Twelve Tips to Create a Happier (and More Productive) Workplace

Twelve questions to help identify what you need in a workplace.

Posted Sep 08, 2009

I just finished First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. I’d heard about it for years, but I didn’t actually pick up a copy until a smart friend told me to read it.

The authors did a study with the Gallup Organization to find a way, among other things, to measure strong workplaces, ones that would attract and retain the most productive employees.

They came up with a list of twelve questions, where, if employees answered “yes” and were happier in their workplaces, they tended to work in business units with higher levels of productivity, profit, retention, and customer satisfaction – which shows that there is a link between how employees feel and how they perform.

This is a good list to use if you’re a manager who wants to create a happier and more productive work environment, or if you’re a job seeker/holder who wants criteria by which to judge a workplace.

Also, if you’re not happy at work, and you’re trying to Identify the problem, take a look at this list. It suggests strategies for improving your situation. Not everything is within your control, of course, but perhaps you could identify for your boss what you need to change #2 from “no” to “yes” or to shift responsibilities so you get #3. Or can you make an effort to gain #10?

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?

2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?

8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important?

9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

10. Do I have a best friend at work? [But don’t have an office affair!]

11. In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?

12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

The first six questions have the strongest links to business outcomes (productivity, profitability, retention, and customer satisfaction). I was also interested to see that the study suggested that people’s opinions of their workplaces are more determined by their immediate manager than by the overall company. It was their direct manager – not money, benefits, perks, or a charismatic leader at the top – that was the critical element for people.

* I always find something interesting to read at The Art of Non-Conformity. * Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.