For Wendy Conrad, a Workplace Happiness Consultant and the founder of Your Happy Workplace, teaching business owners to shift their thought process and focus on their employee’s happiness has become her focus since the fall of 2019. After 20 years of working for several small businesses, many of which paid little attention to culture, and experiencing a particularly toxic work environment, she was ready to take action.
“I found myself asking the same questions,” she said. “Why don't business owners understand that if they just paid a little bit of attention to work culture, that it would be better for their customers, employees AND their business? It only requires a little bit of effort to make significant changes.”
Conrad began to research the topic. What she found was interesting, but not really surprising. She discovered that, by all accounts, happiness matters in the workplace and that most of the research is based on science.
“For months, I read dozens of articles and study after study that proves happiness makes people more creative, collaborative and engaged,” Conrad said. “I also studied exactly what makes people happy in the workplace. It turns out salary is not at the top of the list anymore. In today’s job market, creating a place that not only brings you joy, but also encourages your team to come to work happy, energized and ready to take on the world is what matters.”
Even though Conrad’s findings are backed by science, many business owners, and even some employees, are socially ingrained to think that work is supposed to be difficult and that having fun at work is unrealistic. Thankfully for us and the many ill-informed owners and employees, Conrad is hell-bent on changing that assumption.
“Getting people to realize how important improving work culture can be to their business can be challenging, but I believe it's not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’,” she said. “The ideas surrounding what work is supposed to be are changing because the younger workforce is demanding it. If you’re a business owner with employees, it's a do or die situation. Either you improve work culture authentically, so talent will want to come work for you, or you won't have a business anymore.”
Conrad continued, “Communicating the value of what I do can also be a challenge, because the cost of turnover – which is HIGH by the way – is not a bill you get every month. It's an invisible cost, but if, as a result of improving your work culture, you can keep one talented person from leaving the team, that would pay for hiring me several times over.”
According to Conrad, who’s working towards completing her Chief Happiness Officer certification in May, her business has grown through a combination of networking and getting out and about. She’s also delivering her message through several different channels.
“I'm looking to do more speaking engagements, because what I do is more of a conversation than a hand shake,” she said. “I also have big plans this year that include launching a mini course called ‘7 Days to Your Happy Workplace’ that will be delivered via email and include short videos, worksheets and activities you can do with your team. I’m developing a video series that will illustrate work culture concepts in a funny way. I’m really excited about this! I’m speaking at a business expo in July and I’m working with others on putting together a women’s conference for the fall. I’m also involved in the Worksite Wellbeing Council of the Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches.”
Imagine a world where people were happy to go to work, instead of dreading every Monday. Picture what that would do for our relationships, how we show up in the world and how we treat each other. These are the ideas, dreams and visions that drive Conrad.
“If I can leave every business I work with better than when I found it, then I consider that a success,” she said. “Being able to educate and tweak people's mindsets so they can see other ways of doing things, better ways, that's what I enjoy. Being able to help the frustrated business owner who wants to make culture changes, but doesn't know where to start or what to do, that is what I enjoy. Being able to help them create a work environment that is inspiring to everyone, that is success.”
Looking ahead, Conrad is focused on several exciting goals including, writing a book, or several, appearing on a TEDx stage, participating in national speaking opportunities, conducting more workshops and courses, being able to hire employees and scale the business and offering more online courses. One particular women’s workshop, ‘Workplace Happiness for Professional Women: What's Holding Us Back?’ will be coming to the Treasure Coast this year. The event is a limited seating workshop that addresses challenges unique to women and how those show up in the workplace.
What advice does Conrad have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “When it comes to those who are hesitant to take the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship, don’t feel like you have to have everything figured out, because you never will – just start,” she said. “My advice to current business owners is to ask everyone on your team on a regular basis the following question: ‘How can I help you do your job better?’ Listen to their answer and be prepared to act on it. Some might think this is giving up power as ‘the boss’, but being a great leader is not about power. It's about trust, fairness and listening. If you make this a regular habit, I would be surprised if you don't see immediate changes.”
Conrad continued, “I’d also recommend a great book for any woman on the planet with big ideas but fearful of starting. It’s called ‘The Middle Finger Project’ by Ash Ambirge. I’ll wrap up my advice with one of my favorite quotes about leadership. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, ‘If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”