We've suspected for a while that there was a direct correlation between worker happiness and productivity. This was confirmed in a recent study that found that happiness can increase productivity by 12%. However, many leaders still struggle to find ways to motivate staff. Richard Branson, the man behind Virgin Group, has offered a few tips on how leaders can make their employees happy.

What makes a happy employee? According to Branson, great offices spaces with ample natural light, tasks that stimulate, a rewards system, and a priority on health. And Virgin has made health such a big priority that they've actually created Virgin Pulse, "a business that is focused on helping companies to encourage their employees to be more active through a reward program," Branson wrote on Entrepreneur.

Virgin has also implemented a flexible working policy throughout many of their companies. Basically, this allows employees to work when and where they want.

"It wasn’t easy to put this system in place: Our team invested in research beforehand to make sure it was workable, and once we all agreed, we had to encourage a change of culture across our offices," Branson explained. "Yet that was a small price to pay, because it’s what our employees wanted, and we knew that demonstrating respect and trust in our employees would boost their happiness levels, and in turn, their productivity and creativity."

What Branson understands, however, is that making employees happy is more than just creating policy. Employees need to feel invested in the company they work for -- some will do this by making them monetarily invested with profit shares and employee stock ownership plans. Others, however, will motivate employees by making them emotionally invested in the company.

"But beyond creating good policies, you need to think about what makes your company different, and help your employees to celebrate that. If it’s the sense of mission, then give them the tools they need to keep in touch with how your business is progressing toward its goals. If it’s engagement with customers, then empower your people to take the lead as they help your clients. If you need clues about where to begin, pay attention to where the happiest employees are in your business, since this can indicate that something is working very well -- something that can be replicated elsewhere."

Lastly, don't forget to celebrate achievements and have some fun while doing so. Even if (as was in Branson's case), that sometimes means having the cops shut down your pirate-themed party because of noise complaints.

"We had a great time! But the next day we found ourselves on the front page of the local papers, because the neighbors had called the authorities to complain about the sound of our steel drums on the roof terrace, which perhaps played a little later into the evening than they should have. While we did apologize for the inconvenience, that was a night nobody in the office will forget, and it did wonders for reviving our team spirit."

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