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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
What makes a happy workforce?
Giving your colleagues a hug first thing in the morning really can boost profits, judging by the experiences of one company.

Workers at Farrelly Facilities and Engineering begin and end the day with an embrace.

The company has also banned overtime and pays for its staff to socialise with each other through group meals and club trips.

The move was influenced after training manager Gerry Farrelly attended a course on reducing stress and improving output.

It proved to be so popular that the company has seen profits and productivity triple.

What do you think? Would you like to see a similar policy where you work? What do you think makes a happy workplace?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

A job for life if you want it? A final salary pension scheme perhaps? Anyone remember those? We used to have them believe it or not. Having seen "Market Forces" run rampant through the workplace (and society in general) for at least a decade, the only beneficiaries seem to be those with sufficient funds left over to play the markets. In this scheme of things the workforce is irrelevant except as a source of cheap labour, so why bother with the pretence of being concerned with staff morale when this is so obviously not the priority?
RH, UK

Vision, consistency in the vision, sharing the same goals, rewarding excellence, sharing profits, removing political game players, stopping favouritism, investing in employee careers, regular effective unambiguous communication, fair salaries all help. Forget hugs.
Helen McLaughlin, Netherlands


Management teams - talk to your staff members, and equally important, listen to what they have to say!

Stefan Drury, UK
A workforce is kept happy by a number of things, but the most important of all in good communication. Staff that are kept in the dark feel unexpected and nervous for their future. Staff that are well-informed and allowed to contribute to the company feel involved and tend to be more loyal to a company. Management teams - talk to your staff members, and equally important, listen to what they have to say!
Stefan Drury, UK

Surely it just takes a little common sense; treat your workforce like human beings, doing anything you can to make their environment more comfortable and to do anything that will make their work easier.
David, UK

Give a hundred percent and generally, you'll get it back, albeit as a manager or a lowly grunt. All the rest is a cop out by people who don't.
Bill Cretney, UK

Group hugs does not work except encourage insubordination. The best way to improve things is: 1) Have definite break times, 2) Have a clear definition of everyone's work and deadlines, 3) Have child care facilities in the basement, 4) Have a gym close to work out stress, 5) Most important - respect each other
LB, UK/USA

The introduction of an equality attitude by companies is the best for any workforce, forget huging. Bosses at the same tables in the canteen. No reserved parking places except for customers and guests, and getting rid of the culture of "The thicker the carpet, the more important I must be".
Mick W, UK

Here, and elsewhere in the Latin world the abrazo (hug) is a perfectly natural way to greet a colleague or client: The joke is, they're feeling each other's backs to see where it is best to stick the knife in!
Michael Wilson, Mexico (ex-UK)

As a French person, I appreciated the use of hugs in Britain which I find more expressive than kisses. And hugs may come handy at our workplace. Especially when the air conditioning can't cope and it's 3 or 4 degrees too cool in the office!
Pascal Jacquemain, UK (French)

How about letting the technical people make technical decisions? Management's job is to get the right people in the right place with the right tools to do the work. And then stay out of the way. I don't need a hug. I also don't need business people making technical decisions. How about paying sales people out of the profit on their sale? Then if they sell a bad job, the engineers don't catch all the flack. Money and appreciation also go a long way.
Gary Jensen, USA

The key to good staff morale is extremely simple, and doesn't have to involve any hugging. Bosses simply have to realise that staff are their most valuable asset, and treat them accordingly. This doesn't just mean more money (although that never hurts). It is more a matter of attitude: things like flexible working hours, paying attention to the working environment, or simply saying "thank you".
Adam, UK

This definitely sounds like more American mumbo jumbo. I'd prefer to work in a non-artificial environment and know that I'm getting paid for it. Group hugs? Next they'll be taking the whole company and their families on holiday - eerie. Does this remind anyone of the "Twilight Zone"?
Sam, Australia

As usual the focus is on the wrong thing. The group hugs, I would imagine, are neither here nor there - in fact most people are probably find them embarrassing. However, killing off long hours culture by stopping overtime and using company cash to promote socialising between staff members will both be morale boosters. The overtime ban by allowing people to have a life and the social activities by helping staff members see each other as people not their job title.
Richard P, UK

I think hugging is fine so long as you don't force it on people. It's when things like this become corporate policy that they lose their genuineness and therefore become ineffective. Good morale is engendered by looking after your workers and demonstrating that you care about their wellbeing. Whether you do this through group hugs or through flexible working hours, break rooms, pool tables or whatever, is up to you but it has to be genuine.

