Free ice cream and a slide? What does a happy workplace look like?

In my first two articles I talked about why we should care about workplace happiness and busted some myths about what workplace happiness is all about. In this edition I’m going to a look at what a happy workplace should look like.


So, what does a happy workplace look like to you? Is there a slide, or a freezer full of free ice cream? Does everyone spend the day kicking back and drinking barista coffee?
Let me tell you, for me a happy workplace looks very different to that. The people are busy – they all have important jobs to do. They work hard but they feel valued for their input. Their boss and colleagues regularly take the time to recognise their work and thank them for their contribution.
People are able to find purpose and meaning in what they do. This might be in their core role or because they have found something they feel passionate about (and can influence) and have been given permission to embrace this. It might be that they are co-ordinating a recycling initiative or forming a support group for employees with caring responsibilities. Purpose and meaning at work doesn’t have to come from your key function.

In my happy workplace leaders are committed to helping people understand the power of mindset and encourage people to learn to cultivate a more positive mindset. People are encouraged to not fear failing but to embrace it and learn from it instead.


At the core of the business is an understanding that happy employees will make the business thrive. There is also an understanding that creating a culture of happinesses doesn’t mean people won’t struggle, that they won’t have bad days and for some there will be far more deep-rooted challenges. These people will be supported and will have access to the help they need.


People are encouraged to be their whole self at work. Social connections are valued and people have meaningful relationships with their colleagues. Around the office you’ll hear conversations that aren’t always task-driven. People check in with each other and support each other through the good times and the bad.


The business values the happiness of its employees and sees investing in their happiness as investing in the businesses. Everyone knows and understands the benefits of workplace happiness.

Does this sound like your workplace? Does it sound too utopian? Until I started The Happy Business School I’d spent all of my working life in the corporate world so I’m only too aware of the challenges of running a business and the pressures of work. I’m also acutely aware of what happens when you don’t invest in workplace happiness. I might have laid it on thick in my description of a happy workplace but I don’t think anything here is outside the reach of every single business. It all starts with small change, a slight shift in focus can have seismic ripples.


Have I intrigued you? Do you want to know more? Why not send this article to your boss or your HR/L&D person? Start a conversation about happiness at work. And if you or they would like to chat just drop me a line.

happinessatwork #culture #leadership

5 myths about happiness at work

Wrong. The absence of disease isn’t health and the absence of misery isn’t happiness. Just because we might do enough as leaders to not have our people crying at their desks doesn’t mean we are invested in their happiness. Just because an employees comes in every day, does a good job and leaves without complaining about anything doesn’t mean they are happy.

Wrong. It’s right that some some people are more naturally optimistic but, with practice, you can become happier. There is a wealth of science that shows, when we know how, we can train our brains to be more positive. Asking someone to write down three good things that have happened in the last 24 hours may appear glib but this is about training the brain to spot positive things. When we learn to look for things we see them more easily.

Wrong. In fact blind optimism is a bad thing. Who wants to be in a plane where the pilot never believes anything bad can happen so doesn’t bother doing all the safety checks (not me for sure!). Just like in the world of work we don’t want to fail to look out for the risks and dangers, we just don’t want to be overwhelmed by the fear of them.

Wrong. The science tells us that being happier at work makes us more productive, more resilient, more creative, more accurate, more analytical, less likely to take time off sick, leave or burnout. Who doesn’t want those benefits? Yes, what a great wellbeing initiative to be able to say we are interested and investing in your happiness but it goes much further than that. There are real business benefits to helping people increase their happiness.

This one is only a half myth. Yes, people need to be invested in working on their own happiness but as a leader it is for us to help them with that, to show them we value their happiness, to allow them time to work on it, to give them the tools they need to become happier at work. Importantly we need to help them understand why being happy at work is important. As a leader if you can show you are invested in your own happiness it will show your people they should invest in theirs too.

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Forget gimmicks like ice cream van visits or ping pong tables – let’s work together to build a positive culture where people feel valued and encouraged. Let’s help your people find purpose and meaning in their work.

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