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The secret to creating a happy, productive office environment really isn’t much of a secret at all. At least not according to countless articles, blog posts and editorials on the matter.

Forbes reports on a recent survey conducted by Robert Half entitled “It’s time we all work happy: The secrets of the happiest companies and employees.” The study focused on the factors that drive employee happiness, pointing to statistics for support that a happy worker is, indeed, a productive worker.

In the wake of Labor Day, a day when Americans pause to honor the American labor movement and recognize the social and economic achievements of workers, now is the time to discuss the importance of employee appreciation.

That one day off at the end of summer is pretty nice, but ultimately it’s what happens the other 365 days a year that really matters. Yet that is one of the biggest challenges to keep in mind, what with deadlines and project proposals and keeping track of the bottom line.

Meanwhile, research shows that investing time and energy in your employees and their happiness is one of the smartest ways to take your small business from ordinary to extraordinary. How?

Start by remembering your why. Spend some time thinking about what you love about this business you’ve created and apply that to your employees. Chances are they have at least some similar passions and experiences and can offer insight or suggestions on things you may not have thought of previously. These are the people who make up the team. Your team. These are the people who make it all come together.

Do sweat the small stuff

Finding ways to show you care for them and appreciate their efforts doesn’t have to become a production. What matters is finding small ways to build a positive environment year-round. Sure, there are days like Employee Appreciation Day in March when you can go all out. That would be an excellent time to throw an epic party in or outside the office, or auction off an extra day or two of vacation time.

But just as is true of our personal relationships, it’s necessary to remember it is just that: a relationship. And relationships worth having contain substance. They contain a reason for carrying on and working through differences. And they can bring a sense of contentment and satisfaction any office would be happy to have.

People thrive on little things, like the occasional donut day, paid lunch, or maybe even something like a personalized pen or mug waiting for them on their desk from time to time. It might not seem like much to you (or your bottom line for that matter), but it means a lot for someone to feel appreciated in even the smallest of ways.

That way, when the time comes to celebrate something a little more special, it comes as no surprise because you’ve built a culture of sincere gratitude throughout the year. And when that time comes, have some fun with it!

Fun boosts creativity, productivity

Research done by Fox News Health supports that having fun at work boosts creativity and productivity.

“There is good evidence that if you allow employees to engage in something they want to do, (which) is playful, there are better outcomes in terms of productivity and motivation,” Dr. Stuart Brown shared with Fox News. “All sorts of creative new connections are made when you’re playing that otherwise would not have been made.”

So go bowling, hit up a major league baseball game, or visit the local zoo or museum. Find a cause to support with a fundraising drive. Whatever you do, do it together as a team and have fun!

It’s actually kind of a relief when you think about it. The secret to creating a happy, productive office environment really isn’t much of a secret at all. Just use common sense, engage throughout the year, and have fun.

It really is as easy as that.