Mark of London has it absolutely right. A workforce that is not pressurised into anything that is unconnected with performance and is expected to deliver only quality in a set number of hours will always come out tops. I can imagine nothing worse than those who sit around for a couple of extra hours because they think the 'boss' expects it. Sadly...
John Price, UK

Aisha really has missed the point by a mile. The threat of losing one's job only motivates you to do sufficient work to prevent that from happening. It doesn't make you want to do that work or to go into the office. A workforce motivated by fear is a unhappy force who give their time and energy grudgingly. I'm all for anything to improve morale and atmosphere in the workplace, but it has to come from a genuine desire to make the workforce happy, not from some corporate think-tank.
Mark, London, England


More money is not the be all and end all of working

Eunice Muir, USA
In-house child care goes a long way to making the female workers happy. Another tool is flexible hours, whether partial of full, it gives workers a feeling that they are more in control of their work, rather than the work being in control of them. More money is not the be all and end all of working.
Eunice Muir, USA

Oh spare me please! Just pay me a fair day's pay for my work, don't play favourites, and don't force me to attend touchy feely "let's all get along" seminars. Can I just be professional, do my job and go home please?
Di Stewart, USA

All management need to triple profits and productivity is right here in this feedback column. More money, better conditions, feeling valued members of the team. Tip to management: you cannot feel a valued member of any team led by a guy who earns ten times you do for the same amount of effort and a tenth of the responsibility (so called teflon managers). Stop ripping-off the workforce and perhaps they'll work harder. We live in this so called free society, but where's our freedom not to be exploited and forced to live hand-to-mouth by the vast majority of businesses?
Simon, London, England

My observation after 30 years of differing work situations is that the management (or owner, whoever makes the decisions for the business) determines the tone of the business. And that the atmosphere is usually either cooperative or competitive. If competitive: no way will group hugs and socializing work. If cooperative, it is up to the group to determine how close is too close for comfort. Yes, there are many businesses out there where people understand that how you treat someone (especially in the form of compensations) is more important than profits. Hopefully, our world is learning to move toward the cooperative atmosphere, since we will have to with 6 billion people on the planet!
Laura, USA

I don't mind you guys group-hugging in Europe and the US, perhaps also in the Middle east, but don't try this novel idea in Asia: same sex will not like it, from the opposite sex you get slapped or clung so close that a divorce would be necessary.
Amod, Nepal

Oh, thank God I'm self-employed.
Pankaj, UK

It's interesting to see how quickly people discount the possibilities of such positive interaction. As a manager, I often have found that employees tell me they value money over other benefits, while their reactions tell me something else. That's one of the funny things about being an individual - we cannot observe ourselves enough to see what we really value.
James, USA

Have these consultants determined whether the 'hug' philosophy would work in a fish-market or a mortuary? I found when I worked in the South of France that it was considered polite to say good morning invariably accompanied with a handshake (including from the bosses). The atmosphere there was very pleasant, you felt quite happy approaching the boss about anything. No hugs required.
Chris P, Germany

I like the idea, as a little act of kindness can make a big difference to uplift the spirit and increase productivity.
Erica, Hong Kong

After the program was introduced, the firms have seen profits more than double. This presumably means more money in bonuses for the staff, and better job security as the company is more viable. Isn't it then worth seriously considering motivational techniques such as this one? It is not the only answer - obviously you need management that treats its workers well. It also takes employees who are prepared to give it a real go.
Yemi, UK

Quite frankly, I would be struck dumb with horror if my boss wanted to hug me.
Helen S, UK

Sounds bizarre; I'd be more motivated by a fair pay structure and banning the management power games, nepotism and office politics that traditionally poison the work environment.
Ray Girvan, UK

Yeah right. A group hug from my co workers at the beginning and end of each day. That's so sweet. What a nice way to spread the love.

