I spend a lot of time each day thinking about the happiness of our employees.

That might sound a bit vague and nebulous. The more acceptable use of my time in some circles would be to focus on their “wellbeing” or “productivity”, but I’m hard-pressed to come up with a better moment to prioritise workplace happiness; the last 12 months has brought happiness at work, home and as a society into sharp focus.

In early 2020 we focussed on making sure that our team had all the tools and resources we could offer to support their mental wellness. This was appropriate for the immediate circumstances, but more importantly it has provided a solid foundation for our long-term strategy. Some of the initiatives we have put into place include:

  • Access to internal performance coaching and investing in best-in-class training opportunities,
  • Ongoing commitment to agile performance development for individuals, having future-focused conversations to set clear career directions,
  • Upskilling our entire team in Mental Health First Aid
  • Offering extra annual leave days to support individuals to recharge and reset,
  • Setting core meeting hours and continually reviewing and trialling new ways of working to support productivity and flexibility,
  • Providing individuals with a budget to discover and do self-care and wellbeing initiatives that work for them.

We’ve taken the time to reflect on that work and in 2021 we want to build on mental wellness and focus on happiness.  I know that workplace happiness has long been a goal for organisations of every shape, size and function. Heavy hitting think-tanks have looked at it, heads of government considered it and corporate leaders have lapped it up; an entire happiness industry is alive and well. So much so that in 2018 Yale reported its most popular class ever was “How to live a Happy Life.” 

As Head of People and Culture at Half Dome, I know that happy employees are motivated employees. We rely on people with big brains to produce their best thinking, and we rely on them to wake up in the morning and be driven to produce their best work. You can give people all the meditation classes, wine nights and inspirational speakers you like, but if they don’t feel well rewarded, competent, connected or trusted then all your employee wellness initiatives will fail.

Our 2021 approach at Half Dome builds on these initiatives but is grounded in Self-Determination Theory which suggests that people are able to find an inner source of motivation if their needs for competence, connection and autonomy are fulfilled. We’ve taken these needs and used them as the foundation to our Half Dome People & Culture strategy. Our strategic pillars focus on: 

  • Mastery – we want to encourage and empower each person to go from good to great by having the joyful willingness to try new things.
  • Connection – we will drive hard to ensure all our team members are working with a sense of commitment and care for each other.
  • Freedom and Trust – we will continue to embrace flexibility and choice for all employees, and we support them to deliver great work in a manner that suits them best.

I’m sharing our approach because I believe the advertising and media industry needs to get better at work life balance. The days of overwork, stress and burnout need to be behind us because we all lose if our industry is known for pushing employees to the brink of unhappiness. John F Kennedy popularised the saying “A rising tide lifts all boats”, and I see this sentiment applying to our industry today; if we all focus on the happiness of our employees, we all win.

Perhaps the Half Dome approach to employee happiness and motivation will spark a new direction for your organisation or help to reaffirm your existing plans. Either way, the year ahead will be challenging but I’m excited to focus on giving our team the support and resources they need to find the right measure of internal motivation. This is what we believe creates a happy, powerful, productive and caring workplace.

And that makes me happy.