours, but they get to choose when to put them in. This can be a simple gesture of 1-2 hour flexible arrival time, where employees can choose when they prefer to arrive (ie. arrive at 8 and leave at 5 or arrive at 10 and leave at 7.) Additionally, flexible offices are supportive of parents and nursing mothers, and having an inclusive office is more important than ever for business success.

MYTH #5: Open offices are good

10 years ago, the hippest offices in the world began leaving gray cubicles behind for the brighter future of open office plans. Open offices held the promise of seamless team collaborations, boundless equality, and a sense of well-being for all. But the dream was soon tarnished by the harsh reality of strong-smelling homemade lunches and the din of personal phone conversations. In recent years the concept has fallen into a state of what might be called “wild unpopularity” as research uncovers the flaws in the concept. Though an open office plan is more conducive to collaboration and brainstorming (which can be critical for new startups,) the ceaseless distraction seems to cause a host of unpleasant symptoms such as lower productivity, decreased well being, and even health. One study found that employees working in an open office plan took 62% more sick days than those working in private offices.

What can you do? If you have an open office plan and you don’t have the luxury of changing offices all the sudden, just create private spaces that people can use throughout the day. A shower curtain and a desk is all it takes.

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