The value of happiness at work

How happy are you? And at work? In this blog, we discuss the importance of work happiness. Why is this so important?

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Theresa Haans
12 Mar 2024
Clock 11 min

How happy are you? And at work? In this blog post we will talk about the importance of workplace happiness. We discuss how we make sure that freedom = happiness at Voys. For that we need to look at what exactly happiness in the workplace is and why it is so important. Naturally we will share a couple obviously simple changes we make to ensure our colleagues are happy. Feel free to take the ideas that work best for you to ensure more happiness in your workplace. 

This blog post was originally posted in Dutch. If you enjoy this article and want to know more, you can also sign up for our founder’s newsletter to get our latest blog posts in your inbox.

Before we dive into talking about the importance of workplace happiness and how we work towards achieving it, let’s start with a little bit of philosophy. Our colleague Rosien, who spends a lot of her time focusing on work happiness shared a nice summary of what happiness is: 

Quote Happiness is the state of mind that results from working toward a meaningful and good life.

Obviously ‘a meaningful and good life’ doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. But one step in the right direction is working for a meaningful organisation. (We discussed how to become a meaningful business in a previous blog post). At Voys we know that our colleagues are happy with the freedom they have here: to think along and grow, and to make choices and mistakes. The reason for existence, the purpose of a company or organisation, also contributes to how happy the people who work there are. Because think of it this way – would you rather work for a company with a larger goal or a company that unnecessarily takes money out of people’s pockets? 

The how and why of workplace happiness

Are companies and organisations responsible for their employees’ workplace happiness? You could say no, but then you realise that it comes with many benefits: happy people are more productive, usually healthier and also nicer to work with. Higher productivity isn’t the only important thing, but it is handy when it comes to earning money and working on your ideals at the same time. 

Next to becoming a meaningful business, there are other things that contribute to colleagues’ workplace happiness. Room for personal growth, being able to be yourself, giving and receiving feedback, and a good work/life balance are all factors. 

Measuring workplace happiness

To discover what keeps your colleagues ticking (it doesn’t need to be the same for everyone), like always, start by talking about it. Per usual, here at Voys we have a role for that, called the Happiness Hero. That role makes sure that we keep measuring happiness. Every Friday, Friday Pulse, a tool that is nicely integrated with Slack (our internal chat program), asks every colleague how their week was. Every three months there is a longer questionnaire to see where everyone is at.

Everyone needs to feel safe and secure when filling in the questionnaire, which is why we handle all data with care. Everyone can only see their own answers. The various circles have access to their circle’s average happiness score, allowing the circle to address the results. We believe that this can be the start of a good conversation. Such a conversation can happen under the lead of a team member with the Happiness Ambassador role, or the company wide Happiness Hero role. If it turns out that the dissatisfaction is based on the worthless coffee, we can act on that. However, it is also an opportunity to discuss disturbances caused by colleague’s calling (too) much, or mention that you lack enough challenge in your job. 

The benefits of working in roles 

One of the bigger changes that you can make to increase overall happiness at work in your own company or organisation is to work with roles rather than functions. How does that work? Simply put: roles organise the work, not the people. Every colleague has a collection of roles, and each role has a clear goal and several accountabilities. Roles are smaller, often transferable, changeable, and new roles can be added or removed. One of the advantages is that you have the opportunity to better align your work with what you are good at or what you want to improve. 

When everyone gets the (already agreed upon) freedom to make decisions through the roles they fill, it becomes a win-win situation. This also includes that there is space to adjust roles, or give them back. There is nothing more demotivating than doing tasks that you either despise, or that don’t fit with your strengths. The purpose, the reason for existence is also reflected in the role system. Every role has a reason for existence. Asking yourself why on earth you need to perform certain tasks should therefore not be an issue when working with roles. 

Does money = happiness? 

A good and meaningful life entails earning a lot of money to some people. Or maybe it means having enough money to support your family, child, pet or plant. There is nothing wrong with earning money and talking about your income. Roles are quite a lot more flexible than functions, but also makes it more difficult to decide salaries. There is a lot that can change! What is transparent is the way colleagues execute their roles and the impact they have. That is also why our valuation and reward system focuses on the actual visible behavior. 

At Voys we have therefore developed our own salary model. In this payment system we use eight profiles. Based on these profiles,, we not only look at the amount of salary, but we also consider whether people have the right roles. Doing work that fits your problem solving capabilities is key to enjoying the work you do: if you consistently work on things that aren’t challenging enough, it’s easy to get bored. On the other hand, if you keep working on things that are not in your skillset, it will create a constant feeling of drowning in work. Neither scenario is desirable. 

Increase in salary

Let’s briefly return to the topic of money: if your work revolves around high-level company strategy and business architecture, you’ll generally have a higher profile in our compensation mode. That is also reflected in your salary. This also means that two people can have the same role, yet execute the roles differently, which means that they could have different salaries. To organise this, we have our own Value Process, which is a framework of profiles and levels that structure the work that is done and how each colleague is compensated.

