Make your organisation a happier place

Lianne McGowan, founder of wellness company Happy Mondays, on how to invigorate your business and get your employees smiling

A lack of teamwork, lack of acknowledgement by superiors, high-pressure environments and cultural, religious and racial issues lead to a demotivated workforce, even when employees are being remunerated well. As an employer, it is essential to ensure that employees are properly motivated, driving them to work productively, leading to increased sales and staff retention.


While physical health campaigns are the norm in South Africa, employees are still suffering from depression, poor communication skills, and are feeling undervalued; this leads to a lack of cohesiveness and poor interpersonal relationships. Organisations should consider a shift in

their approach by incorporating a focus on mental wellness which targets the issues that physical wellness programs do not. How can this be achieved?


Google US, for example, has, for many years, pioneered the drive towards mental wellness in its organisation. Apart from its internal happiness factor, it has taken the approach of incorporating many other fun elements into its work environment to promote joviality, including; tenpin bowling, meeting eggs, tennis courts, slides for stairs, lounges and rainforest receptions. The same sense of happiness can be achieved through the implementation of mental wellness campaigns, delivered through workshops that encourage laughter, movement and positive interaction.


The science of happiness dictates that, when laughter occurs, serotonin levels increase. This regulates mood, learning and appetite, while even mild forms of exercise increase endorphins, developing happiness.Companies that manage staff passively unnecessarily expose themselves to various workplace maladies, such as excessive absenteeism and presenteeism (in attendance but unproductive), higher employee turnover and a low level of talent acquisition and retention. Internationally, a growing school of thought cuts across these issues, with companies taking measures to promote mental vitality and happiness at work. When this is done, a more focused, productive and cooperative workforce is developed.


Media personality and puppeteer of Chester Missing, Conrad Koch, promotes fun at work through ‘laughter therapy’. The premise is that many sensitive topics can be breached if the correct approach is taken; humour can diffuse many situations and open up communication channels that were definitively closed in the past. He says that in order to implement fun at work, companies can adopt some easy principles around change, sharing, rewards and rituals, fun focus groups, and just plain fun.


For change, plan a monthly outing, something fun to break up the monotony of routine. For sharing, consider opening a staff meeting with some personal anecdotes or put up a joke or meme notice board. Create a ‘fun ideas’ box or collect a ‘sin tax’ for tardiness and use the funds to throw an office party. For rewards and rituals, remember that people inherently crave recognition, but most businesses only consider monetary benefits. This doesn’t have to be an expensive exercise. Rather implement celebration rituals by giving a staff member a floating token of appreciation for the funniest customer experience, a welcoming ritual for new employees or simply a toast to someone who has done well. For fun focus groups, identify staff members that are naturally adept at humour and appoint them to inject fun and laughter into the workplace. Lastly, for just plain fun, use pictures, music and snacks in meetings to develop a culture of jolliness. Consider implementing ‘wacky hour’ once a week, allowing employees to cut loose, have some fun, and invigorate themselves before getting back to work.


Happy employees enjoy being at work. They communicate better and work better in teams. They have a higher level of motivation, making them more productive. In order to excel, employees need to be happy and feel as though they operate within a stimulating environment where their emotional needs are met.