I’ve heard many story about different workplaces from people doing different jobs. But from all that in a huge amount the only conclusion I can draw is that most people don’t enjoy their jobs. They just go to work because they don’t have better alternatives. It’s rare to find this days somebody to tell you “Hey I am happy at my job and I love what I do”. Even if you dare to ask directly if somebody is “happy at work” the most common answer you’ll get is “yeah, it’s ok”, but you’ll immediatelly see that there is zero sign of enthusiasm in the person who answered you. People are not happy at they jobs and when asked,most of them just fly over dodging to tell the truth and prefer to not give you much details. However, research shows that happy people tend to be more effective at their jobs. When we’re feeling good about our lives, we connect with others more easily, think more optimistically and free up valuable mental resources to focus on novel ideas. Happiness also breeds confidence. Positive moods make our situation feel more controllable, which can give us the grit to power through challenging tasks.
WHY WORKPLACE HAPPINESS IS HARD TO FIND
One of the more distressing facts about human nature is that we are not particularly good at staying happy. Positive emotions wear off. Whether we’ve earned a promotion, landed a new client, or moved to corner office, with time we tend to return to our happiness baseline. Often the process doesn’t take very long.
Consider what happens when you order a wonderful dish at a new restaurant. The 1st bite is exquisite. The 2nd is very good. By the 3rd, you’re ready to share. The more you eat, the less enjoyment you derive from your meal, until after a certain threshold you couldn’t bear another bite. Chances are, the next time you return to the restaurant and order the same dish, it will taste like it’s missing something. It is: novelty. The good news about our inclination to adapt is that the same psychological process responsible for acclimating us to positive events is also at work when we experience a tragedy.
Studies show that lottery winners, for example, return to their happiness baseline roughly one year after receiving their windfall. Accident victims show a similar pattern. Just 12 months after losing the use of their legs, paraplegics estimate that they will feel just as happy in the future as did before their injury. Our brains are programmed to adapt to our circumstances, and for good reason. Too happy and we’d lack any ambition; too sad and we’d never leave our beds. To some, learning about the existence of a happiness baseline can feel incredibly liberating. It means that no matter how badly you screw up your next project, inevitably your disappointment will wear off, and you’ll return to your happiness set point. So why not take some risks? After all, you’re working with an emotional safety net.
To others, it can seem downright depressing. If happiness is fleeting what’s the point of even trying? It’s the reason some researchers have equated the human condition to a “happiness treadmill.” We struggle as hard as we can, only to remain stuck in the same emotional place. Studies examining ways of slowing the adaptation process as a means of prolonging happy experiences show that If we can prevent ourselves from habituating too quickly to positive experiences, the reasoning goes, we can sustain the initial high for longer periods of time. That’s in general the case when people are unhappy in life. Regarding workplaces things related to happines are basically based of 5 key factors which people want to have a positive answer to all related aspects. These are:
FACTOR 1: WHY? = THE PURPOSE
Whatever the job you have you will be happy if you know the meaning or purpose of doing that job, except only to get your monthly paycheck. WHY you do the job you do? Which in turn is linked to the answer of the following questions:
- Does your workplace suits your values?
- Do you have a sense of contribution?
- Do you have a sense of accomplishment?
- Does your workplace fits your WHY?
FACTOR 2: HOW? = THE KNOWLEDGE
Let’s say you have a positive answer to all questions about WHY. But then, the next question is: Are you there as Mind & body, knowing how to do the job you do? To find out then you might want to have a positive aswer to the following questions as well:
- Are you insprired to be positive?
- Are you inspired to have resilience?
- Can you have gratitude?
- Are you inspired to be adaptable and flexible?
- Can you be well?
- Are you inspired to be proactive?
FACTOR 3: WHAT? = THE ENGAGEMENT
Going further, let’s say you know WHY and you know HOW. Then the 3rd aspect that comes it is Engagement. Do you know exactly WHAT is expected from you? Which breaks down into aswering to the next questions:
- Are you encouraged to use your stregths?
- Are you involved in doing interesting work?
- Do you have a manageable workflow?
- Does your workplace environment allows autonomy?
- Do you have a variety of task to do?
- Do you have managable challenges?
- Does the daily activity at your workplace allow learning?
FACTOR 4: WHERE? = THE ENVIRONMENT
You know, WHY, HOW and WHAT. But are you happy with “WHERE”? Here the Environment plays a very important role A positive answer to the folowing questions will give you a clear overview:
- Do you work in an environment that suits you?
- Is your workplace having sufficient heating, lighting, space?
- Do you feel safe at work?
FACTOR 5: WHO? = THE WORK RELATIONSHIPS
Probably some the ideal workplace is to fullfill 100% positive answers to question related to the previous 4 factors if that would be to do your job alone or most of it alone. Yet that’s never the case. You will always have and need colaborators. So the quality of Relationships you have at your workplace is very important factor of happines as well. Positive answers to the next questions are highly recommended:
- Do you regularly get feedback and communication?
