The great British workplace – the recipe for happy staff


September 30, 2014

Posted in:
Start Ups

What holds companies back from trying new ways of carrying out traditional practices? Often it is down to a ‘we have always done it that way’ mindset. But change can be positive – and could be the key to unlock an improved workplace culture.

Netflix Inc. knows the meaning of the expression ‘a change is as good as a rest’. They changed their policy to let staff take as much holiday as they wish, whenever they fancy it, in pursuit of staff happiness, and improved morale and productivity. Employees have the freedom to take as much time off as they’d like, with no one keeping track. Put simply, Netflix’s holiday policy is to have no policy whatsoever.

The focus here is on what gets done, not how long people work for. It’s also about empowering staff to take the lead, manage their workload with team members, and decide themselves when and how long they need a break for. A good recipe for staff contentment?

It’s no surprise that Virgin’s Richard Branson has been inspired by this policy-that-isn’t, and is trialling out the change in hope that it will generate a surge in staff spirits. Would you trial a policy like this? What experiments would you try in pursuit of achieving better workplace culture?

Moneypenny is no newbie to the world of workplace happiness. It keeps staff busy with regular fundraising and sociable events, filling their calendars with annual ‘rainbow runs’ and marathons; surprise events and occasions (currently there’s a countdown of 15 staff surprises to celebrate the company’s 15th birthday); and viral charity campaigns to kick start the weekend (Moneypenny jumped on the ice bucket wagon to raise money for charity recently).

Each year, Moneypenny gives its staff the opportunity to vote for their favourite charity, which is where all money raised each year goes to. This sense of staff influence is carried through to the ‘Mojo’ awards, which give staff the chance to either nominate a colleague or put forward their own idea to improve anything in the company or make a positive change.

The theme to these examples is staff empowerment; entrusting staff with decision making and giving them a voice. What are the business benefits of this? Creativity and drive are by-products of a happy work environment – one that gives employees freedom to make many of their own decisions. Productivity levels will benefit too, as there is an incentive for staff to work hard and reach potential – because they respect and enjoy working for their employer.

Often, it is the smallest things that can improve workplace culture (Moneypenny’s subsidised salad bar, for example), but it all starts with listening to staff and seeking ways to improve. A culture isn’t about one person directing the rest, or even a department – it’s about a whole company sharing in decisions, socialising, forward planning, and a mutual drive for where they work.