Happiness at Work Benefits the Brain AND the Bottom Line

Not that long ago, if you’d asked the world’s political and business leaders about the role of happiness in the global economy, you probably would have been told that happiness was a pursuit for birthday parties, not boardrooms. That sentiment has changed drastically in the last decade. In 2011, recognizing that progress shouldn’t be measured by economic growth alone, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and calling for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples.”

Each year on March 20th, the United Nations celebrates International Day of Happiness to help raise awareness about the importance of happiness in the lives of people across the world.

A World Happiness Report is released by the United Nations each year on International Day of Happiness and findings from the 2017 report suggest that there is a vital relationship between work and happiness. While having a job has been proven to make people happier, the equation goes beyond that. Happier employees are also more likely to come to work, be more productive, take fewer sick days and are less likely to quit. Talk about a win-win!

While ultimately every person is responsible for their own happiness, research findings in the report point to specific areas that employers can support to create an environment that encourages happiness.

Work-Life Balance

Being able to achieve a healthy balance between commitments at work and home appears to be one of the most important drivers of an individual’s sense of wellbeing. Those with jobs that leave them too tired at the end of their workday to enjoy the non-work side of life report day-to-day happiness levels that are substantially lower. Workers who report that their job interferes with their ability to spend time with loved ones, and employees who feel they must “bring their job home with them,” report lower levels of subjective wellbeing.

Variety

The report’s findings suggest that people with jobs that allow them to do different things and learn new things experience more positive emotions on a day-to-day basis. The desire to learn new things on the job seems to be particularly important to millennials, who in a different study ranked training and development as their most valued employee benefit at a whopping 300 per cent higher rating than cash bonuses! Read this blog post for some suggestions to help create a culture of continuous learning and professional development.

Autonomy

An employee’s degree of autonomy at work, including having control over how their workday is organized and the pace at which they work, is another important driver of happiness in the workplace according to the 2017 World Happiness Report. This finding is echoed by some interesting research from the University of Birmingham. The research compiled two years’ worth of data from 20,000 employees and found that the higher level of autonomy a worker experienced, the higher their sense of job satisfaction and wellbeing. The type of autonomy most appreciated tended to differ by gender. Women placed a higher value on autonomy related to scheduling and location flexibility. Men appreciating autonomy more related to task allocation and pace of work.

A Circle of Support

According to the report, the support one receives from his or her co-workers also has an impact on workplace wellbeing and happiness. This finding aligns with research at Harvard that found that students with strong social support, both at school and at home, tended to be happier and better at dealing with stress. Workers with strong relationships with co-workers are also better at remaining engaged and coping with stress.

What does this all mean for recruitment?

As awareness grows about the significance of happiness in our personal and professional lives, it’s important for employers to realize that the days of relying on salary and bonuses to win over employees are long gone. The growing popularity of university courses dedicated to the topic of achieving happiness in life speaks to the priority tomorrow’s job seekers will be placing on achieving it in their careers. Yale University introduced a new course in January 2018 called, Psychology and the Good Life. The course’s goal is to help students figure out what it means to live happier, more satisfying lives, and teach them scientifically-tested strategies to achieve that goal. A quarter of the school’s undergraduate population enrolled, making it the most popular course ever at the university. At Stanford, one in six undergraduates take a course that promises to teach them to apply design thinking to the challenge of creating fulfilling lives and careers.

Action For Happiness has developed 10 Keys to Happier Living that are based on an extensive study of the latest findings from the science of wellbeing. While these keys weren’t developed specifically for the workplace, reviewing them and finding examples of ways they are demonstrated within your organization can assist in creating talking points that illustrate your company’s commitment to promoting happiness in the workplace with potential employees.

Key #1: Giving – In what ways does your workplace help others? Corporate donations, workplace fundraising for charities and volunteer programs are great examples.

Key #2: Relating – How does your organization strengthen relationships and build networks between employees? Are there corporate retreats, teambuilding events, or meetings that encourage open conversation between employees that you can speak to?

Key #3: Exercise – What things does your company do to encourage employees to be more active each day? This doesn’t have to mean investing in an onsite gym or subsidized gym memberships. Simple things like having bike racks for employees who want to cycle to work or helping clean up nearby walking trails send a message that you support employees having an active lifestyle.

Key #4: Awareness – Does your workplace do anything to promote employee mindfulness? Offering a lunchtime meditation class or even a dedicated quiet space that employees can retreat to when they need some time to collect their thoughts are great examples of how the workplace can support employee mindfulness.

Key #5: Trying Out – What channels does your company have in place to encourage employees to try different things and learn new skills? In addition to formal training and educational assistance, this could be things like casual “Lunch and Learn” sessions or encouraging the use of free online learning tools.

Key #6: Direction – How does your company assist employees to set challenging, yet achievable goals of their own and also ensure they understand their role in helping the company achieve its larger goals? Is this something that has been formalized in your performance review process?

Key #7: Resilience – All employees will be faced with stressful situations at some point. Does your company offer tools or services to help them cope with and bounce back from adversity? Mentoring programs as well as coaching or therapy offered through a company benefits program are potential supports you can showcase.

Key #8: Emotions – What processes does your company have in place to encourage the cultivation of positive emotions like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration, and pride at work? Things like recognition programs and sharing employee stories through internal communication channels are great examples.

Key #9: Acceptance – Does your company make an effort to promote conversations that help employees accept themselves and their colleagues as they are? Perhaps there are community initiatives that your company supports that are helping youth to accept themselves as well.

Key #10: Meaning – Is there a connection between the work that you ask employees do each day and a greater sense of meaning and purpose in their lives? Initiatives like workplace volunteer and mentoring programs can help provide a sense of meaning at work, especially for employees that may lack a direct line to a sense of something larger in their everyday roles.

How can we help?

Ian Martin’s Hiring Consultants gather insights every day from our candidates about the organizational values that are of particular importance them. If you’d like some suggestions as to how your company can illustrate its commitment to employee happiness and wellbeing in a more effective way, contact us today for a complimentary assessment of a recent job posting.

 

 

Kate Siklosi

Kate Siklosi

Kate Siklosi is the Resident Wordsmith at the Ian Martin Group. In her spare time she's a full-throttle dog-and-cat-mom, an experimental poetry editor, and a fierce oxford comma defender (see what she did there?!).
Kate Siklosi