The reality is that would be so fake and lame, it would probably make a lot of people sick

Warrand Francis, USA
The reality is that would be so fake and lame, it would probably make a lot of people sick. Don't you know that the workplace is rife with politicking subversive backstabbing rubbish? I would much rather use a headlock, even a bear hug on those kind of colleagues, than a group hug at times. Tell me what you want, I do it, pay me. Save your group "hug" for your family and friends instead.
Warrand Francis, USA

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the sense of accomplishment from a job well done and the ability to do work that you truly enjoy. This means far more to me than pay rises or bonuses. Group hugs - ick, no thanks.
Lisa, UK

I would be much happier if my company saved the money it pays cheesy American consultants to invite me to reflect on my inner child or something like this and put the money straight in my pocket. I go to work so I can afford to go to the pub. Period. I don't want to "sharpen my edge" or "be here now" for anyone, thank you very much. More money will do nicely.
John, UK

TO me, good moral is a must. I prefer to work with colleagues who have kind hearts. I used to work for a corporate office....every time after work I saw those simple kind hearted people at the small business stands it always touched my heart. How I would like to trade a lower paid but a happier working self!
Jeannie Chen, USA

Aisha, you may have reviewed many firms but how many have you actually worked in? In the firm I work in management are approachable, co workers pleasant, helpful and fun and we too get periodic meals out at the firm's expense. No hugging, though.
John, UK

Andy, I'm self-employed too - shall we hug now?! When I was working for a company, I think I would have resigned rather than be forced to 'group-hug' some of my fellow employees! Of course, there were others whom I would have liked to hug individually - but that's another story....!
(Another) Linda, UK

I'm self-employed. Someone give me a hug!
Andy Pandini, UK

Hugged by my work colleagues at the start of the day/shift? I don't think so. In fact I could not think of a worse way to start the day. That's without having any ill feeling towards any of them.
Joe, UK


Nice idea, but give someone a hug in the USA and you'd be slapped with some kind of harassment charge

Susan, UK/USA
Nice idea, but give someone a hug in the USA and you'd be slapped with some kind of harassment charge. No overtime sounds nice, as does paid social time. I'd like those in my job as a 24 hour nurse to a grown up baby otherwise known as my husband. As long as the periphery stuff is not going to be a substitute for a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. A great idea if it makes coming into the workplace more enjoyable.
Susan, UK/USA

Getting paid is the only way to ensure a happy atmosphere. Everything else is a distraction. Employees must feel they're being adequately rewarded for their efforts.
Mike Daruki, US

Careful, hugs can be "unwanted physical contact" - watch those sexual harassment law suits!
Leigh, USA (UK orig)

In my experience a happy workforce is one that isn't being jerked around by their bosses... oh and more money always helps.
Graham, UK

Even though I am earning a much smaller income since I left corporate accounting a year ago to work independently, it's refreshing to hear crap like this in order to remind myself why I left the corporate world in the first place.
Faddy, Canada


My job is so enjoyable that I look forward to coming into work

PG, London, UK
Aisha obviously overlooked where I work. My company has such a relaxed atmosphere! It is horizontal! My job is so enjoyable that I look forward to coming into work, the hours for everybody are flexible so if you want a small lie in, you can have it, as long as you do the hours. Oh, and it has also banned overtime, in fact, it is frowned upon. Everybody in the company throughout the hierarchy has a very good relationship. And guess what, morale is fantastic, and the company is world-recognised for the provision of its services. And we don't even need to begin hugging!
PG, London, UK

I think the phrase, "touch me and you die" is applicable to my boss! How does this work with sexual harassment? A couple of years ago we were being told that blokes should only hug women from the side and not the front in case their breast got in the way and it became cause for sexual harassment! Stupid rule, but preferable to being hugged by my boss!
Helen, UK

The last thing I want to do at work is have any sort of physical contact with my colleagues. They are either ugly old swamp donkeys, creepy weirdos, or dangerously attractive young ladies who think that I'm a creepy weirdo. Just bump up my Xmas bonus - that will keep me happy.
Emrys, Britain

I would settle for a "thank you" from time to time.
Colin Dix, UK


There is no such thing as a relaxed atmosphere unless you are the boss

Aisha, UK
Hugs on the forefront. Vicious competition in background. The new company of today is born. As a university student, who has reviewed many firms, there is no such thing as a relaxed atmosphere unless you are the boss. The pressure is always on. Companies don't need to boost morale. The threat of losing out on that pay rise or being informed your services are no longer needed is enough to boost motivation in order to boost production. That is the way capitalist companies work. In other words: ask not what your employer can do for you but what you can do for your employer.
Aisha, UK

