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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Happiness through Employee Benefits: The Cost of Doing Business

When someone gains employment, there’s a lot more that comes with it than just a paycheck. Before signing a contract, many people ask this simple yet necessary question, “what are the benefits?” For some people, they’re looking for dental coverage while others are concerned with maternal leave as it depends on your lifestyle. However, there is one thing that everyone can agree on, everyone wants to receive employee benefits from the company they’re working for.

But before we dive in any deeper, what are employee benefits? Employee benefits are non-salary compensation which varies from company to company. These benefits are included in an employees compensation package. Typically, aside from complying with government regulations, they’re designed as an incentive competitive package for potential employees. Of course, there are benefits which companies are required to provide employees such as disability, overtime, minimum wage, medical leave, workers compensation and unemployment benefits. However, are simply meeting the minimal benefits enough?

Many of us have heard about the almost mythical-like businesses, ones that provide their employees with flexible hours, child care and paid leave. Though for many of us, this sounds like a dream job, however, over 60% of people report that benefits are a determining factor when accepting a job offer. Though a majority of people are looking for a job with full benefits, there’s only a small amount of individuals who do receive these benefits. However, what businesses aren’t realizing is that these lack of benefits are greatly affecting their businesses productivity. Employee happiness has become increasingly important in business as it’s becoming more and more clear that an employee’s happiness is correlated to the success of the company they’re working for.

A study by Daniel Sgroi from the Social Market Foundation found that happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy employees. In addition, when it came to salespeople, happiness had a larger impact on the success of business, increasing sales by 37%. Thus, there is a high significance with ensuring that employees and engaged in a positive workplace. With these numbers, it’s clear that shouldn’t ignore the role of happiness and the effects on business. Yet, why do they continue to push it aside? Perhaps we’re asking the wrong question, instead, we should be asking can employers actually affect the happiness of their employees? But before we even get to answering this question, how do we define happiness in the workplace?

Patrick Lencioni, author of The Truth About Employee Engagement, states in his book that happiness in the workplace is based on feeling like you matter, doing your job has an impact and you can see progress being made. Which means employee happiness is based on making them feel valued in the workplace. Now, let’s go back to the prior question, can employers actually affect the happiness of their employees? In short yes, however, not in the way many people think. It’s not having casual Fridays, it’s about giving employees a sense of identity and respect in the workplace. Though happiness comes from the individual, the employer should be responsible for creating a positive workplace with meaningful relationships as this is what encourages employee satisfaction.

Though a company may not be able to provide an individual with making them feel happier, as Sonia Lyubomirsky states that, we individually control 40% of our happiness. Though, this doesn’t mean business get a “get out of jail free” card. Instead, businesses can focus on providing support for their employees, thus, making them feel valued, reducing stress and giving them an opportunity to do things outside of the workplace which makes them happy. In recent years, we have seen more companies opt for providing their employees with happiness benefits. For example, Netflix announced it added unlimited employee maternity and paternity leave for the first year after a child’s birth as they understood that work-life balance for parents is essential. Airbnb provides their employees with an annual stipend of $2,000 for travel as many employees simply do not have the savings for travel.

As the evidence for happiness and productivity continues to grow, businesses will have to jump on the bandwagon if they want their businesses to prosper. As this continues to play a vital role in business, more companies are opting for employee benefits consulting to assist them in creating employee benefits which work for both employer and employee. Employees aren’t going anywhere, thus, companies need to take the necessary steps in ensuring their employees are taken care of. If happiness is the key to productivity, it’s clear that all companies will have to make these changes to their employee packages. With time, it continues this expose the importance of investing in the people as they’re the ones that will either keep your business afloat or let it sink.

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