Happiness may appear something emotive, the ‘feel good factor’. But does how we feel really matter? When there are tasks to complete and things to be done, don’t we just need to get through it? There is time for happiness later, when it’s all out of the way. How many people refer to retiring to be able to do all those amazing things, or thinking ‘I can’t wait for my annual leave’. For some, the concept of being happy at work might even feel like a paradox – do you work to live, or live to work for example?
What makes you happy at work? Does it even matter? …Well actually yes
For a business, happiness equals success
1.1 million companies in 63 countries were asked:
‘What is more important to focus on within staff teams; strengths or weaknesses?’
In a study by Gallup, the majority said weaknesses.
Those few that said strengths were the more successful companies.
A second question asked employees if they get to use their strengths everyday.
Where the answers were yes, these individuals were found to work in the most successful units in companies.
Similar to the theory, you get more of what you focus on. By making more use of our strengths, we get better results.
Spending just two hours a week using skills you know you are good at, will increase happiness
Dr Tal Ben Shahar
Find opportunities to use your skills and strengths
How can you help someone else? Again, evidence shows, if you can help someone else solve a problem, it increases resilience …if you can do it for someone else, it will increase your belief you can also achieve for yourself.
So what do we need to be happy? The diagram below makes some suggestions, based on Jeremy Dean’s 10 Psychological Keys to Job Satisfaction:
With private businesses spending more time and resources on employee engagement and a new era of having fun embedded as part of the daily experience of work, it is clear making space for some ‘happiness’ in the working day benefits the bottom line:
Three decades of research have established clear links between specific emotional skills and our health, wealth and wellbeing. They have found that high levels of emotional capital lead to increased productivity, and, as many studies show, happy people are more creative, solve problems better and more quickly, live longer and enjoy high levels of leadership influence. In other words, when people feel better, they perform better.
On a personal level, happiness will serve to make life better, with individuals who experience it being more open to new ideas, willing to explore, listen and collaborate, as well as experiencing by-products of better health and greater resilience.
(Based on UK stats: Gallup, 2003)
Then, there is also the consideration that we may often ‘take work home with us’. This too will affect happiness in the home, interactions with family and friends, and more broadly our daily lives.
Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.
Research into positive psychology shows that happiness can be learned to an extent. Studies in the effectiveness of mindfulness, for example, show there is an important place for this in relation to decreasing absenteeism, overall improving an individual’s health and wellbeing. Ultimately we are responsible for our emotions and can learn techniques and strategies, should we wish, to improve our own situations.
Six common characteristics of people who were seen to thrive despite the circumstances
around them were identified as:
- Having a meaningful activity, a sense of purpose and a goal
- Giving/volunteering, increasing resilience and happiness
- An optimistic outlook, believing that hard work and dedication will overcome
- Having role models for inspiration
- Focusing on and using their strengths
- Engaging in physical activity, which is known to increase mental toughness.
Research by UNESCO
So the challenge, if you are up for some (or even more!) happiness at work is to take time to think about what makes you happy, only you know that. What are your strengths and how can you use them to support those around you too? Relationships, and the social nature of humans, mean that they have a big effect on happiness. In Danish, whose population fared better than other nationalities through the recession, there is an actual word meaning ‘Happiness at Work’: Arbejdsglæde. Arbejde means work and glæde means joy. There is an expectation, and importance, placed on happiness at work.
And if anybody is up for doing a countywide Hampshire County Council video of ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams – get in touch!!
To find out more about mindfulness contact Karen Marsh.
If you would like to continue to explore Happiness at Work there is a Yammer group called Discussion of all things happy that you can join, and a webpage with resources, quotes and evidence-based articles on the power of happiness at work at:
For further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Amanda has worked for Hampshire County Council for 7yrs, in the Inclusion and Engagement team, working with community groups in the North of the county and staff networks. More recently, taking a focus on what commonalities there are to create happiness at work. Amanda enjoys generating ideas and attended Hampshire School for Social entrepreneurs, developing an award winning interpretation system; as well as pursuing art and design, having completed degrees at University of Creative Arts and Southampton University, and more recently an interior and garden design course with Inchbald School of Design. Amanda enjoys learning about other cultures and communities; and working closely alongside the Nepali community has been a privilege. Innovation and finding solutions are also particular areas of interest. Important things to Amanda are music, creativity, people, faith, freedom and opportunities to explore new concepts. Ultimately exploring exactly what creates our personal happiness and how we can sustain it!