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How to Keep a Happy Work Environment

How can you ensure a positive and productive work environment? Here's what the experts say.

Alison Martin
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The staff at Northern Lighting in Westerville, OH, gets the job done, but they like to have a little fun. “We keep it loose,” lighting consultant Scott Metz (third from right) says.
The staff at Northern Lighting in Westerville, OH, gets the job done, but they like to have a little fun. “We keep it loose,” lighting consultant Scott Metz (third from right) says.

Happiness and productivity go hand in hand. A 2015 study by the Social Market Foundation and the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy found that employee productivity increased between 12 to 20 percent when employees were happy at work.

Imagine having 20 percent more work done each day — sounds like a no-brainer. Our experts weigh in on how to keep employees happy and engaged at work.


Happier Employees, Happier You

Happiness in any work environment starts with the right people and training, says Shelia Butler, business consultant and owner of Handley Drive. “If you start out with the right people,” Butler says, “you’re going to be much more successful.”

Butler often sees managers rush through the hiring process, anxious to get a warm body in the showroom without going through the whole vetting process. The result is that showrooms often hire the wrong people. While skills can be learned, a positive attitude, Butler warns, cannot. 

When it comes to training, Butler notices a disconnect between how managers say they trained and how employees say they were trained. Slowing down the training process ensures employees understand what is expected of them, but repetitive issues with an employee may be indicative of a larger problem. “If an employee is not doing well or having performance or attitude issues with you, imagine what they’re doing when you’re not there.”

When problems do arise in the showroom, Butler says managers need to step in, lead by example and be present. They should also focus on showing employees appreciation. Balancing appreciation with constructive criticism can keep employees feeling positive about their work. “They are the face of your company,” Butler says. “Your company is only as good as your worst employee.”


A Positive Environment 

To keep employees happy and engaged in showrooms, the easiest thing to do is have a little fun. Scott Metz, lighting consultant at Northern Lighting in Westerville, OH, describes his showroom’s atmosphere as a “mix of relaxed and exciting.” Employees take turns playing their favorite music or talk radio stations to keep themselves entertained. “Everyone jokes with each other,” Metz says. “We do hide behind corners sometimes to scare each other.”

Cynthia Heathcoe, CEO at Contemporary Living in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, keeps a fully stocked fridge in her showroom’s break room so her employees never have to worry about getting a healthy meal. They also like to play with the Okay Google they use in the showroom, asking it to tell them jokes or fun facts. “It really brightens the mood, even the clients like it,” she says. “It’s a good icebreaker.”

For both Metz and Heathcoe, business and family mix. Metz’s father owns Northern Lighting, and he met his wife when she began working at the store. Heathcoe employs several of her family members and a few part-time employees.

When employees are unhappy or upset, both Metz and Heathcoe tackle the problem upfront. Sitting privately with the employee and talking out the problem is essential. During down time at the store, Metz says he’ll work with employees to better their skills, such as going over the refund process.

Heathcoe’s showroom has an open-door policy for all employees, offering a listening ear when they need it most. Whether they’re having personal or professional trouble, employees can ask Heathcoe for advice.

“It’s a balance between being a boss and a mentor,” she says.

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