Sarah Pugh Shares 15 Tips for Creating a Happy Workplace

In: BlogDate: Jul 18, 2022By: Henry Stewart

At the 2021 Happy Workplaces Conference, we had a fabulous presentation from Sarah Pugh. I ask the speakers at our conferences to share 'nickable' ideas that people can put into practice and Sarah came up with no less than 15 of these.

Sarah has just become Chief Executive of Whizz Kidz, so a lot of this relates to when she was CEO at Heart of Kent Hospice.

Hi, we are Happy

We are leading a movement to create happy, empowered and productive workplaces.

How can we help you and your people to find joy in at least 80% of your work?

More about Happy

1. Banish appraisals

"We had them for years, nobody was keen on them. Instead we use a snapshot three times a year, built around our behaviours and values and personal development. If you do nothing else from this talk, do this."

Instead of appraisals, there is a six question snapshot form based on reflection on the past period, celebrating successes and looking at aspirations going forward. This takes place every four months.

2. Give people freedom within boundaries

"Set the guidelines and give people freedom within them."

If you ask people, they rarely want complete freedom. Instead we find they often say "give me a framework to work within, and then give me the trust to make my own decisions within that framework."

3. Use Liberating Structures

"I attended Happy's Liberating Structures Immersion Workshop. They were revolutionary for me, to enable me to fully engage everybody in our meetings and events."

Liberating Structures are 32 methods that avoid one or two people dominating meetings and enable an equal voice for all. Find out more here.

4. Have pets at work

"We let colleagues bring their pets into work in our hospice. It is definitely a way to help people feel happy and our patients loved them."

5. Colleagues not staff

"Don't use the word staff. Use 'colleagues' — it is just more adult-to-adult."

6. Stop making decisions

"Remove yourself as a leader from decision-making. Leave your people to make the key decisions."

Your people much closer to the front-line and more likely to know the best solution.

7. Weekly survey

"We introduced a weekly happiness rating with just four questions: what’s good, what’s not, what’s changed and how happy do you feel."

8. Our key behaviours to fulfil the values

"I care. I learn. I own. I improve."

9. Repeat, repeat, repeat

"Continually reinforce the behaviours."

Make sure the values are embedded in everything you do, not just a poster on the wall.

10. Adopt a key mindset

For Heart of Kent Hospice, it is "I am curious about improving care."

11. Share the book

"Once I discovered The Happy Manifesto, I gave it to all staff, at both HOKH and now at Whizz Kidz."

Download The Happy Manifesto for free here.

12. Break the rules

"Encourage colleagues to find the rules that don’t make sense, and get rid of them."

13. Snippets of joy

Encourage people to share their 'snippets of joy', especially in difficult times. Find those moments where things are going well and celebrate them.

14. Promote a coaching culture

Train your people to become coaches. That is now the standard approach that managers take at Heart of Kent Hospice. There are also some 'super coaches' who have got a full coaching qualification.

15. Make sure you are happy too

Are you yourself happy? If you're not happy, everybody else is going to be miserable too. Have you got a happy place? For Sarah it is a mountain in the Lake District.

Does it work? Is a happy workplace more effective?

"Yes. House of Kent Hospice went from Requires Improvement in 2016 to Outstanding within a year. At the same time patients in our care went from 347 to 911, despite employing the same number of employees.
"We achieved that through productivity, teamwork and happiness."
What are your tips for workplace happiness? Or which of these will you implement?

Keep informed about happy workplaces

Sign up to Henry's monthly Happy Manifesto newsletter, full of tips and inspiration to help you to create a happy, engaged workplace.

Sign up here

Join our free 1 hour taster session

Learn more about our Level 7 programme, ask questions and experience the style and interactive approach of the programme with our free 1 hour taster session. The next taster is 25th August at 14:00, held over Zoom.

RSVP now

Happy Manifesto book cover

Learn the 10 core principles to create a happy and engaged workplace in Henry Stewart's book, the Happy Manifesto.

Download your free eBook


Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he has built a company which has won multiple awards for some of the best customer service in the country and being one of the UK’s best places to work.

Henry was listed in the Guru Radar of the Thinkers 50 list of the most influential management thinkers in the world. "He is one of the thinkers who we believe will shape the future of business," explained list compiler Stuart Crainer.

His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

More by Henry

Next Conference: 2023 Happy Workplaces Conference

Our Happy Workplaces Conference is our biggest event of the year — and we're excited to announce that it will be back for 2023. Save the date for 15th June 2023!

Due to the success of previous years, we will be holding this event online via Zoom. As always, this event will include lots of discussion and interaction, with the opportunity to meet others who are on their journey to create happy workplaces.

Our speakers will be announced early next year. Previous speakers have included leadership gurus Tom Peters, David Marquet, Liz Wiseman and Bruce Daisley — as well as Andrew Barnes, author of The 4 Day Week, Helen Sanderson MBE, Professor Donna Hall CBE, and Pim de Morre of Corporate Rebels. We've had speakers from organisations such as John Lewis, WL Gore, Buurtzorg, Woohoo inc, Propellernet, Mayden, Next Jump, Foundation SP, Epic CiC, the National Audit Office, and more.

Use discount code EarlyHW23 at checkout to receive your Early Bird discount for 50% off — and the first 20 bookings will receive a £10 voucher for coffee from the Change Please website!

Find out more and book your place