The Pursuit of Happiness

Empower PR offers a unique philosophy for progressive business.

Amidst the numerous concerns an aspiring small business owner is faced with while developing a sound startup plan, the last thing that might come to mind is the comfort and happiness of their employees. Then again, why should such a thing come to mind? With all of the financial, functional, and political concerns bombarding entrepreneurs, it seems to be a logical necessity (given the limited resources) to simply place employees in their respective positions, leave them be, and hope that they possess the ability necessary to do what you need them to do.

Yet, let’s be real; human beings are diverse creatures. Every individual will perform differently under a variety of conditions, and every person has a comfort zone that allows for the highest yield of productivity. Without the individual employee, the business is a functionless shell. Why is it then that the individual should be treated as just another brick in the wall? The more productive the employee, the more prosperous the business.

In order for an individual to achieve peak productivity, he or she must first be happy. People who are unhappy with the work environment will not be inspired to perform up to their full potential. Rather, they will dwell on the perceived flaws in the system, and may even harbor resentment toward the company as a whole. Sam Chapman, CEO of the Chicago-based public relations firm, is a small business owner who has developed a unique business philosophy based on the idea that the success of his business is largely determined by the happiness of his employees. He has developed a number of policies designed to keep his employees comfortable in their surroundings, confident in their coworkers, and content with his expectations.

No Gossip Policy

One of the main reasons Chapman started his small public relations firm, Empower PR, was due to vicious backstabbing caused by poor employee relations at his previous place of employment. Chapman made a vow that his business would be free of this self-destructive environment, and above all, free of gossip.

With those ideas in mind, Chapman created his “no gossip policy,” which stated that Empower employees were prohibited to gossip about one another behind their backs. When an employee has a problem or concern regarding a coworker, the issue must be personally confronted, and mutually resolved. This being established, what happens if you are caught talking about one of your fellow employees? Chapman has already fired three individuals for breaking his rule, and he is not afraid to do it again. Sound too harsh? As it turns out, Chapman is not the only one who despises workplace gossip. A recent survey released by Randstad USA (an Atlanta-based staffing firm), showed that the greatest workplace pet peeve was, in fact, gossip. Out of 1,540 U.S. employees surveyed, 60 percent revealed their biggest annoyance at work was employee gossip. A positive workplace environment is crucial to the success of a business and the happiness of its employees; and as it turns out, Empower PR has done extremely well as a result of this policy. As Chapman puts it, “Employees are less distracted, more efficient, and communicate with one another much better.” And Chapman is not the only one at Empower who favors this policy; his employees do too. Andrea Cordts, an Empower PR senior account executive says, “It’s not so much that we are ‘forced’ to not gossip; we just don’t. Since its standard practice to be open and honest with each other, we’ve all become friends and don’t feel the need to gossip about each other. It’s really reassuring to know that if someone is upset or confused about something I’ve said or done, they’ll simply talk to me about it, instead of telling everyone else something that may not even be true.” On top of the fact that this policy has increased the overall happiness of his employees, it has also increased his business.

Free Lunches

Another way in which Empower PR promotes a positive work environment is by serving free lunches every day to all employees. Empower has a personal chef who cooks fresh, well-rounded meals Monday through Friday. According to Chapman, “Free lunches were put in place to help everyone appreciate their work environment.” The lunches are not only fulfilling but also healthy, so employees feel both replenished and refreshed going into the second half of the work day. Dana Leavitt, a senior publicist at Empower, believes that “eating lunch together helps us bond about things outside of work, which in turn makes our relationships at work stronger. It’s a nice break to chat about things other than work.” Providing free lunch enables employees to sit together, relax, talk and enjoy a well-balanced meal.

Another benefit is that providing employees with lunch seems to result in them returning to work faster. According to Chapman, employees usually don’t take the full hour for lunch, since they don’t have to leave the building, nor do they have to wait for food service. “I never dreamed they would pay for themselves, as they do, in extra hours worked and lower insurance premiums. That was just a side benefit,” he added.

Massages at Work

It’s inevitable that everyone experiences debilitating stress at one point or another. And it is pretty safe to assume that a great deal of this stress is a direct result of work-related issues. Sam Chapman offers two ways to mitigate his employees’ stress. One policy that Chapman has implemented is offering his employees an hour-long professional massage in the office. On Wednesdays and Fridays of every week, a massage therapist comes into the Empower office with the goal of relieving some tension brewing within the employees. The massages are not free, but they are half the original price that the therapist would normally charge—only $50, and you can get one right in the comfort of your own office! According to Chapman, “Massages help people regenerate while at work. The massages give employees a needed break and a real sense of appreciation afterwards. We believe in profit through appreciation at Empower.” Chapman believes that when an employee is tense or stressed, his or her work efficiency and productivity is greatly compromised, not to mention that their attitude can be extremely negative. After an hour massage, employees feel refreshed and ready to work.

The Stress Room

The other way that Chapman feels his employees can battle their stress is by literally beating their stress away. Empower PR has a “battle station” in the conference room, supplied with a large pillow and a baseball bat. Yes, that’s right, a baseball bat! When an employee is feeling stressed, upset, angry, etc. he or she can close the conference room door and have at it with the pillow and the baseball bat. Sound lucrative? Chapman’s philosophy is that it is impossible for a workplace to be free of external emotions, and in order to move on and work efficiently those emotions need to be conquered. Chapman says, “My employees are invited to experience their emotions, own their emotions themselves without blaming anyone else, and to move through them.” Chapman’s philosophy is that once those emotions are conquered a positive light and a sunnier attitude can shine through.

Blackberry Crackdown

One of the many issues that employees face is maintaining a balanced life outside of the office. However, at Empower, having a happy personal life is key to having a successful business life, and because of this, Chapman has implemented what he calls a “Blackberry crackdown.” Each Empower employee has a Blackberry smartphone, which enables them to conduct their everyday business with relative ease. However, starting at 6 p.m. on weeknights and every weekend, Blackberry phones are required to be turned off completely. Chapman decided to implement this simple policy when he heard his employees’ personal relationships at home were suffering due to work-related discussion continuing after hours. Being able to understand that one’s work life and home life are different is extremely important; thus, the Blackberry crackdown serves to keep work strictly limited to business hours. Personal relationships and home lives can remain uninterrupted, and that’s one easy way to make any employee happy. Ashley Gonias, an Empower PR senior publicist, says, “This policy is great due to the fact that it is nice to work in an environment where your personal time is not only recognized but respected. The public relations field is very demanding, and it’s nice to know that our boss values the personal time that is needed to come back to work refreshed and ready to work.”

When you put people first, profits follow. At the very bottom of everything, it should never be forgotten that people are the fuel of any business.

Is this topic relevant to your small business? Discover more for FREE through our print version.

Reader Comments

Saturday, July 11, 2009 at 3:06 PM
Rachel says:
How refreshing it is to see a business owner putting the people in mind. I am doing a research project on teacher morale for grad school, and I know many administrators who need to read this. Thank you for this inspiring article.
Sunday, December 7, 2008 at 5:35 PM
awesome says:

Copyright © 2009 - 2024 America's Best. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

FREE Trial Issue