Happiness At Work: Why Is It Important?
Think about the first word that comes to mind when someone asks you this question: ‘WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY? Some might find in fame, wealth, or career success; for others, it might be about having successful relationships; Then, some are still searching for their bliss. In his TED talk titled ‘A short course on happiness, Dr. Raj Raghunathan (professor of marketing at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin) said, “One of the stupidest happiness mistakes people make is ‘Knowing what will make you happy and yet not choosing to do it.’
As hard as it is to define in general, it is quite unfathomable to consider being happy at work. Happiness at Work? Who would have even thought of such a thing! But the reality is that it is a very real construct. The Danes even have a word for it: Arbejdsglæde.
Now that Denmark has made it official, is it worth considering? It should be. If we have learned anything since the onset of the COVID pandemic, it is that happiness at work is increasingly dictating our sense of happiness in general. Therefore, we must think about it, understand it, and find ways to make it happen.
Let us start at the very beginning.
Defining “Happiness at Work” Or “Arbejdsglæde”
The World Happiness Report of 2019 states that Denmark has the second happiest cohort of people worldwide. Danish children love school, and Danish adults love work. So, it’s no surprise that they coined a word for it: arbejdsglæde (ah-bites-gleh-the); Arbejde means work and glæde mean happiness, so arbejdsglæde is happiness at work. They claim that it is an emotion that comes from within or a feeling of happiness stemming from doing something that you love to do, in this case, work. No, it isn’t the same as job satisfaction. While job satisfaction is essential, it is merely a component of ‘Happiness at Work.’
The ‘Set Point’ theory, which is supported by significant research over decades, suggests that our level of subjective well-being is determined primarily by heredity and personality traits ingrained in us early in life. As a result, it remains relatively constant throughout our lives. In other words, we each have a fixed ‘average’ level of happiness around which our day-to-day and moment-to-moment happiness varies.
This theory poses a question: whether it is possible to change our happiness level or do we have to deal with our level of happiness, watching others be naturally more cheerful always. The jury is still out on that, considering multiple viewpoints, no one more valid than the other.
So why talk about Happiness at Work?
The Science behind Happiness at Work
Organizations are increasingly focusing on their employees’ happiness because research shows that, on average, organizations with happier employees are 9% more profitable than organizations with unhappy employees.
Happier people are healthier:
Happiness is like a tonic for good health; A famous longitudinal study conducted on nuns showed that the happier nuns outlived the unhappier nuns by 11 years.
Happier people are also less likely to take sick leave. Research shows that happier people are likely to take 16 fewer days of sick leave than unhappier people.
Happier people enjoy better relationships:
They have a higher chance of getting married, building long-lasting friendships, and be better partners in a team; The intuitive reason for this is that happier people are more giving.
Happier people are more productive:
This is an obvious consequence of better health and stronger relationships. Research shows that:
- Happier people are more creative, more objective, and make better decisions.
- Happier people earn more money for themselves and their organizations.
As a result, organizations are not just working toward making the workplace a happier environment. Still, organizational behavior teams are also dedicating more of their resources to understand this phenomenon to conclude where a person’s happiness lies and how to improve it.
The more current research shows the following findings:
- 50% of a person’s happiness depends on their DNA. We do not have much control over this – some people are born much happier than other people.
- Only 10% of a person’s happiness depends on the external circumstances – while this may seem surprising, think about all the successful yet miserable, or poor but content, etc.
- A large part of our happiness, about 40%, depends on our attitude – how we choose to perceive the world around us and is the most significant determinant of how happy an individual is.
Who is responsible for your “Happiness at Work”?
So, who do you think is responsible for your happiness at work? Is it your boss, your colleague, your co-worker, your client? There are still those who argue that happiness in the workplace is dependent on the work environment. Sure, the work environment does contribute a little bit in bringing in those happy moments, but primarily, it is ‘YOU‘ who is responsible for your happiness. According to an article by Abhijit Bhaduri in a well-known newspaper, the best company is where the employer and the employee are both happy each other. Competence to do the job well makes the employer happy. A cultural fitment makes both happier.
A “BAMBA Model” – The 5-determinants of happiness at the workplace.
