Want a happy team? The first step is listening

Some businesses can be easier to keep happy than others. Step inside Virgin Hotels Chicago and you’ll immediately be struck by the happy, lively atmosphere. But with so team members performing so many varied roles, it can be a challenge to meet everyone’s needs.

We sat down with Virgin Hotels’ People Director, Julie Vasic, to find out how she approaches the task, making it possible for Virgin Hotels to ensure that both guests and teammates leave the building with a smile on their face.

Why is it important to Virgin Hotels that people are happy at work?

Julie: Happiness is one of the most important things to have in the workplace. It’s like a recipe - without happiness, the recipe will fail. This is our core. If we don’t have happy teammates, nothing good will ever get accomplished. It’s important to listen and react to what our teammates are telling us. If something is broken, fix it. If it’s not, improve it. We never want to settle and say what we’re doing for the team is good enough. We try hard to always think of new things to keep the team energized and happy. Maybe it’s a talent show or a special surf and turf meal in the teammate lounge. These little things add up and the team appreciates it.

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How does Virgin Hotels approach the idea of employee happiness? 

It starts with our purpose:  Everyone leaves feeling better. This includes our guests as well as our teammates. If our team is happy, our guests will be, too. We try to do different things that will appeal to everyone. Weather it’s our wellness program, teammate parties, free teammate meals, BARE IT sessions (informal meetings with managers to see how things are going) or great benefits, we want everyone to feel happy at work and that they’re appreciated. Offering various benefits to the team has helped with overall happiness.

Read: Does less stuff make you happier?

In your experience, what makes people happiest at work in your industry?

It goes back to the old adage, "Treat others as you’d like to be treated." I’m a firm believer that just because someone has a title, it doesn’t mean you automatically get respect. Respect is something that is earned by your actions and how you treat people. No one is "above" a certain job at the hotel. If someone needs help washing dishes or cleaning a room, we’ll be there to help. This speaks volumes to the teammates and in turn we have happy people.

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What tips would you have for someone trying to ensure they have a happy team?

Listen. Listen to your team. They know what they want. A lot of times it’s not financially driven either (although that doesn’t hurt!). Also, surprise them. We are great at surprising our guests and making them happy, so why not do the same for the team? Maybe it’s going to be a long, busy week-cater in breakfast. Someone works extra hard one day, give them a gift card. Even a quick thank you note can go a long way.

What's more important in the workplace - happiness or wellbeing? 

They really go hand-in-hand. It’s like the chicken or the egg. If you’re generally happy in the workplace and in your life, a lot of times, you want to work on your overall well-being to continue to be happy. The same is true with well-being. If you take care of yourself and you’re in a good place mentally and physically, you tend to be happier and have a positive outlook on things.

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