What Really Drives Workplace Happiness? New Research Shows It’s Not Just Pay

We help businesses of all shapes & sizes reward their staff 🚀

As the Dalai Lama once said: “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions”. So ask yourself; are your company’s actions making employees happy?

Latest stats from the 2024 Drewberry™ Employee Benefits And Workplace Satisfaction Survey show that 68% of UK employees are “fairly” or “very” happy. And their reasons might surprise you. Let’s take a look.

Why Employee Happiness Matters

Employee happiness is all about your team’s positive attitude towards work. Happy employees look forward to going to work, enjoy their tasks, and get along well with their colleagues. In fact, happy employees are 13% more productive than unhappy ones.

Happy employees are the goal, right? But achieving this happiness isn’t always easy. It takes careful planning and effort from your leadership to ensure a positive experience for employees at every stage of their career.

Positive Working Environment Is Highest On Jobseekers’ List

61% of employees say a positive working environment is the most important factor when looking for a job. But with almost a third having a negative outlook for their company (and 51% ready to move jobs within the year) you need to prioritise your employees’ happiness if you want to attract and keep top talent.

Work-Life Balance Makes Employees Happiest

We asked 989 UK employees about what makes them happy at work. When asked the main reasons for happiness, 74% said a good work-life balance was their top priority. This was followed by:

  • Good relationships with colleagues (69%)
  • Trust to manage their own workload (62%)
  • Recognition of efforts (49%).

Generous salary and support from leadership came in joint fifth with 48% saying it was the most important factor.

So while monetary reward is high on the list, a respectful culture and professional autonomy are the biggest factors for workplace happiness.

What Causes Employee Unhappiness?

On the flip side, low salary and oppressive culture is the bigger driver of employee unhappiness, with 49% saying low salary was the biggest reason for unhappiness. This was followed by:

  • Micromanagement (48%)
  • Lack of recognition (47%)
  • Unsupportive management (46%)
  • No faith in senior management (46%).

How To REALLY Boost Employee Happiness

Creating a happy workplace isn’t just a perk—it’s a game-changer for your business. Happier employees are more engaged, more productive, and more loyal. But how do you transform employee happiness from a lofty goal into a daily reality?

Encourage Work-Life Balance ⚖️

74% of employees said work-life balance was a top priority. Achieving this balance can lead to a happier and more productive workforce. So how can you help facilitate this within your organisation?

  • Flexible work hours: Allow employees to adjust their work hours to better fit their personal schedules. This could include flexible start and end times, compressed workweeks, or the option to work part-time
  • Remote work options: More than a third of employees said remote and flexible working is their most-valued benefit, so try providing the opportunity for employees to work from home or other remote locations. This can help reduce commuting stress and give employees more control over their work environment
  • Encourage breaks and time off: Promote the importance of regular breaks during the workday and ensure employees take their vacation days. Consider implementing a policy that encourages or even requires employees to unplug and recharge (Holiday Trading can be great for this)
  • Health and wellness programs: Offer wellness initiatives such as fitness classes, mental health support, and access to healthy food options. Organising regular health and wellness activities can also foster a healthier work culture and more energised workforce
  • Family-friendly policies: Implement policies that support employees with families, such as paid parental leave, workplace nurseries, and flexible scheduling to accommodate family needs. This shows that you value their family commitments as much as their professional ones. You could even offer “pawternity” leave for those who’ve chosen a different kind of parenthood 🐱🐶.

Offer Salary Reviews And Bonus Perks 🌟

48% said a generous salary and bonuses made them happiest, and it’s hard to argue with. 71% are ready to leave your business for better pay and benefits, and only 13% are truly happy with their current benefits package, so enhanced salary and bonus perks can really boost employee motivation and retention. While budgets don’t always allow for frequent pay rises, here are some options to consider:

  • Performance-based bonuses: Bonuses tied to individual, team, or company performance (such as annual bonuses, quarterly incentives, or project-specific rewards) can motivate employees to exceed their goals
  • Profit sharing: Profit-sharing plans allow employees to share in the monetary success of your company’s profits. This gives them a personal stake in your organisation’s success, fostering a sense of ownership
  • Referral and retention bonuses: Want your talent to come highly recommended? Try providing bonuses to employees who refer successful candidates to your business. You can also reward employees who stay with the company for a certain period to encourage long-term commitment.