Have you grown in your role, and do you find that you deserve a higher salary? You can then request a re-evaluation. To do this you write a motivation letter showing how you’ve grown and transitioned in your work, including examples and results. You then select five colleagues who you work closely with to sit together with a Value Advisor and go through 20 questions that represent the profile or seniority level you’ve requested. The questions are answered independently by each colleague. If by the end of the session, 70% or more of the questions were answered positively, your revaluation goes through.

We believe in being as transparent as possible, which is why you can find our salary table in our public handbook for colleagues. We also have other, secondary conditions for compensation. Our colleagues receive benefits like a gym membership, equipment for a good ‘working from home’ setup, and (for all the nerds and fanboys) CYOD: choose your own devices. 

Sounds nice right? Check out our vacancies, or see how you can add these to the benefits at your own organisation.

Working well (together)

Salary is great when it’s in your bank account, but when do you know that you’ve had a good working day? Is it when you’ve been able to collaborate with your colleagues and make progress? Self-management is collaboration as adults. Our former colleague Joris Engbers wrote the following:

“In self-managing organisations, there are no parents and no children. The system considers everyone in the system to be a grown-up who can make sensible decisions without having to ask permission.”

We differentiate between four important conditions that can increase happiness at work. 

  • Clarity
    Avoid being vague, be as clear in your work as possible. Be clear about your vision and the strategy of the organisation, who has which role, and the status of each project. 
  • Making mistakes is allowed a must
    Without mistakes there will be no growth. Learn more in this blog about personal growth
  • Check yourself before you wreck yourself
    A system in which you collaborate as adults starts with checking in on your own behavior. If you are annoyed at a certain situation, it says more about you than the other person in the situation. It is important to know yourself, and that you take responsibility for your own reactions and emotions. 
  • Selection at the gate
    To grow together you have to gather people in the organisation who want to achieve the same. It is therefore necessary that you (for the most part) share the same values. If someone joins the organisation and expects to make all the decisions while you’re working in a self-managing environment, it won’t click well. 

Prepare for a soft landing: pre-boarding and onboarding

When you, as a new colleague, are through the gates, that’s when the show really starts. At Voys we do everything we can to make both you and ourselves happy. Everything for happiness at work! Firstly, we overload new colleagues with Voys merchandise (unwrapping party!) such as a water bottle, notebook, sweater, and other goodies. We also check all practical factors that are likely to impact your happiness at work: do you arrive at work by bike or by car? Do you have food allergies? What do you need for a good ‘work from home’ setup? Because yes, we do have Voys bikes, but also travel reimbursements. We make lunch in our own lunch room, and you also get a nice adjustable desk for at home. 

On your first day of work you’ll get a tour of our office space, a new laptop, and a buddy. As a new colleague, you can ask any questions to your buddy, but we also have check-ins the other way around. The first weeks and months, your buddy will have regular check-ins with you to see how you are doing, and if the organisation is living up to your expectations. Getting fresh perspectives are invaluable. 

Whoever says onboarding also needs to say offboarding. Before a colleague leaves, we wish to learn from them one last time. This happens during an exit-conversation. We want to know what was good, and what could have been better. How did you enjoy the collaboration between colleagues, and what would you have liked to do differently? By the time this meeting takes place, it is unfortunately too late to increase the happiness of that colleague, but who knows, it could be useful for the rest of the team. 

By all means, don’t work

You heard that right, one of the conditions for happiness at work is having a good work-life balance. In other words: don’t work too much, and take those vacation days. At Voys, we want to make sure that any overtime is being compensated immediately. If you end up always working overtime, something is structurally going wrong. Then you might have too many tasks, the tasks you have might not be suitable for you, or your contract is wrong. This does not mean that you cannot work in the evenings, quite the opposite! Make use of the flexibility in a way that suits you. In the end, you are responsible for your work.

Take a break

It sounds pushy, but we believe that having a minimum of two consecutive weeks of vacation is absolutely necessary. No work emails, no checking your Slack by the pool, and just not thinking about work for a little while. We are not only fans of going on vacation, we also believe that being able to take a spontaneous day off work is essential. That is why we introduced 4+4 days during the pandemic. Each quarter, everyone can take 4 hours of leave, and get 4 hours leave from the company. That means that you have a whole day off of work, but only use 4 hours of leave. In other words, a nice opportunity if you feel like biking to the nearby lake for the day, or want to relax in the park on a sunny day. 

To every employer and entrepreneur currently thinking: this costs a lot of money! Yes, that’s true, but you get so much in return. That’s why we also find it important to create space for switching holidays. Why should you take a day off on Whit Monday if you’d rather celebrate your own religious holiday, a national holiday from your home country? Or you’d rather have a day off on your birthday? Bringing a treat for your birthday can happen regardless, just a day later. Are you calling us woke already? We take it one step further. In anticipation of legislation on this topic, we have already made our own rules around transition leave. Saying you want to be a diverse and freedom-encouraging company can only be done if you create the conditions for it. And these conditions will only contribute to your and our happiness at work. 

What have you done to increase happiness at work? Send your tips to or let us know about the things that definitely didn’t help.