In a recent webinar, Dr. Raj Raghunathan explained the five determinants of happiness at the workplace:
The most fundamental needs we have anywhere, especially at work, are our physical and emotional requirements:
- Being paid enough to cover their expenses
- Having an ergonomically sound workstation
- Ensuring people like having us around
- The company is transparent in how business and team are managed
These are just some examples of the most basic needs that we have at work. Covering these basic needs means being empathetic to understanding what the needs are.
The modern workforce demands a sense of freedom and control over their work. Being given the opportunity and responsibility to oversee their work and making a difference is increasingly transforming into a basic need, considering the post-COVID new normal. Perhaps the most crucial determinant or manifestation of the autonomy is “voice.” It about feeling psychologically safe: How safe do you feel if you voice your opinion in front of your boss. It is found that organizations that allow their people to voice out their opinion outperform compared to companies which do not allow to voice out. And the voice is not just about psychological safety; more importantly, it is about psychological impact. In other words, when I express my opinion, it is not only about being heard but that incorporated in the decisions being made.
A lot goes into autonomy, starting from process freedom, clarity, and how you achieve it, from where you achieve it, with whom you achieve it to how you achieve it.
Everybody has a desire to become great, perhaps even the best at what they do. We are learning machines; we love to explore. Unfortunately, many of us lose the zeal, enthusiasm, and curiosity at work overtime because we do not like what we do for work. That is a different problem altogether.
Mastery is about harnessing the zeal that one has to do well in what they are doing increasingly and is one of the areas where most organizations can improve. Many organization employees do not know the kind of skills they want to acquire over their careers. As leaders, we understand that everyone has the room they grow and improve their performance. Through leading by example, coaching, training, or a plethora of other methods, we not just help our team members uncover their gaps, but also uncover newer opportunities.
A sense of connection that you have with your co-workers, and it turns out to be super important in our organizational context. We are a highly socialized species. Gallup’s topline finding is, “People don’t leave organizations, people leave people.”
For leaders, that means finding what motivates someone, not just to perform well. Of course, that motivation also has to be incentivized. In the current social distancing scenario, the work from home phenomenon is being extended for employees all over the world, possibly indefinitely.
With each day, week, and month of working from home, many employees feel a sense of alienation from their colleagues, which is a dangerous situation that might not go away by merely jumping ship to another team or organization. Therefore, the most significant incentive that leaders need to focus on currently is reenergizing the feeling of belongingness amongst their team members.
There are enough and more creative solutions to this problem out there. The place to pick up ideas is from children. Here are some ideas:
- Netflix announced a Google Chrome extension that allows groups of people to watch a movie or TV show together while chatting about it simultaneously.
- Have a virtual dinner party with online games using videoconferencing tool plug-ins. For example, Pictionary using the whiteboard
- Online arts and crafts projects for the entire team with someone sharing their hobby with everyone
- Have a show and tell of your workspace at home for your team members to see what your new normal is like.
An abundance of culture comes from positive leadership. It is about expressing gratitude. Doug Conant, the former CEO of Campbell Soups, used to write five gratitude cards each day. Over his career, he has written over 30,000 handwritten thank you cards. This practice helped him take Campbell Soups from being the worst-performing food company to becoming one of the best Fortune 500 companies in the world. Less than a decade later and was because his practice of writing thank you notes spearheaded his efforts to reenergize a low engagement culture within the organization. Doug Conant, like many successful leaders, was an abundance-based thinker. Leaders with an abundance-based mindset think about possibilities. When President J F Kennedy promised a man on the moon, NASA was nowhere close to being ready for this. But Kennedy had a vision, and he wasn’t concerned with what was reasonable or comfortable. Building an abundance of culture within the organization frees us from a chain of negativity. That’s not to say that it will take away failure, but an abundance mindset creates the attitude that if something doesn’t work, there is always a way – it’s a matter of trying again until we find ways that work.
Remember, it starts with gratitude – send a thank you note, tell your colleague they are doing a good job, find a way to let them know that what they are doing matters.
[su_label]About the Author[/su_label]
[su_note note_color=”#C2BFB4″ radius=”4″]Hardik Chitroda is an experienced sales and marketing professional and currently leading the global marketing efforts for KNOLSKAPE. [/su_note]