The Business Case for Happiness

By Normandale Community College - Continuing Education

It’s time to talk about the elephant in the room that’s holding your team and your organization back. It’s not lack of resources, time, or talent.

It’s burnout.

Employers across the Twin Cities have discovered that to be successful in the longterm, they need to optimize their people, not just their processes.

Burnout: You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have

Regardless of your role in your organization, you cannot give what you do not have. As an employee or a leader, you face pressure from multiple angles. If you’re a younger worker, you may be burdened with student debt. If you’re mid-career, you may be taking care of a young family and an aging parent. Or perhaps you’re working several jobs to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, the boundary between work life and personal life has become more fluid. For most people, it’s no longer possible to leave work at work. And as stress piles on at work and at home, burnout begins.

People experiencing burnout feel exhausted and find themselves becoming cynical. Most dread the idea of being responsible for just one. more. thing at work and at home. Their tanks are empty. They feel they have nothing left to give. At work, burnout bleeds into productivity, engagement, and attitude, affecting relationships with colleagues and by extension, the customer experience.

Despite these serious consequences, burnout in the workplace continues to remain the elephant in the room. As a result, attracting and retaining employees are top issues for leaders. If allowed to fester unaddressed, burnout decreases employee productivity and increases absenteeism and turnover. To keep their teams productive, engaged, and at work, leaders need to invest in their people. Specifically, they need to invest in their happiness.

The Health of Your Business Strategy

Sheila Moroney and Sara Rose

It takes courage for leaders to invest in happiness. As with other mental health challenges, burnout, is a taboo subject. Employees avoid sharing the challenges they’re facing and how they’re affecting their work experience, and employers resist initiating this difficult conversation. But as a leader, finding the courage to break the mold and turn a light on burnout can make a world of difference for your employees and your customers.

Sheila Moroney had this courage, and her investment in happiness transformed the experience at HCMC’s level I trauma center for both employees and patients. Sheila is the Patient Experience Officer at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC). She recognized that employee burnout was negatively affecting the patient experience at HCMC’s emergency department. Employees reported feeling stressed out and physically and emotionally exhausted.

Sheila realized that if she helped her employees reduce their stress and find ways to cultivate happiness at work, the patient experience would take care of itself. Happy physicians, nurses, and support staff are better collaborators. They find more creative solutions to challenges, and ultimately, they deliver better care.

To reduce burnout and improve patient experience, Sheila partnered with happiness experts Linda Saggau and Nancy O’Brien. Linda and Nancy are the founders of Experience Happiness, an organization that helps people reduce burnout and develop the skills to cultivate happiness from the inside out through a program they call the Happiness Practice.

Linda and Nancy worked with Sheila to develop and implement a plan to start a conversation about happiness and burnout at HCMC. The plan included strategies employees could use to cultivate happiness.

Sheila understood that investing in the happiness of her employees would help improve the patient experience. But she did not realize how large the ROH—return on happiness—would be. After just six months, employees reported a 22 percent decrease in burnout. Resilience, innovation, and happiness all increased. Workers reported feeling more engaged with their colleagues and patients.

While the team had hoped the experience would decrease burnout and increase employee happiness, what surprised them most was the effect on patient satisfaction. By simply making employee burnout and happiness a priority, patient satisfaction increased 5.3 percent.

Sheila learned that before she invested heavily in processes, she had to invest heavily in her people. The success of any process improvement, from Six Sigma to Scrum, hinges on the capacity of employees to embrace change, stay engaged, and work together. When they champion happiness, leaders help their employees feel supported, open to change, and motivated to innovate and stay productive.

R3 Contimuum TeamLike Sheila, Jim Mortensen, president of R3 Continuum, understands how investing in happiness can increase employee resilience, performance, and retention. R3 Continuum partners with organizations to create and implement custom behavioral health solutions that improve workplace wellbeing. Often, the R3 Continuum team is called in to help an organization respond to workplace trauma or other highly stressful circumstances.

Experiencing workplace trauma or working in a chronically stressful environment can lead to burnout, not only for R3 Continuum’s clients, but for the R3 Continuum team, too. That’s why Jim has partnered with Experience Happiness. R3 Continuum offers the Happiness Practice program to its own employees and to those of its clients. Together with Linda and Nancy, Jim and his team have created a series of services for hospitals. The services use elements of the Happiness Practice to select, develop, and retain employees exposed to trauma and at risk of becoming burned out. R3 Continuum is also exploring how to expand this offering to behavioral health clinicians within their professional network.

Happiness as a Competitive Advantage

Erin WendorfDowntown Minneapolis Fifth Street Towers property manager Alexx Smith and leasing agent Erin Wendorf made happiness the core of their business strategy. “It’s not work-life balance anymore,” Alexx explains. “It’s LIFE. How do we make Fifth Street Towers the place to be, where our employees and our tenants are happy?” For her, happiness is an essential element in attracting and retaining employees and tenants, which ultimately increases profitability. Cultivating happiness isn’t just the right thing to do; it makes great business sense.

To create a culture of happiness at Fifth Street Towers, Alexx started with her team. “I realized that if we focused on ourselves, [tenant satisfaction] would come.” Alexx designed experiences at Fifth Street Towers that created community, decreased stress, and increased happiness for both employees and tenants.

An important part of her business strategy is proactively reducing burnout and cultivating happiness. Alexx doesn’t wait for her employees to tell her

Cultivating Happiness Starts with a Conversation

So, how can you start cultivating happiness? If you’re a leader in your organization, carve out the time for conversations about stress and burnout with your employees. Use tools such as the Happiness Practice as a framework for implementing and measuring happiness in the workplace. Remember that leaders who invest in the wellbeing of their employees have an easier time attracting, retaining, and optimizing top talent. The time you take to address burnout and increase happiness is time well-spent.

Normandale Continuing Education is here to support your decision to invest in happiness. Our Happiness 101 class will help you understand the science behind happiness, how to cultivate happiness in yourself and others, and give you the tools you need to start practicing happiness at work. Call Normandale at 952-358-8343 today to enroll.

Hennepin Healthcare Happiness Metrics

The Professional Value of Happiness

As the Happiness Practice founders proved through their research, happiness is the remedy to burnout. It alleviates stress, exhaustion, cynicism, and the feeling that being responsible for just one more thing will put you over the edge. Being happy empowers you to be more creative, get along better with your colleagues, and cope with change more easily. When you’re happy, innovation comes easily. Challenges that seemed unconquerable become hurdles you’re eager to tackle.

Shift from Stuck to Success

Linda Saggau and Nancy O'BrienAs you cultivate happiness, you may discover you’re searching for a way to shift from feeling stuck or stretched to experiencing success. Maybe you need to brush up on your project management skills or learn how to leverage social media to grow your business. Or, perhaps you want to take your career in a new direction. Wherever you are in your career and happiness journeys, you can find support at Normandale. This fall, fill your bucket by learning a new language or practicing Tai Chi. Take a class to discover how you can lead your team toward engagement, productivity and professional and personal fulfillment. Or, jump into happiness with both feet and enroll in Happiness 101. Call Normandale today at 952-358-8343 to shift from stuck to success.

“On a professional level, happiness improves your productivity and ability to innovate and collaborate with colleagues. On an organizational level, happiness improves key performance measures, such as customer satisfaction, employee engagement and retention.” Linda Saggau, The Happiness Practice