The importance of happiness

A recent report conducted by Indeed/ You Gov 2022 Workplace Happiness Survey, found that 72% of Australian workers have felt unhappy at work over the past year. In the same survey, it was found that 35% of people feel stressed at work ‘most of the time’, 20% are unsatisfied with their job, 25% are currently looking for a new job and 12% report that they don’t have a clear sense of purpose at work. 

The leading factors leading to this sense of unhappiness are; demanding workloads is top of the list, suggesting we are expecting too much out of people. Next on the list is poor communication with one’s team and management, closely followed by poor relationships with colleagues and managers and the feeling of not not being in control of workloads.  

For leaders, these are alarming statistics. Workplace satisfaction and happiness leads to an engaged and motivated workforce, where employees have a healthy sense of belonging. Having a bunch of unhappy, unsatisfied and disgruntled staff can have a ripple effect and spell disaster for a business. 

Focus on improving happiness 

So, what can employers do to improve workplace happiness?

A great starting point would be to gauge exactly how ‘happy’ your staff really are. Conduct an anonymous survey amongst your own staff asking them specifically to rate their happiness at work and job satisfaction.

Probe to find out the leading causes for any dissatisfaction. This will shed a light on what you can do to improve the situation.

If your team doesn’t feel a strong sense of purpose, there are steps you can take to create that. If they feel overworked, make changes to show you take their well-being seriously by putting in procedures and changes to alleviate their stress and their workloads. If they site poor communication as the reason for their unhappiness, find out how they feel it can be improved and then implement changes to help improve it.

It’s vital that leaders actively listen and ensure their staff that their happiness matters.

Measuring happiness 

If you aren’t already familiar with the works of Martin Seligman and his book Authentic Happiness, I highly recommend it. Seligman identifies three elements that determine our happiness, and actually provide better measurements of happiness; 

  • positive emotion
  • engagement 
  • relationships
  • meaning and purpose
  • accomplishments

If we apply these to a workplace it makes sense for leaders to strive to create environments where people can achieve certain levels of all of these elements in their day to day jobs. 

Positive emotions are the joy, rapture, pleasure, comfort and psychological safety we feel. 

When one is positively engaged, they are in a state of flow; where you are enjoying what you are doing so much that you lose track of time and lose any self-consciousness during the absorbing activity. As Seligman says, unlike emotions where you can take ‘short-cuts’ – watch TV, eat your favourite food to feel joy; “there are no shortcuts to flow. On the contrary, you need to deploy your highest strengths and talents to meet the world in flow. Hence, the importance of identifying your highest strengths and learning to use them more often in order to go into flow”. 

Relationships are vital to the wellbeing and happiness of people. Being in bad relationships at work can have a significant impact on overall happiness. Luckily recent years has allowed a shift in mindset to enhance good relationships at work and ensure people feel psychologically safe and supported. Leaders need to identify where there are poor relationships, find out the root cause and look to alleviate the problem and actively improve rapport and relationships amongst staff and leaders. 

While the pursuit of positive emotions and engagement make you feel happy, they are often solitary and ultimately ‘meaningless’. What we really crave to feel fulfilled is to have meaning and purpose in our pursuits. Defined by Seligman; “The Meaningful Life consists in belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than the self, and humanity creates all the positive institutions to allow this: religion, political party, being Green, the Boy Scouts, or the family”.

In a work situation, if people feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves, if they believe in what they are doing and can see the bigger picture and the great good they are creating, they will feel more satisfied and connected to their work. 

We all feel fulfilled when we accomplish things. Being in jobs where we can see the successes of our labours is vital to happiness and fulfilment. Leaders can do a lot to ensure staff are recognised and rewarded for their accomplishments in order to generate higher levels of happiness. 

How does your workplace rate on the happiness scale?  If your leadership team could do with my help get in touch today, I’d love to hear from you.

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