Work Happier: Matt Phelan, Co-Founder & Head of Global Happiness at The Happiness Index

Work Happier Startup tips Business advice Workplace wellness
Estimated read time: 3 mins
Published: 09/12/2020

We’re Work.Life, the workplace wellbeing experts. Over the last 5 years, we’ve been finding out the secrets to what makes people happy at work, creating our very own Work Happy podcast, and trying to measure happiness in our workspaces. In light of Covid and a very strange 2020, we’re finding out how people leaders at some of our favourite businesses have been navigating the pandemic, and keeping people happy and engaged at work.

In the final part to our series, we’re delving into measuring & maintaining employee happiness with someone who knows a thing or two about it – Matt Phelan, Co-Founder of The Happiness Index (and Work.Life member!) Read on to hear Matt’s thoughts on the importance of employee wellbeing, and the impact of Covid on work happiness…


Hi Matt! First of all, we’d love to hear a bit about you, your role & your background – what were you doing before you co-founded The Happiness Index?

First and foremost I am a Dad to my 2 amazing kids. I am a total geek and a huge lover of playing sport.

I co-founded a marketing agency called 4Ps Marketing in 2008 and sold it in 2016. It was during my time as an agency owner that we started to uncover the association between employee happiness and business success.

I am Co-Founder and Head of Global Happiness at The Happiness Index. My day to day role is the global expansion of the businesses and sharing our vision Freedom To Be Human with the wider business community.

I recently founded The Happiness and Humans Community, I host The Happiness and Humans Podcast and I am author of the book Freedom To Be Happy: The Business Case for Happiness (available on Amazon).


Why does The Happiness Index exist?

We exist to put emotions back into employee engagement.


“Workplace happiness is so important because companies employ humans not resources – but somewhere along the way that has been lost.”


Why do you think work happiness is so important?

Workplace happiness is so important because companies employ humans not resources – but somewhere along the way that has been lost. There are approximately 2 billion unhappy employees in the world of work and this has to change.


What can businesses do to help their team be happy at work?

Listen to them, and act on their feedback!


How do you measure work happiness?

You start by asking people how they feel. As companies get above 100 people this can be tough to achieve at scale so we use AI and Machine learning to help companies achieve emotional intelligence at scale.

Having said that, the core basis is still the same for our clients of 100 people through to our clients with 400,000+ employees. We have a free product you can download to help you listen, learn and understand all at the same time.


Has happiness changed as a result of the pandemic?

Drastically. In September global employee happiness reached a record low according to our data. It will get better BUT we need to understand WHY, so we can help improve things.

The reasons for happiness are different in every single company we work with. Happiness impacts business performance so this is as much a performance issue as it is a humanitarian issue.


What do you think are the major challenges of measuring & maintaining happy teams while working remotely?

Micro managers. Ignorant CEOs. Sociopaths.


Are your team still working remotely? How have you found this, and in future what do you think is the best approach? (fully remote working, part-time remote working, full-time in the office etc)

We have a blended approach that is remote first but then people can choose to work somewhere wonderful like Work.Life if they choose to.

Some people prefer to work from home, some people prefer to work from an office, some people prefer a blended approach. 100% of people want the flexibility to choose. Giving your employees flexibility is a win win for both sides but can be a struggle for some micro managers to get their head round.


Many companies will have been hit hard during this time – and unfortunately that often means a reduced people/culture budget. What do you think businesses can be doing now regardless of budget?

 There is not one thing related to employee happiness that costs money. Pool tables, ski trips and as Patty McCord of Netlfix pointed out, not even hot tubs, make employees happy.

Relationships, good feedback and a listening culture aid employee happiness. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to be Google to make your team happy.


And finally, what makes you happy at work?!

Freedom 🙂


Want to know more about how we achieve work happiness in our coworking spaces? Read more about Work.Life or sign up to our monthly newsletter for more insightful content like this.

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