Aisha obviously overlooked where I work. My company has such a relaxed atmosphere it is horizontal! My job is so enjoyable that I look forward to coming into work, the hours for everybody are flexible so if you want a small lie in, you can have it, as long as you do the hours. Oh, and it has also banned overtime, in fact, it is frowned upon. Everybody in the company throughout the hierarchy has a very good relationship. And guess what, morale is fantastic, and the company is world recognised for the provision of its services. And we don't even need to begin hugging!
PG, London,UK

I suppose it depends on who it is giving you the hug! Seriously, bosses that understand fully what they are doing and the business that they are in AND really care about the long term future of their staff and the company for which they all work will always be the biggest boost that a company could ever have to its continued success and profitability. If Farrelly Facilities are that successful, 'team hugs' will only be a symptom of the success not a reason.
John Andrews, England

I suppose that hugging your colleagues will at least make it difficult for them to stab you in the back..
Rodger Edwards, UK

Less pressure, and humour. Come on, let's get some laughs in the office!
Matt, UK


I used to work for a major high street chain and we had to sing the company song before we all started work

Helen, UK
I used to work for a major high street chain and we had to sing the company song before we all started work. That was cringeworthy and awful. What makes a happy workplace in my opinion is to recruit new members of staff with similar personalities to the team that they will work in. This hasn't been the case where I work. My head of department (not my line manager) is the complete opposite to the rest of the department. This is causing increased stress in what was a relatively stress free environment.
Helen, UK

For thirty years I had a job that I enjoyed doing, I looked forwards to the end of holidays so that I could get back to work. It was the comradeship and sense that the job I was doing was valued that made me and my colleagues give of our best. The pay was reasonably good some of the time, but for some years was very poor. What killed my enthusiasm? Government Targets and Bean Bag Touchy Feely philosophy! imposed by people who had never been on the streets in their life. The Job, known by most of us as 'The Job', was Police Officer.
Barry P, England

If a boss wants to pay me £20 per hug I'll grin at him all day long. Happy? All the way to the bank!
Chris B, England

Speaking as an employer, I have the following observation to share with Vish from the UK: "How about a complete rewrite of employee attitudes, starting with no lying on the CV about skills and experience, an acknowledgement from the employee that the office is not a social playground. Less backstabbing and bitching about what a terrible place the company is to work and how all the employees are miserable, and also most importantly, an acknowledgement that if the company is doing badly, it can be due to a range of different things, including poor employee performance." In reality, of course, the situation is more complex than my (tongue in cheek) opinion or Vish's (apparently heartfelt) views. A happy workplace is the result of management honesty, hard work by everyone, and shared goals. I personally wouldn't want to employ anyone who only wants the money, and doesn't want to contribute to the business, but then again I wouldn't want to work for some of the other "bosses" I know.
John, England

How about a complete rewrite of corporate culture, starting with no lying in the interview about what the job entails, an acknowledgement from the company that life outside work IS allowed. Less patronising management email about what a great place the company is to work and how all the employees are happy and also most importantly, an acknowledgement that if the company is doing badly, it isn't the staff's fault but the management.
Vish, UK


Hugging my boss is the last thing I want to do!

Paul, Scotland
Hugging my boss is the last thing I want to do! He has just stopped the practice of his employees going to the gym at lunchtime, thus creating a negative impact on "teambuilding" and "flexibility", two of the keywords used here.
Paul, Scotland

I would not take kindly to anyone hugging me at work, a result, I assume, of my Anglo-Saxon upbringing. However, if you really want a happy workforce you should let staff know that their efforts are appreciated and that their contribution matters. Showing appreciation goes beyond mere material gains (salary, bonuses etc), important as they are. It encompasses a culture of inclusiveness and open communication (not necessarily always pleasant) hallmarked by common sense and frankness. I have lost count of the number of firms with which I have been involved whose culture of "us and them" coupled with a "secret squirrel" attitude fostered by politicking managers conspire to produce distrust and poor morale. Another recipe for poor morale is an over-reliance on external consultants, many of whom are steeped in theory but remarkably lacking in direct hands-on experience.
Peter Sykes, UK

What a load of rubbish. If someone is not prepared to come through the doors in the morning and give 100% of their time and effort without being given any extras, then they should be sacked as there are thousands of unemployed people willing to take their place.
Alastair, Scotland

