It’s not all space hoppers and yoga – Here’s why you should care about happiness in the workplace

When I say I help people increase happiness in the workplace some people think I’m going to arrive with a yoga mat and incense in hand or drag in some space hoppers and make everyone bounce on them.

Don’t get me wrong I love yoga and totally believe you should be able to have fun and be silly at work but understanding happiness at work is about far more than downward dog and inflatable health and safety hazards.

Happiness is one of the most underused and underrated business tools. If people realised the true power of happiness every company would have a Chief Happiness Officer on their executive team. Some companies are doing just this. Only a few weeks ago Clifford Chance, a magic circle law firm, announced they were on the look out for a Chief Happiness Officer. I spent most of my working life practicing as a solicitor and whilst I can vouch for the fact that lawyers know how to have fun – and be happy – outside of work, law firms, especially city ones, aren’t known for their focus on bringing joy to the workplace (it’s more about billable hours).

As a lawyer I have been trained to look for the evidence. I remember as a law student being told that no one was interested in my opinion on things – unless I could back it up with some case law or a quote from a speech by a law lord then no one would care.

So when I became interested in happiness and its powers, particularly in the business world, I did what I was trained to do – I sought out the evidence.

I was amazed to find study after study – proper studies, carried out by well-respected psychologists – that demonstrated the power of happiness.

When asked to think about the benefits for increasing workplace happiness you might think of the more obvious reasons like reducing staff turnover, sickness and burnout. You might even understand that happiness can make you more productive, help you achieve more sales and deliver better customer service but did you know that it can also make you more creative, more analytical and even more accurate? When we are happier we perform better in so many areas of our lives and this is as true at work as it is outside of work.

People tend to believe that our happiness is determined by external factors, but as Shawn Achor, one of the leaders in the field of happiness at work, reminds us 90% of our long term happiness is determined by internal factors. And the good news? With the right tools and techniques, practised regularly we can increase our own happiness – and in turn make ourselves happier.

Another point worth noting is that lots of the changes we need to make to increase our happiness don’t cost anything. Increasing happiness isn’t about having freezers full of ice cream or scooters for staff to ride around on a la Google. A Friday afternoon ice cream van is a token gesture if it isn’t part of something more profound. Small changes such as teaching your brain to be more optimistic by learning how to scan for positivity will have a far greater impact. Supporting your people to form positive mindset habits so they can overcome and recover from adversity will serve you a thousand times better than a ping pong table in the break room. Don’t get me wrong if your people really want a ping pong table consider getting one, but don’t think you have ticked the ‘happiness at work’ box just by doing that.

Investing in happiness isn’t about expecting everyone to walk around the office grinning like the Cheshire Cat and scoring themselves 10 on the happiness scale every day. Not only would that be virtually impossible, it would also not be healthy. It is crucial we understand and value the full range of emotions a person experiences. What we can do though is try to increase someone’s average happiness score from six to seven, or maybe even eight by teaching them techniques which, practised regularly, form lasting habits which enhance the way we see the world, our relationships with others and the influence we have.

The Happy Business School’s Happiness in the Workplace workshop is a two-hour interactive session delivered in your workplace which will teach you the basics about happiness at work and give you loads of practical tips and tricks to take away and start using (and not a space hopper in sight, I promise!). If you’re looking for a more tailored solution then I’d love to chat.

Connect with me, follow The Happy Business School and if you’d like to talk more about happiness in the workplace send me a message.

happiness #culture #wellbeing #employeeengagement

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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