Lately we’ve been talking about the book, Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. The book offers fascinating insights for freelancers. Check out our Happy Freelancer overview for the basics, but the short version is that if money can’t buy you happiness, you’re spending it wrong.
We’ve talked about ‘pay now, consume later,’ the value of experience, how to make it a treat and more. But how can we make a happier workplace with all these lessons on happiness? If you work with other people, whether they’re employees or sub-contractors, there are a number of things you can do to make them happier.
More Cash Doesn’t Cut It
You might have guessed by now—simply paying people more is not going to make them happier. Google figured this out and stopped paying cash bonuses. Instead, they started sending exceptional employees on trips with spouses and members of senior management:
“The experience they have on that trip—with one another, across the company—is far more powerful and valuable to them than if we’d given them the cash value, or even ten times the cash value,” says Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president for people and operations (22).
It turns out experiences make us happier than material goods (or cash). That’s another lesson altogether, but it has big applications when it comes to employee incentives and bonuses.
Treat Your Team Right
Rather than doling out the cash, give people an experience. Take a team trip to the ballpark (hot dogs on you), have a bowling party or even just a cookout. Make it a memorable experience, build anticipation, and you’ll end up with happier co-workers.
Another approach that’s practically guaranteed to make employees happy is to encourage them to invest in others. Google has a program where they allow employees to give cash bonuses to other employees with virtually no oversight or strings attached. Google’s research shows that the bonuses are more effective and make people happier than if a manager had given the award.
Another study compared pharmaceutical sales teams. Some members on each team were given money, and half were instructed to spend it on themselves and the other half told to spend it on their teammates. Sales remained flat for teams where members spent the money on themselves, but sales skyrocketed when teams spent the money on their teammates.
So help your co-workers give to others. It makes people happy. And that could be the most effective benefit you could ever offer. Sometimes the experience you can create working together is better than any payment.