We spend so much of our lives at work. The average person spends 40 hours per week working for their employer, and often workers log 50 or more hours in a week. Given how much time people spend working, it is important that they be as happy as possible during those hours. Further, since positive morale correlates with lower stress and higher productivity, it is vital to take a look at the factors that encourage worker happiness. Employers who take strides to improve morale find that the keys to employee happiness are rather simple and cost very little, if anything.

Respect

The three elements that are most important to employee happiness and overall workplace morale are: respectful treatment, compensation, and benefits packages. Respect is always free and when it is given, it often is repaid in kind. To cultivate an atmosphere of respect, be certain that workplace language (and body language) is kind and appropriate.

Kindness goes a long way towards cultivating happiness. Asking how a person is doing after being sick, or extending extra patience for a worker who is experiencing a personal difficulty will be noticed by everyone in the company. Even simple measures such as easing an employees access to office resources or allowing flexibility in the schedule for a worker are simple, and free, ways to enhance workplace morale.

Compensation

Compensation can be considered a sort of financial respect. That is, workers wish to be paid relative to their perceived worth in the marketplace. This may even vary according to industry. A secretary for a high-level finance company might command a higher salary than a secretary in a plumbing company. Nonetheless, employers are wise to keep an eye on the current rate of pay for the job titles in their industry. If a business is only able to stay at or even slightly below the average rate of pay, it may behoove them to seek other means of compensation, such as quarterly or year-end bonuses, padded benefits packages, or non-financial perks such as remote-working or flex time. Many employees appreciate the ability to “bank” vacation or personal time into the following year. Compensation can also come in the form of benefits packages.

Benefits

Benefits are often at the top of a person’s list when they seek employment. They may need healthcare coverage for themselves or their family. Some look for dental plans, pensions, or investment programs to help them build wealth for later. These can come at a significant cost to employers, but the return on investment is also quite high. Not only does an employee benefits package keep current workers happy, but it can help to attract top talent at job fairs and elsewhere. More and more, employees view benefits as part of the overall compensation package and may see robust healthcare coverage as augmenting an otherwise average salary.

Employee Discount Program

One easy way to enhance a benefits package is with an employee discount program. These are easy to implement, cost very little to employers, and the money saved results in a virtual bonus. Though overall salary may not be increased, facilitating savings on vacations, automobile purchases, gym memberships and other goods and services will make employee paychecks go farther. When an employee discount program makes travel to Europe a possibility, everyone in the workplace recognizes that value and likely will return the employer’s thoughtfulness with a sharper eye to detail, longer hours, and overall increased productivity. Everyone wins in that scenario.

Happiness is contagious. When an employer is able to improve workplace morale, goodwill is returned, resulting in less stress in the workplace and higher productivity. Given the financial return that comes from modest improvements to the workplace, one can say that happiness is indeed free.