Nurture Good Relationships With Colleagues 👯‍♀️

69% of employees said the good relationships they have with their colleagues is what makes them happiest at work. A team that gets on well creates a positive and collaborative work environment, which in turn produces great work. Here’s how you can help foster great relationships (without forcing the “we’re a family here” trope):

  • Team-building activities: Organise regular team-building exercises, such as workshops, retreats, or fun activities like escape rooms, sports events, or group outings
  • Collaborative projects: Encourage cross-departmental projects where employees from different teams work together. This helps break down silos and fosters a sense of shared purpose and teamwork
  • Social events: Host social events, such as after-work gatherings, national holiday parties, or themed office events. These occasions allow employees to interact in a relaxed setting and build personal connections
  • Mentorship programs: Implement mentorship or buddy systems where more experienced employees guide and support newer or less experienced colleagues. This not only helps in skill development but also builds strong interpersonal relationships
  • Open communication channels: Create an environment where open and honest communication is encouraged. Regular team meetings, feedback sessions, and suggestion boxes can help ensure that everyone feels heard and valued. Encouraging a culture of appreciation and recognition can also strengthen relationships.

Trust Employees To Manage Their Workload 👍

62% of employees said being trusted to handle their workload was a source of happiness at work. And it’s not hard to see why – it empowers employees and boosts job satisfaction. Here’s how you can facilitate this:

  • Flexible work hours: Try allowing employees to set their own work hours within certain guidelines (i.e. core hours with options for earlier or later starts/finished). This flexibility can help them manage their time more effectively and accommodate personal responsibilities
  • Clear goals and expectations: Set clear, achievable goals and expectations, giving employees the freedom to decide how best to meet them. Regular (but not constant) check-ins can ensure alignment without micromanaging
  • Access to resources and tools: Equip employees with the necessary tools and resources to manage their workload. This could include project management software, collaboration platforms, and other productivity tools that help them organise and track their tasks effectively while giving managers an at-a-glance view of workloads.

Recognise Their Efforts 🏆

49% of employees said that being recognised for their efforts is a top source of happiness in the workplace. It’s a small gesture that makes a big difference in motivating your teams. Here’s how to acknowledge and celebrate your employees’ hard work:

  • Public acknowledgement: Recognise employees during team meetings, company-wide emails, or on internal communication platforms (like My.Drewberry’s Praise 🙌). Publicly celebrating their achievements shows appreciation and boosts morale
  • Spot bonuses or gifts: Offer spot bonuses, gift cards, or small tokens of appreciation for exceptional work. This immediate recognition can be a powerful incentive, building employee loyalty and satisfaction
  • Professional development opportunities: Reward employees with opportunities for growth, such as funding for courses, conferences, or certifications. This not only recognises their efforts but also invests in their future with your company.

Benefits That Make Employees Beam

A solid benefits package is a fantastic way to keep employees engaged and motivated. It shows appreciation for their hard work by offering them something meaningful – beyond their payslip.

But setting up and maintaining a competitive employee benefits package requires a decent bit of admin, which quickly becomes time consuming. We do the heavy lifting for you, giving you more time to focus on what matters.

We live and breathe employee benefits, doing this day in-day out for businesses just like yours. Looking at the big picture, we get to know your unique workforce and benchmark your offering against competitors.

Best of all? We have access to the most competitive rates on the market for core benefits, such as Group Life Insurance, Group Health Insurance, and Group Critical Illness Cover. Give us a call on 02074425880 or email help@drewberry.co.uk.

Why Speak to Us?

We started Drewberry™ because we were tired of being treated like a number.

We all deserve a first class service when it comes to things as important as protecting our health and our finances. Below are just a few reasons why it makes sense to talk to us.

Contact Us

Head Office & Pensions and Investments
Senator House
85 Queen Victoria Street
Personal Insurance & Accounts Payable
Telecom House
125-135 Preston Road
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Drewberry Ltd is registered in England and Wales. Companies House No. 06675912

Drewberry Ltd registered office: Telecom House, Preston Road, Brighton, England, BN1 6AF. Telephone 0208 432 7333

Drewberry Ltd (Financial Conduct Authority No. 505473) is an Appointed Representative of Quilter Wealth Limited and Quilter Mortgage Planning

Limited, which are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.


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