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Why Employee Happiness Is Anything but Frivolous

Studies reveal that happy employees are healthy employees. And fit workers not only reduce health-care costs; they focus twice as hard and quit half as often as their unhappy colleagues. Here’s one way to build a happier workforce.
COLLABORATORS Alexander Kjerulf
How to increase employee happiness
photo by Ged Carroll

For a guy who calls himself the Chief Happiness Officer, Alexander Kjerulf (@alexkjerulf) is remarkably skeptical of corporate wellness programs that reward employees for exercise, smoking cessation, and preventative health care in general. Kjerulf, author of Happy Hour Is 9 to 5, calls these traditional approaches “preachy” and largely unproven in bolstering the bottom line.

Wellness, he says, is not the answer. So, what is? Happiness.

“I’m not sure if being happy makes people healthier,” Kjerulf told The Build Network. “But I know that unhappiness can definitely make you sick.”

According to Gallup, unhappy employees cost U.S. businesses $350 billion a year in lost productivity. And a Wall Street Journal study reveals that employees who report being happy at work take 10 times fewer sick days than their unhappy colleagues. They also stay twice as long in their jobs and focus twice as hard.

So how can you increase the happiness-healthiness quotient at your company?

“Happy people are found at companies that stand for something,” Kjerulf says. He points to Call Me, a Danish mobile-services provider with a 3 percent market share. Call Me launched a public service initiative last year called “Watch Your Mouth” to influence the tone of public discourse. Overnight, the small enterprise (owned by TeliaSonera) sparked a huge debate about verbal abuse, doubled its customer recommendation rate, and increased customer loyalty by 24 percent.

“Its market share increased, but more importantly Call Me is enjoying its highest levels of employee loyalty ever,” Kjerulf says. “The company is now a positive example of politeness, and that makes its employees proud — and happy.”



Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (@zappos) was considered the mouthpiece for corporate happiness initiatives even before writing his New York Times best-seller, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, in 2010. The book offers an in-depth study of his company’s much-lauded culture, which is built on ideas ranging from frivolous (ugly sweater day) to intriguing (paying new employees $2,000 to quit if they’re unhappy after training). The online shoe retailer has appeared on Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For” list for five years running.

According to Fast Company, the remarkably happy culture at Zappos is based on 10 core values:

1. Deliver “wow” through service.

2. Embrace and drive change.

3. Create fun and a little weirdness.

4. Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded.

5. Pursue growth and learning.

6. Build open and honest relationships with communication.

7. Build a positive team and family spirit.

8. Do more with less.

9. Be passionate and determined.

10. Be humble.

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Why Employee Happiness Is Anything but Frivolous

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