In my experience, a happy employee is one who feels valued within the company. Farrelly Facilities seem to have a shrewd way of making employees feel that they're not just a number. By paying for them to socialise and encouraging interaction they have essentially acknowledged the human element in the workforce and made steps to eradicate the robotic hired help feel that so many companies instil directly or indirectly into their staff. Saying that, Jason from Manchester made a good point commenting on the fact that directors get huge percentage pay rises and the rest of the staff don't. If the percentages were the same across the board then this again would help get rid of this "we're better than you" attitude that is crippling the British workforce.
Stephen, UK

Let's face it - it doesn't take a genius to realise that a happy, relaxed workforce that gets on with each other produces good work. If only more businesses could think this way
Gwen Dobson, UK

Just getting a pay rise this year would make my workplace much happier. Being told that we're not getting a rise and our smug chairman also stating that he was in the same position as us with no pay rise was NOT a big help. I earn £26k a year, my chairman earns around £250k a year. Hardly the same level of hardship! And if he suggested a group hug, I'd be the first one there to put him in a headlock.
AW, UK


I just asked my boss if he would start hugging me when we get in on Monday morning. Surprisingly, he said he wouldn't be prepared to do that

Steve, UK
I don't have overtime where I work, so I just asked my boss if he would start hugging me when we get in on Monday morning. Surprisingly, he said he wouldn't be prepared to do that. I suppose if your workforce actually liked you, they'd be less likely to nick stuff from the stationary cupboard, that would increase profits.
Steve, UK

More holiday, better pay, bonuses out of the blue, free food, flexible hours, later starts in the winter, earlier leavings in the summer¿ the little things really
WGS, UK

Well I don't think it has got to do with the hugging bit, perhaps more to do with the fact that the company shows them their worth by paying for the social outings. If my boss took us all down the pub every Friday we'd certainly be a lot wealthier, therefore healthier!
Gill, UK

I think that when companies finally stop expecting their employee's lives to begin and end with working at Corporate Whore Inc, they will have a happy workforce.
Wendy S, London, UK

There's no one policy, but I'd suggest the following: Get the right person for the job. If people are doing work they are suited to they are happier, less stressed, and work more effectively. Give people appropriate training, so they can do the job effectively without struggling. Make sure the workload is realistic, if you just load more and more onto people the best people will eventually become stressed and ineffective. While I wouldn't ban overtime, I would suggest it should be kept for occasional short-term work peaks. And managers should have to justify it. I would ban un-paid overtime. Pay people fairly. If the company is doing well the most junior person should get a fair share of the financial cake. I'd say a good guide is there should not be more than a factor of 10 in pay between the lowest paid person and the highest paid person. Phase in changes, don't just change for the sake of change, too many changes at once will adversely affect the most competent person.
Linda , UK


Don't we have enough tripe from management consultants without this?

Lloyd , England
Don't we have enough tripe from management consultants without this? Give us all the same pay and benefits as the bosses even when we get losses and we will all be very happy!!
Lloyd , England

Something tells me that those who invented the ''group-hug'' technique have never worked as... employees themselves! Raising employees' salaries could be a more realistic solution to higher productivity! Let's leave the hugs for the... bosses and their secretaries!!
Mats, Sweden

It may work in a small business where there is no power struggles between rival grades. Within my 10 people unit we do socialise and hug on occasion but within the whole division (50 +), there is a lot of rivalry, back-biting and discontent. I try and keep as much to my group as possible!
maz, England

How about not having to reapply for our own jobs every six months, not being taken on the management merry-go-round of merge, split and re-merging departments every year or two, not being told we must work harder when we're already doing ten hour days, not being told we're getting no pay rise as costs must be cut when we're doing the aforementioned ten hour day, not having a team of highly paid management consultants telling us there is a better way of doing things when we're already doing things the way the last team of highly paid management consultants told us we should be doing things ...... need I go on ?
Bill, UK

I have one way of maintaining staff morale. Give the staff the same percentage pay rise as the directors. Group hugs? Oh please!!
Jason, Manchester, England

See also:

25 Apr 01 | Business
Daily routine key to happy office
20 Oct 98 | Office Life
What your desk says about you
12 Oct 98 | The Economy
Profiting from happy workers
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