Until recently, very little consideration was given to the correlation between work and happiness; your employees arrived at work, got the job done and went home again. Work was something to be endured, not enjoyed whilst free time was the place to derive true meaning and happiness.However, we now know just how important it is for employees to be happy in the workplace.
Evidence from psychology, leadership and management studies, and even neuroscience supports the view that not only is it possible to find happiness at work, it’s essential for a high performing workplace and successful business.
Most of us probably don’t believe we need a formal definition of happiness; we know it when we feel it, and we often use the term to describe a range of positive emotions, including joy, pride, contentment, and gratitude. However, to understand how we can support employees in achieving happiness at work we need to define it. In her 2007 book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirskyelaborates, describing happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” In work terms, this translates to feeling an overall sense of enjoyment at work; being able to gracefully handle setbacks; connecting amicably with colleagues, co-workers, clients, and customers; and knowing that your work matters to yourself, your organisation, and beyond.
The benefits of achieving happiness in the workplace are immense:
- Being happier at work is tied to better health and well-being, more creative and effective problem-solving, more productivity and innovation, and faster career advancement.
- People who are happier at work are more authentic, more committed and driven to work, and more willing to contribute beyond their job descriptions; they also find more flow and meaning in their work.
- In the face of adversity and setbacks, people in happier workplaces tend to see the bigger picture, making them less stressed; better at coping with and recovering from work strain; and also better at reconciling conflict.
- Socially, people who are happier at work are rated by others as more likable, more trustworthy, more deserving of respect and attention, and more effective leaders; at happier workplaces, people are also more helpful to each other and more supportive of one another during difficult times.
- Happier workplaces report less turnover, lower health care costs, fewer mistakes and accidents, more efficiency, greater shareholder value, and quicker rebounds in the wake of adverse events or failures; they also earn higher customer loyalty, commitment, and business growth via word-of-mouth endorsement.
Business publishing gurus Inc. agree – “Happy employees are 12 per cent more productive than the norm, and 22 per cent more productive than their unhappy peers. Creating a pleasant workplace full of happy people contributes directly to the bottom line.”
Sadly, there’s no magic wand to achieving happiness in the workplace, instead it is the result of fostering, supporting, and building a culture that enables it.