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A guide to happiness in the workplace

Published on Business stage: Scaling, Starting, Unlocking

Although happiness at work is not always seen as a priority – with productivity sometimes cited as a reason to overlook it, as though the two are mutually exclusive – its importance has been widely documented. Happiness in the workplace has been shown variously to boost workforce creativity, employee retention, customer satisfaction and, indeed, productivity.

This August marks the 20th anniversary of the Society of Happy People’s annual Happiness Happens Month, with August 8th designated Happiness Happens Day after the date the society was setup. The aim of the events is to celebrate happiness and to make the world a happier place as a result, making them an opportune time to look at how we can foster happiness in the workplace.

Of course, we all want to be happy. It’s in itself a positive state, but also one that drives positivity in other areas of our lives. In an article for Happify, ADHD coach and writer June Silny outlines 14 research-backed benefits of happiness:

  • Happy people are more successful
  • Happy people get sick less often
  • Happy people have more friends
  • Happy people donate more to charity (and giving money to charity makes you happy, too)
  • Happy people are more helpful
  • Having a positive attitude makes life easier
  • Have a positive influence on your loved ones
  • Happy people enjoy deeper conversations
  • Happy people smile more
  • Happy people exercise more and eat more healthily
  • Happy people are happy with what they have
  • Happy people are healthy people
  • Happy people live longer
  • Happy people are more productive and creative
  • But how does happiness translate into workplace outputs? And how can it be harnessed to the benefit of organisations?

The science of happiness at work

As happiness at work firm Woohoo notes, “Studies show that happiness at work may be the most important success factor for a modern workplace and that happy companies make more money.” But why is that? According to positivepsychology.com, there are a number of reasons for this:

  • Happiness multiplies success by spreading throughout a workforce due to the inherently social nature of people
  • Happiness builds positivity as we inevitably focus on positives, rather than when we are unhappy and we focus on negatives
  • Happiness reduces stress by improving our responses to stressful situations and redirecting our focus to positive aspects of a situation
  • Happiness at work means a healthy life by making us less makes us less prone to work-related stress and mental issues, with physical health improved as a result
  • Happiness at work increases likeability because, as social creatures, we like to be around positive people, which in turn makes those people happier still

An article on positivepsychology.com provides this insight into how happiness can be fostered at work:

“Dr. Christine Carter, a senior research associate at the University of California, mentioned in one of her research publications that happiness, whether at work or in life, is not just about deriving the feeling of satisfaction.

“She said that happiness is not the feeling that comes from getting or doing what we want to, instead, it is the ability to access an array of positive emotions like optimism, gratitude, etc., and consciously choosing to implement them in life.

“From her findings, it is evident that being happy at work doesn’t mean universal acceptance or the complete absence of negative stress; it is just the power through which we can widen our perspective and bounce back from negativities.”

But how does that translate into practical actions?

Tips for happiness at work

Also from the positivepsychology.com article are 10 tips for pursuing and maintaining happiness in the workplace that are rooted in scientific research:

  • Declutter your workplace to help improve focus
  • Practice mindfulness to improve emotional balance about work
  • Work out for as little as 15 minutes a day to reduce weariness
  • Engage in feedback exercises to understand performance and expectations
  • Focus on one task at a time to minimise wasted time and reduce distractions
  • Help a colleague to contribute towards the workplace community
  • Choose your responses wisely to foster workplace positivity
  • Value yourself as a platform to build on for future success
  • Start your day on a good note to draw productivity through the day
  • Adjust your schedules to achieve a suitable work-life balance

Celebrating success

Finally, to close the circle, it’s important to celebrate success at work. If, in part by fostering a happy workplace, an organisation is achieving success, celebrating those successes helps to continue the momentum. Kimberly Mikesh, writing for happier.com, outlines five benefits of celebrating at work:

  • It brings people together
  • It may only be one moment, but it affects many
  • Giving recognition is free and it works
  • It allows you to set bigger and better goals
  • It breeds confidence

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