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Think Summer Hours Are Enough to Make People Happy?

06/13/2014 04:35 pm ET | Updated Aug 13, 2014

Now that summer is here, the annual installment of summer hours is popping up across corporate America. Cue the C-suite email blessing people with the privilege, delivered in the fashion of a royal proclamation.

While you may think giving your staff a couple of extra hours of free time a week is feeding their souls, you're wrong. Believe me, time off is always welcomed, but employee happiness and productivity are driven by much more than free afternoons.

As the leader of a creative agency in Minneapolis for nearly 10 years, I have been on a journey to create a best-in-class work environment -- a culture where people thrive and are inspired to do their best work. It's a combination of a lot of things that have earned us the right to be named a best place to work in America, not just the perks. I have learned from the hundreds of talented individuals who have come in and out of our doors that employee happiness and productivity boil down to four key company commitments:

Purpose takes precedence
People want to be working toward a higher purpose and feel that their opinions and ideas impact the road ahead. They want to come to work challenged, energized, appreciated and surrounded by people who share this vision and the core values that help achieve it. Make your company purpose clear and educate people about how they can contribute to it.

Healthy employees are happy employees
This is not hard to imagine. Investing in employee wellness boosts employee happiness, which in turn, grows the bottom line. Leaders may believe that shiatsu massages, yoga classes, flexible work schedules and creating an environment where exercise happens during the workday are unproductive or extraneous costs, but they're wrong. A healthy workplace is a smarter, more creative and more productive one (just ask any employee).

Mastery is like pixie dust
People want to learn and grow, and successful employers seek ways to constantly feed and inspire others. If people aren't inspired and challenged, they will go elsewhere to be fed. Make sure your employees have a path to stretch themselves and develop new skills. This can be a combination of defining professional development plans and providing inspiration inside and outside your walls.

Empowerment is part of the job description
People want to play a clear part in a company's culture and success, as well as have their voices heard and respected. Supporting an open environment where creativity and ideas can come from anywhere or anyone, empowers people to think freely. Allow this and make sure there's a system in place where you can actually hear your employees too.

So embrace your summer hours, but keep the bigger picture in mind. We will continue to seek out new ways to create a workplace that fosters a well-balanced work environment and nourishes our human capital. It's a never-ending journey, especially in the ever-evolving marketing industry we play in. But try to make a difference every day, not just Friday afternoons.