One-third of our time is spent at work. In numbers, that’s approx. 90,000 hours per lifetime. Let it sink in. Now, would it be so terribly unreasonable to expect that the majority of that time is spent feeling happy?
Not at all. In fact, happiness should be an obligatory state of being for everyone everywhere. A utopian vision, perhaps, yet it’s certainly one that organizations should strive for. Studies have shown that maintaining a happy workforce results in a 20% increase in productivity. And it’s a snowball effect from there…
To gain a clearer, real-life understanding of how businesses view and approach this subject, we visited a local company stationed in Ljubljana.
LanguageSitter® is a company that offers premium level individual language training. Their clientele consists predominantly of high-level managers, busy professionals, and other individuals, who spend a good portion of their time on the go. Basically, people who can’t afford to be stuck learning a foreign language in a traditional classroom of a traditional language course, but can afford a more tailored approach.
“What sets us apart from our competitors is that we provide our clients with a personal language trainer or LanguageSiter®, as we call them”, explains Cofounder and Managing Director, Mart D. Buh. “They meet with them at their office, gym, in the car, at a restaurant, wherever, and train them to use the target language in the most applicable way possible.”
“Our employees are the kings and queens of our organization.”
When asked about the importance of employee well-being, Mr. Buh replied: “It’s critical. Our philosophy is not to treat clients as kings or queens, these titles should be reserved for our team members. Because if they’re happy and motivated, our clients will be treated like royalty as a result. It’s a reciprocal process.”
A truly noble approach indeed. However, cultivating a happy work environment usually involves building a sense of community. With a team of over 100 Language Sitters®, most of whom are busy rendering their services all over the country, cultivating a sense of community must represent a significant challenge. It does, but at LanguageSitter®, they’re armed with a simple yet most effective weapon: fun.
Fun – the best ingredient in building a pleasant and productive work environment.
“Due to the nature of their work, we have to use email and other virtual communication channels to communicate with our team members,” says Mr. Buh, “which is why we place a big emphasis on informal gatherings and teambuilding activities.” The latter involve non-obligatory monthly get-togethers in the form of internal workshops and various trainings led by visiting professionals from various fields. It gives employees a chance to learn new skills and get to know each other on a personal level.
Another important notion highlighted by Mr. Buh is helping employees explore their passions. Regardless of what these may be. Organizing company field trips and throwing an occasional office party isn’t just about fun and games, he says, it presents an opportunity for people to reveal their interests outside of work, share ideas and feel included.
“Establishing trust is key. When you have that, everything else falls into place.”
A popular piece by the Harvard Business Review, Being Happy at Work Matters, exposes three main things that people need to be fully engaged and happy: a meaningful vision of the future, a sense of purpose and great relationships.
Mart D. Buh says that the basis on which all three components stand is trust. He believes that forming an honest, transparent relationship with his team doesn’t only help foster a sense of belonging, but also boosts their confidence, which in turn rubs off on their clients as well. And that is, after all, what language training is all about. Or any other vocation for that matter.
Besides, weekly meetings dedicated to employee and client feedback, LanguageSitter® also holds annual review meetings, which include a lengthy chat with every single employee. “When people trust you and you trust them, the pressure is lifted. Everyone knows what’s expected of them, they’re not afraid to speak their minds, and that’s an incredibly motivating factor.”
Wait, a room booking solution can raise the levels of happiness at the office?
Upon realizing LanguageSitter® has two Joan Executives decorating their walls, it was the obvious wrap-up question of the interview. “Absolutely,” says Mr. Buh, a broad smile drawing across his face. “As our conference rooms double as meeting spaces for clients and language-training rooms, interruptions were a real nuisance. Joan got rid of that straight away.”
“We also love the warm welcome feature and the personalized message option. If a client had a lesson, which ended in learning a particular phrase, we can include it as part of the greeting for their next session. It really brightens up everyone’s day,” he added.
There you have it. We can conclude this post with an undeniable truth: creating a happy workplace begins with a trustful attitude, which leads to knowing who your employees are and what makes them tick. And throwing a good old-fashioned party into the mix can only fortify the two.