The Missing Piece Of The Puzzle?: The Relationship Between Workplace Happiness, Wellbeing And Mental Health

Wellbeing and mental health are now (thankfully) much more common terms in the workplace than they were even five years ago. Happiness, less so. But where is the overlap between wellbeing, mental health and happiness in a work context?

Let’s start with wellbeing. Most dictionary definitions of wellbeing refer to it as being a state of health and happiness, when someone feels healthy and happy. Wellbeing, particularly in the workplace, is often thought of as being about our physical and mental health and as a result workplace wellbeing initiatives often focus on ways to help people become healthier. This might be physically healthier, for example by offering exercise classes, or by focusing on improved mental health, for example by encouraging mindfulness or meditation practice or supporting people experiencing mental health challenges. Whilst the dictionary definition of wellbeing references happiness, this aspect is sometimes overlooked in favour of focusing solely on physical and mental health.

Before we look at what workplace happiness is about, and how it differs to workplace wellbeing, let’s pause and consider mental health in more detail for a moment. There is sometimes a misunderstanding of how mental health and workplace happiness fit together. We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking the opposite of poor mental health is happiness. That’s simply not the case. It’s true to say that someone with good mental health might have a head start when it comes to workplace happiness (and that’s why it’s so important that businesses invest in workplace mental health), but just because you don’t have poor mental health doesn’t mean you are happy. Lots of companies are now training people to become Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA). On one hand it’s great that businesses are taking proactive steps when it comes to workplace mental health. On the other hand the MHFA qualification tends of focus on spotting signs of poor mental health and then being able to signpost the individual to the right services. Importantly having MHFAs does not, in itself, address the underlying causes (if there are any) of, or contributing factors to, poor mental health. Therefore, it can only ever be part of the picture. Like just providing free yoga classes or a monthly ice cream van visit doesn’t make a workplace happy, just having people with a MHFA qualification doesn’t mean you are doing enough on workplace mental health. 

A happy workplace is one where there is a focus on the physical and mental health of the employees but also a focus on a positive workplace culture. Happiness at work has many facets. Happiness impacts so many aspects of how we work, from the way we lead, to the way we work with others, to the way we think about our own work. It’s about our mindset, our values, our behaviours. It’s the difference between doing ok and doing great. It’s the difference between staying in a role or leaving. 

Just like we have to be intentional in addressing workplace mental health, we need to be intentional about happiness too. Just like we might offer initiatives to support people in becoming physically healthier we need to invest in their happiness in the same way. In many ways, for some workplaces, I think a focus on workplace happiness is the missing part of the puzzle.

Businesses should also remember the flip side of the happiness coin. It’s not just about looking after your people – if you help your people become happier they will do better work and in turn your business will be more successful. Not only will you attract and retain the best people but your people will become more resilient, less likely to burn out and they will service your customers better and be more creative (amongst other things). 

When we see happiness as a vital ingredient of a successful business, and learn to intentionally invest in creating a happier, more positive workplace culture the results can be phenomenal. If you want to learn more about how to turn up the happiness dial in your workplace, get in touch.  

#happiness #mentalhealth #wellbeing

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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