In the teams I lead, the happiness of individuals is something that matters to me and the reason it matters is because people spend a lot of time at work and I want that time to enhance their lives in some way.
In a previous blog post, I wrote about helping people to experience ‘flow’ and I acknowledged that we would all probably prefer to be at home, in a sunny garden, with our friends and family, enjoying our time. Instead, we probably all spend more time than we would like at work with many of us racing the clock to get everything done and the sad fact is that too many people have jobs and managers that make them miserable.
Figures show that ‘over half of the British workforce are unhappy at work which is both a tragedy and a waste of potential’. The stress that unhappy workplaces create seeps into our personal lives, leaving us in a situation where, even at the weekend, that time with friends and family cannot truly be enjoyed.
So often, I have talked about the importance of happiness in the workplace and I know that many senior leaders misunderstand why this is important and think happiness is a ‘nice’ thing rather than something critical for success. They see happiness as a concept that is too soft and fluffy for a serious working environment.
It’s understandable that they think this to a certain extent but if they fully understood the concept of happiness, they might well take a different view.
Happiness and Change Coach, Samantha Clarke, describes happiness in the workplace as being something which allows people to ‘bring their whole self to work’. When I speak about the importance of people being happy at work, this is what I am referring to. It isn’t happiness for happiness’ sake, it’s about making work satisfying so that they are not stressed and miserable for a start but more importantly because if they are happy at work, then they are likely to be loyal, committed and productive.
In measuring staff engagement, one of the indicators in the Gallup q12 index is whether people ‘have a best friend at work’. This doesn’t seem like an important question for satisfaction at work but Gallup say their ‘research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort they expend in their job’. Really, it’s about connection. We spend so much time at work that when individuals feel a greater sense of belonging, it makes them feel more engaged.
What we need to realise to understand this fully is that happiness has two components:
Hedonic well-being is the feeling of pleasure in the moment. It’s the kind of happiness you might get from going to a party. It’s a feeling of heightened enjoyment which is sensory and short-lived. It’s like a dopamine hit – a high that feels immediately satisfying but quickly fades away.
Lasting happiness is what we gain from having meaning and purpose in our lives. In positive psychology, this is known as eudaimonic well-being and is about fulfilling our potential and feeling we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s about having a purpose and links to a range of work on leadership and motivation such as Dan Pink’s ‘Drive’ and Simon Sinek ‘Start with Why’.
The key to understanding happiness is noticing the difference between pleasure and satisfaction. Most probably, those who have been less convinced about the importance of happiness at work, connect the concept of happiness with that of pleasure. The concept of satisfaction however, is what you need to consider for this to make sense. For an engaged workforce, these feelings of happiness need to be encouraged.
If you are asking yourself now how you can create this in your organisations? This blog is founded in positive psychology so if you look through, you will find lots of ideas for motivating and engaging individuals. My top 3 articles to read next if you want to increase the levels of happiness in your teams would be the 80/20 balance, results-only working environment, how ‘warm and fuzzy’ motivates teams.
If you have successes to share or questions about how to raise the levels of happiness in your teams, please add them to the comments below.