Mumbrella360 Asia session preview – the marketing industry’s mental health problem is bad for business

In advance of a panel discussion on the taboo topic of mental health, at the Mumbrella360 Asia conference in Singapore this November (5-7), Publicis Sapient Asia-Pacific managing director Emma Scales talks about how actively promoting employee happiness can actually translate into solid business results

Disruption is the norm now. Leaders in every industry, business and market are being forced to take a pause and evaluate all aspects of their business with the following questions. What will be relevant in the future? What will help my company to thrive?” 

The pressure to reimagine, shift and change is coming from all angles and often we can focus on the ‘hard’ business choices with less consideration for the ‘soft’ people impacts these choices create.  

A new body of research and work is surfacing around employee engagement and the role that happiness plays inside of companies in driving engagement and change. Over the past decade, the study of human psychology has turned its attention to the beneficial role played by positive emotions, and ‘positive psychology’ is being looked to increasingly in the corporate world. And in people’s lives in general. Positive emotions and focusing on them can improve physical health, intellectual abilities, psychological resilience and our relationships.

Put simply, happiness is how we naturally talk about positivity – and all the benefits that flow from feeling upbeat. Engagement and happiness are intrinsically linked; their co-dependence determines workplace happiness. Engagement without happiness isn’t sustainable.

When employees are fully supported and engaged they feel more than valued, deeply involved and enthusiastic. They feel a sense of ownership and commitment to return on investment.

What is happiness anyway? Research suggests it’s a combination of how satisfied you are with your life (such as meeting Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, or finding meaning in your work) and whether you take an optimistic stance to day-to-day problems (Martin Seligman defines optimism as reacting to problems with a sense of confidence and high personal ability). It’s an individual feeling, but it’s not an individual construct; it’s a social one.

At this point it’s important to state that measuring happiness is neither simple nor easy. Measuring happiness relies on mapping subjective well-being. Of course, subjective well-being is just that: an idea that will vary from person to person.

Why focus on employee happiness as an organisation? Happy employees are productive, engaged, better able to adopt to change and loyal – and we know engagement is a predictor of individual and organisational performance. Happiness at work causes higher levels of productivity, creativity, intrinsic motivation, loyalty and discretionary effort. They’ll go the extra mile because they want to, not because they have to.

Happiness is a network affect. Clusters of happy and unhappy people affect each other. Your happiness is affected by people within three degrees of separation from you (so your colleague’s friend’s friend), even if you don’t know them.

People who have happy people in their central network are more likely to become happy too and vice versa applies also. Put it this way, happy people make others happy. It’s a collective phenomenon and it’s what makes fostering happiness in the workplace essential.

The most important output in your workplace isn’t just creating award-winning work. It’s creating an environment that fosters happiness; a supportive culture, a great workplace where people love to work. And where they love the work they do. Because when you do that, great work follows.

For the pragmatic business leads, here are some more reasons why happiness in the workplace matters. Happy people are more satisfied with their jobs, 31% more productive and have higher levels of creativity and imagination. Happy people are mentally stronger and calmer; their cortisol levels are 32% lower and they’re 1.5 times less likely to have long-term health conditions. That means less absenteeism and greater productivity from employees with better physical and mental wellbeing.

A workplace full of happy employees can triple revenue growth and perform three times better than competitors. It can mean productivity increases 12%, turnover reduces by 50% (more than an unhappy workforce) and the savings in replacement costs can be between 16% and 213%. It is also possible to achieve an 8% annual increase in stock prices.

For all organisations, these statistics are compelling. But for companies who are on a transformational journey, where ambiguity can impact all of these factors – perhaps they point to a need for companies to take happiness more seriously. 

What if a transformational success is linked to fostering happiness? After all – engaged, content, motivated and productive employees are far more likely to help you get from ‘now’ to ‘next’ successfully.

Emma Scales is Asia-Pacific managing director at Publicis Sapient and is based in Sydney, Australia – and she will be speaking on the often ignored subject of ‘mental health in the marketing industry’ at the Mumbrella360 Asia conference in Singapore on November 5-7; buy your tickets here


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