- Do you get appreciation/recognition?
- Do you have a positive Boss/team?
- Are you treated and paid fairly?
- Are you confident enought to say I can trust others?
By large, most people simply cannot give positive anwers to the most of these questions. And this is striclty the fault of their company leadership.All business leaders must be fully aware about the at least 6 consequences that as result of having happy employees. From my own experience I confirm the followings:
- THE RIGHT FIT FOR THE COMPANY = Workers who say there is not a good match between them and their employers are the most likely to leave their jobs within a year.
- EMPOWERMENT = Having more freedom on the job makes employees happier.
- APPRECIATION = Showing their work is appreciated make employees happier.
- MEANINGFUL WORK = Employees who say the work they do is worthwhile are 2.5 times more likely to be happy than those who say their work is “just work”
- FAIRNESS AND RESPECT = Feeling treated with fairness and respect at work is the second most important ingredient for hapiness globally.
- POSITIVE WORKPLACE = according to recent studies 86% of workers get along with people on thier immediate team.
Alright then How exactly do you foster happiness in the workplace? Well, things could be very simple. A good business leader shoud have a clear vision about this too, not only about the numbers in profit margins. There are many options to consider, yet from my point of view the follwing 2 insights are the most effective with almost immediate effect. Keep reading what follows next.
INSIGHT #1 – Frequency is more important than size.
Every positive experience takes some “getting used to” time. And the more positive events we have, the longer it takes us to return to baseline. Which leads us to our first happiness insight:
Small, frequent pleasures can keep us happy longer than large, infrequent ones.
What this means from a practical perspective is that bringing home a 10-euro arrangement of flowers every Friday for a month is a wiser happiness-promoting strategy than purchasing a single 40-euro bouquet. So is spacing out weekend getaways over the course of a year instead of taking a single 2-week vacation. The more frequent our happiness boosts, the longer our mood remains above baseline.
From organizational standpoint, the implications of this approach can be profound. For one thing, we may be better off splitting up positive annual events into quarterly ones. Companies often hand out bonuses at the end of the year, but delivering smaller, quarterly bonuses may be a more effective strategy. The same logic applies to company parties. Instead of spending lavishly on a single holiday party, it may be wiser to divide spending into smaller increments, providing seasonal get-togethers (Spring Party, Summer-Party, Christmas party, Team building etc). The importance of frequent positive events also provides a new lens for appreciating the psychological value of office perks. Offering employees relatively inexpensive workplace benefits – for example, by purchasing a high-end espresso machine or stocking the refrigerator with interesting snacks – is more likely to sustain day-to-day happiness levels than the sporadic pay increase.
From the employee perspective, for instance access to office perks can often do more than temporarily elevate mood. It also sends an implicit signal that an organization cares about them. While financial bonuses tend to be viewed as payment for performance, perks communicate on an emotional level and provide a motivational boost. Studies show that when employees feel cared for, they are inclined to reciprocate by working harder.
INSIGHT #2: Variety prevents adaptation.
Increasing the frequency of positive events isn’t the only way of delaying adaptation. So is introducing variation.
Or like Daniel Gibert famously said: “The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices, is knowing when to use it “.
Because our brains are programmed to habituate quickly to our circumstances, we tend to tune out events that happen repeatedly, no matter how positive. Our minds slip into autopilot when our environment is predictable, conserving mental energy for when changes occur. We need new experiences to keep us emotionally engaged. The inevitable boredom that arises once we adapt to our circumstances is what keeps us striving for bigger and better, not how much we’ve achieved. What it hasn’t done, however, is make us very good at savoring positive experiences when they happen. The more we do the same enjoyable things, the less attention we pay them. Which teaches us an important lesson about happiness:
Sometimes, in order to continue enjoying something we love, we need for it to temporarily disappear.
This is one reason traveling can feel so rewarding. When we go away, we break the routine of everyday life. Not having access to your bed, your car, or your favorite reading corner might hardly be noticeable when you’re traveling. But when you return, you suddenly have a newfound appreciation for the little things that contribute to your comfort. In some ways, the real benefit of a vacation is in helping us recognize the pleasures of being home. Variety helps prevent adaptation, which is why creating a happy workplace involves more than just repeating the same enjoyable activities again and again. One way of introducing variety into the workplace is by linking certain events in happiness boosts to specific seasons. Summertime barbecues, fall clambakes, Halloween pumpkin-carving contests, and winter chili cook-offs are just a sampling of seasonal events that can quickly become office traditions. Some workplaces take it one step further and design unique seasonal events that reflect their company culture. By connecting positive events with certain months of the year, organizations can enhance an activity’s emotional impact while creating an additional layer to the experience: giving employees something to look forward to.
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