Happy employees are motivated employees

Cover Story, Editorial, Features

Vol 25, Issue 06, 14 October 2022

Keeping employees happy is no easy task. Satisfying all the needs of everyone in the organisation is almost impossible as people have varying needs and levels of needs. Even when employees have long been satisfied in their work, there comes a time when frustration, boredom, or major changes cause dissatisfaction in the workplace.

So how do you keep the motivation high? There are many studies suggesting how to achieve this. Good communication is often considered to be a major way of ensuring employees are informed of everything happening in the organisation, whether it directly affects everyone or not. The feeling that there is a high-level of transparency so that employees know what is going on relieves a lot of stress about the “unknown”. Also, inclusion of employees in decision making is said to encourage idea generation and creativity, and help employees to develop their skills and progress in their own work.

Taking a walk in the forest with a colleague, even when the weather is not great, can still be enjoyable.

However, sometimes it is the simple things that can help in happiness and well-being in the workplace that are often overlooked. Last winter I wrote about getting employees back together after long absences from the workplace due to forced remote working. The idea was simple – encourage your staff to get outdoors on February 14th (Valentine’s Day or Friendship Day as it is known in Finland) with colleagues for some winter exercise, sports, fun, or just to meet up. We did it in our Business Department in Xamk last winter and it was quite successful – despite the poor weather on the day. Many staff took part just getting outdoors and sharing photos and stories of the day. Management even contributed by offering lunch for all that took part.

A sushi lunch to share with colleagues.

Simply getting employees active and being able to have some social engagement outside of the workplace is something that has been long established in many workplaces. The annual Christmas get together (pikkujoulu in Finland) is often one of the highlights of the working year for many people. A chance to spend an enjoyable evening with colleagues in a party atmosphere, eating, drinking, dancing, etc. often paid for, or contributed to, by the employer. There doesn’t have to be full-blown party for getting employees together. Last month we had the annual staff development day at Saima Arena in Mikkeli, where employees could come together and meet people they already knew or those that had not met before. The atmosphere was relaxed and there were presentations related to work well-being. In addition to this, staff were encouraged to participate in sporting and social activities in and around the sports arena. I can say that it was an enjoyable day and most seemed to enjoy the opportunities given.

Xamk staff enjoying the facilities of Saima Arena

In a similar way, we should also consider the needs of students and getting them to interact away from their studies. Of course, in many ways students seldom need encouragement to get together and party, especially where universities have very active organisations arranging student events. However, at the start of studies it can be slightly daunting for new students to make friends, especially those in international groups who are often a long way from home and for the first time in their lives. Also, what if they are not “party people”, how else can they interact outside the campus if the only activities arranged are drinking parties?

Koria bridge nataure trail

Every year, I try to give my new student groups a day out of the campus getting introduced to the Finnish nature by taking a hike around the local forest trails or a day out at the local outdoors association. Last week, along with my colleage Sara Czabai, we took a small group of 1st-year international students along one of the sections of the now ready Kymijoki Outdoor Trail. We took a 5km hike along the river and through the forest stopping for a campfire lunch along the way. The main idea was just to get away from the campus and studies for a few hours, enjoy the nature, chat and get to know one another. By the time we were getting back on the bus, lots of smiling faces and thanks all round proved that it doesn’t take much to get peoples spirits up – and at the same time introducing a little well-being for both students and staff.

Cooking sausages at a campfire was a new experience for many of the students.

So, if you are an employer looking to find a way to motivate your employees, or simply to relieve stress or boredom in the workplace, you don’t have to arrange a lavish party or expensive event – a simple trip to the forest or other natural surroundings can work wonders. On top of this, think of all those healthy microbes everyone will be breathing in – it’s a cost-free health-benefit!