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The ABCs of Employee and Workplace Happiness

5 minute read

By Stavy Papasotiriou, Organisational Psychologist and Founder of Work Unlocked.

In the bustling world of modern workplaces, every leader and HR professional aspires to cultivate a team of happy and motivated employees. A transformative approach to achieving this goal lies in what I call the “ABCs of Employee & Workplace Happiness”: Autonomy, Belonging, and Competence.

These three fundamental psychological needs are rooted in the groundbreaking theory called The Self-Determination Theory (SDT), developed by psychologists Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan. Embracing these principles can metamorphose your organisation into a vibrant hub of creativity, productivity, and camaraderie. Together, these interconnected elements serve as the magical ingredients that can transform a mundane office into a dynamic and fulfilling workplace.

In this blog, we will embark on an enchanting journey through each letter of this alphabet, uncovering the key to unleashing employee happiness, one letter at a time.


Imagine your team members as skilled artisans, granted the freedom to sculpt their tasks and projects according to their own vision. Autonomy ignites the spark of creativity, allowing them to unleash their full potential. It is the pillar that drives employee motivation and satisfaction, creating a more proactive and dedicated workforce. To promote autonomy in the workplace, consider the following strategies:

  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Offer flexible schedules or remote work options, allowing employees to manage their time and responsibilities efficiently. By letting your employees be the architects of their time, you grant them the freedom to strike a perfect work-life balance. As they take charge of their schedules and tasks, they'll approach challenges with enthusiasm and determination.
  • Decision-Making Empowerment: Encourage employees to actively participate in decision-making processes and respect their input and ideas. When leaders involve employees in decision-making, they offer them a chance to voice their opinions, ideas, and insights. This level of empowerment boosts their confidence and instills a sense of ownership over their work, making them feel valued and respected as key contributors to the organisation's success.
  • Open Discussions and Brainstorming Sessions: Create a platform for employees to freely share their perspectives. Embrace their feedback and demonstrate a genuine interest in understanding their viewpoints. As their voices are heard and considered, they'll feel more engaged in their roles, knowing that they play a significant part in shaping the organisation's direction.


Building connections and meaningful relationships is an intrinsic part of our human nature. We all have an innate desire to belong. Envision your team as a closely connected tribe, bonded together by camaraderie and inclusivity. Fostering a workplace culture that values each individual's unique contributions and embraces diversity nurtures an environment where creativity thrives, and a profound sense of belonging embraces every team member.

  • Collaborative Cross-Department Projects: Provide your employees with opportunities to work closely together, and if feasible, encourage collaboration across different departments. This collaborative effort will not only strengthen work relationships but also enhance understanding of each person's role and responsibilities, leading to more efficient collaboration and a stronger sense of group identity.
  • Team-Building Activities and Social Gatherings: Organise team-building activities and social gatherings that go beyond the confines of work tasks. These events can forge deeper connections among employees and strengthen interpersonal relationships. As your tribe comes together, they will face challenges with a united front, drawing strength from each other. In this supportive and inclusive environment, your team members will feel a sense of home, igniting a fire of loyalty and commitment.
  • Inclusive Culture: Foster an inclusive work environment that embraces diversity and respects every employee's unique contribution. Encourage open dialogue and ensure that each team member's voice is heard and valued. By promoting a culture of inclusivity, you create a safe space where individuals can express themselves freely, knowing that their ideas and perspectives matter.


We all want to feel competent and that we're good at what we do. So, creating a workplace where growth and mastery are celebrated leads to a team of inspired and fulfilled individuals. Picture them as skilled warriors, immersing themselves in epic learning opportunities to refine their abilities. Encourage them to set ambitious yet attainable goals, for it is within these challenges that their true potential blossoms.

  • Feedback: Offer frequent and regular opportunities for exchanging feedback. Like a trusted mentor, feedback guides employees through each quest, helping them navigate obstacles and emerge stronger. Embracing a culture of continuous learning, your employees embark on a journey of improvement. As they master their skills, they'll be armed with the confidence to tackle any challenge, transforming into champions of their craft!
  • Learning Opportunities: Invest in training and development programs to enhance employees' skills and knowledge, enabling them to reach their full potential. Provide them with the resources and support they need to excel in their quests for growth and mastery.
  • Recognition: Celebrate good performance and acknowledge wins, no matter how big or small they may be. By showing employees that they are valued, and their efforts are appreciated, you reinforce a sense of purpose and motivation.


As we conclude our journey through the ABCs of a thriving workplace, it's essential to recognise that employee happiness is not an elusive treasure but a tangible asset that can be cultivated and nurtured. The ABCs of employee and workplace happiness provide a comprehensive framework for your employees to flourish as autonomous heroes, unite as a cohesive team, and master their skills. As an employer, you wield the power to invoke these ABCs.

Remember, each step towards workplace happiness is an investment in the future of your organisation. When employees are empowered to thrive and find joy in their work, the results are not only seen in their individual achievements but also in the overall success of the company. Let us unlock these principles together, shaping a workplace where happiness and fulfillment become the standard for every team member.



Stavy Papasotiriou is an organisational psychologist and the visionary behind Work Unlocked — a leading HR consultancy on a mission to revolutionise employee engagement, performance, and retention in businesses worldwide. With a profound understanding of HR practices, Stavy leverages psychological principles to unleash the untapped potential of workforces. At Work Unlocked, Stavy crafts bespoke strategies that are grounded in research and tailored to each organisation's unique needs. These strategies are designed to yield remarkable results while requiring minimal resources.

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