Advertising
Advertising

3 Ways to Build a Happy and Productive Team

3 Ways to Build a Happy and Productive Team

Being happy at work? That’s for when you’re off the clock, right? You’ve heard the expression, “That’s why they call it work.” Isn’t that the way work has always been?

Not anymore.

A recent study, “Happiness and Productivity,” conducted by a pair of economist academics, has proven that happiness makes people more productive on the job.

Advertising

According to one of the authors of the research, Professor Andrew Oswald, there’s data to back up the claim: “Companies like Google have invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For Google it rose by 37%. They know what they are talking about. Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off.”

What this research shows is that happiness isn’t a luxury only afforded high-value Silicon Valley firms. Team happiness is not something that organizations can ignore, but rather a crucial investment in staff morale, retention, and productivity.

Whether you’re leading a small team or a large enterprise, there are practical methods for keeping your team happy while still meeting management’s targets. Here are three tips to building happy and productive teams.

Advertising

Be a Better Communicator.

If you’re not able to articulate what it is that you want people to do, they’re not going to be able to do it. That’s obvious. What may not be so clear is that by being a poor communicator you’re corrupting the bonds of trust between you and your workers, which over time will create a toxic work environment.

How do you communicate more effectively and, in so doing, help make a happier team?

  1. Listen- a lot. Communication is a two-way street. Put aside your own thoughts and ideas to really listen to people on your team and demonstrate that you’re willing to seriously engage their ideas. You can show that you’re listening (and remember what your team has said) by repeating back what you’ve heard them say.
  2. Stay on topic. When you’re doing the talking, don’t confuse the issue by going off on tangents. Have one conversation at a time, and keep your point short and easily digestible.
  3. Look people in the eye. This may seem like an outmoded idea since we all stare at our phones and multitask these days. Eye contact helps you and the listener focus on the topic at hand, and it also shows you’re focusing on listening to feedback and ideas.
  4. Ask Questions. Before you’re done with a meeting or a conference, ask if there are any questions. This helps make sure the information you wanted to get across was conveyed accurately and helps with overall team engagement, too.
  5. Build team involvement. Making your team accountable is a good start, but make them part of the process to define the goals, too. This helps them buy-in to the work, gives them ownership, and makes them fully aware of what they’re accountable for.

Respect Workers’ Autonomy.

If you micromanage every nanosecond of your team members’ day, you’re really not helping their productivity. You’re certainly not creating a happy workplace. That doesn’t mean you give workers free reign; you are their manager, after all. However, you do want to instill mutual respect, and that involves giving your team autonomy to manage their time their way.

Advertising

One of the biggest culprits of time wasting is the internet. With the web just waiting behind that spreadsheet, it’s a big temptation to check Facebook or your favorite blog, and as I said, a prohibitive climate is not a productive one. In fact, micromanagement may be more detrimental to productivity than a few idle moments online.

What do you do to encourage productivity without laying down Draconian laws?

  1. Set success metrics. If you have clear milestones that each member of your team is responsible for achieving within a specific scheduled time, then you’re saying you trust them to achieve this task on deadline the way they know best. If they need to take a break and watch a cat video then that’s okay.
  2. Offer incentives. Everyone likes to have their good work recognized, so provide the team members who go above and beyond to complete their work on time with some kind of gift. It can be as simple as buying them lunch or giving out monthly gift certificates to top performers. When you make the incentives fun, it helps build a happy team culture, too. Be sure to be fair and include everyone- not just the favored few.
  3. Offer flexible working hours. Though there may be certain periods of the day that you need your team together, the time of day is less important than meeting the deadline. Also, some people work best first thing in the morning whereas others are more suited for later hours. If you can afford the flexibility, then allow your teams to work when they work best.
  4. Offer training opportunities. Complacency is dangerous for both you and your team. You want to always encourage and enable them to be updated on new tools and techniques. Again, that investment will be rewarded by loyalty, trust, and improved productivity.

It’s not just today’s project and productivity goals that you should be focusing on. There’s always another project down the line, even though it can be difficult to see the forest when you’re in the weeds of a particular job. Future projects need to be kept in the back of the minds of everyone in the company.

Advertising

If you burn out your workforce, you’re going to have to go through arduous team building all over again. It is not only hard work to find and train a new worker but expensive as well. The Corporate Executive Board has researched the cost of replacing a departing employee and found it can be as much as 150% of their salary to replace them if you take into account lost productivity, recruitment fees, and training. Therefore, it’s crucial not only to get the job done today, but to cultivate a workplace that retains its workers.

There are many ways that companies and managers have made their organizations more attractive to their teams. Some of them are:

  1. Offer wellness benefits. If you’re able to provide employees with perks such as gym membership, a massage therapist who visits the office, healthy meals and snacks, even mindfulness meditation breaks, you reduce work stress and create a happy work culture.
  2. Offer financial incentives. Money is the universal language. While team members may never be fully loyal to a company, they will respond positively to having their hard work rewarded with cash incentives. Whether it’s a bonus or some other financial benefit, it’s a worthwhile perk to put into the budget.
  3. Extend paid leave options. It may seem counterintuitive to retain employees by allowing them to take an extended absence from the office, but it will pay off in the long run. Whether it’s personal days to attend family events, a paid vacation or sabbatical, these breaks from the daily grind allow people to regenerate and return to the job refreshed and ready to hit the ground running.
  4. Be a happy role model. As a manager you cannot be always burning the midnight oil and then telling your workers to go home and take it easy. This doesn’t mean slacking, but you want to exhibit the balanced behaviors you expect to see in your team and also work on your own happiness to be an effective model.
  5. Set boundaries. With smartphones, emails, texts, and all the other new technologies and apps to keep people connected, it can feel as if work never ends. While it’s great that you and your workers have a modern means of communication, you need to respect their privacy and have specific times when they’re working and when they’re not.

In Conclusion

That’s it. Easy, right? No. Of course it’s difficult to be happy and harder still to promote a happy team culture especially within a large organization. Think of happiness as another line item on your budget. You have to make the investment in order to get the return. Give it the due diligence that the current research (and Google) has proven, try out these tips, and see what results you get.

Bet you’ll be happily surprised.

Featured photo credit: Girl Using Laptop in Hotel Room by Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

More by this author

http://stokpic.com/project/girl-using-laptop-in-hotel-room/ by Ed Gregory 3 Ways to Build a Happy and Productive Team

Trending in Communication

1 7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language 2 How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake 3 7 Science-Backed Books About Spirituality That Will Change Your Life 4 20 Things Life Is Too Short to Worry About 5 How to Find Inner Peace and Lasting Happiness

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

Advertising

1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

Advertising

3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

Advertising

It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

Advertising

Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next