5 Things to Increase Happiness at Work

Sunday is the International Day of Happiness,  I’m not sure who decides these things but I thought I’d take the opportunity to look at happiness at work. For many people “happiness at work” will sound like an oxymoron, but it turns out there’s good research to demonstrate that happiness increases motivation and productivity. Shawn Achor talks about the “happiness advantage”, which significantly increases performance “your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed.”  Alexander Kjerulf, Chief Happiness Officer, has come up with five ways happiness is important at work one of the really cool things he cites is that relatively small actions can have a big impact. 

5 Things to Make Work Happier

Here are five ways you can make your team happier as a manager,  and the good news is you’ll be happier as well

  1. Team Purpose
    According to Dan Pink’s research a sense of purpose builds a person’s motivation. Knowing how your work and your team’s work fits into the company’s goals helps you feel that your contribution is valuable.
  2. Help Someone
    One way to make yourself happier is to help someone else; by sharing expertise, suggesting solutions, or sharing a tough task. Helping someone in your team provides a positive role model for others in your team, helps the person and will improve your happiness.
  3. Give Positive Feedback
    Genuine, open, freely given positive feedback and appreciation is guaranteed to improve someone’s mood. I’ve written before on the importance of saying “thank you“, but I’m sure we’ve all experienced the mood-lifting effect of positive feedback from someone we trust.
  4. Team Jokes
    Laughing together is a bond, a mood improver, and it can help your team be resilient in the face of challenges or crises. The best teams I’ve worked with have had this, with lots of the jokes relying on a particular brand of “geek humour”, which is why my farewell card from one job is a poster of memes.
  5. Share food
    I happen to like baking, so have taken in cakes, muffins, biscuits to share in my team. Many teams have a tradition of bringing back food from exotic holidays (which is how I developed a taste for Turkish delight), and one team I worked with had a tradition of having a team lunch outside the office.  Whatever suits your team, but nothing beats eating together as a metaphor for sharing and a move improver.


And as a bonus three ways to build your personal happiness this weekend;

  1. Practise Gratitude
    Write down three good things that happened to you in the last week. If you can build this into a daily habit you’ll learn to see the positive things more easily, which builds your happiness.
  2. Perform a Random Act of Kindness
    Helping others increases our own happiness, if you’re stuck for ideas there’s a website dedicated to kindness.
  3. Meditate
    Twenty minutes of meditation a day gives rise to measurable changes in the brain, increases creativity and reduces anxiety.  It’s a tough habit to build, but there are some apps to support you, start with fewer minutes and build up.

Happy International Day of Happiness everyone.

Image; Youth via pixabay



Do you build satisfaction or happiness?

Not all brands, not all industries, are able to use social media as a brand builder in the same way.

I see sweeping general statements in many books, blogs and articles about social media that make me cringe as a customer. The latest was “Customers seek identification with their brands”, do we? Maybe I’m weird but I don’t. Or rather I only identify with a tiny subset of the brands I use.

I can remember listening to a presentation by the Lego’s Global Social Media Director, Lars Silberbauer, talking about all the fun things they’ve done, and the way that customers are using lego in innovative ways. I looked longingly at the examples, and seriously doubted that the financial company I worked for could ever do this. I wrote then about two factors of social media motivation.

I likened it to Herzberg’s two factors of motivation, and came up with a simple diagram linking the factors to levels of engagement. I’ve been rethinking that a little, I think some brand are satisfaction builders and some are happiness builders. So which one are you?

Satisfaction builders

You are a satisfaction builder if when your products and services work correctly customers don’t talk about you, if something goes wrong they do – and everyone piles on.

For example, a bank customer might appreciate that their application for a loan of several thousand euros was approved quickly but not want to discuss it on facebook. But if they’re stuck at the supermarket unable to use their card for a transaction of 120 euro, a much smaller transaction, they have access to complain immediately via their mobile phone.

I put infrastructure (including mobile phone networks), financial services, public or government services and grocery staples into this category.

The brand is not part of the customers identity and customer stays due to high switching costs or apathy, rather than brand loyalty.

Happiness builders

You are a happiness builder if when your products and services work correctly customers talk about you, if something goes wrong they forgive you quickly and sometimes publicly. Other customers will support you during a crisis.

For example, everybody loves Lego. The most common complaint about Lego is the pain of standing on an abandoned piece, which is  usually told as a cute story. Even when Lego came in for stronger criticism around sexism in its minifigs or its advertising the criticism was focused on improving the company rather than outright anger. Even those campaigning for change seem to trust that Lego would find a good solution.

Fashion, personal grooming and leisure industries are in this category. For many people cars, computing, home accessories – some people really love their coffee machines – are also included.

Context Matters

Many companies will have some customers who see them as satisfiers and others who see them as happiness makers. They may also have customers who see them differently depending on the context.

My phone is well-loved and well-used, you can tell by the state of the cover. My mother doesn’t care about the phone she has; both phones are the same brand and almost the same model.

Computers are satisfiers for lots of people, but part of happiness and even personal brand for many (try saying you hate apple on certain forums).

Even an indvidual customer may say the brand differently depending on context. Mostly airlines are happiness for me, I associate them with holidays and seeing friends and family. If I travel for work they become more of a satisfier.

Of course a brand can move from happiness to satisfier during, for example, a crisis. Or from satisfier to happiness under positive circumstances, but a sustained shift in this direction will be challenging. It will require more than action in social media.

Look around your house for the brands you own – where are they on the spectrum? which ones do you seek out on social media?


image happy sad via pixabay

Happiness at Work is Linked to Success

Lasting positive change is apparently simple, just repeat the following habits for 21 days;

  • 3 Gratitudes
  • Journaling
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Random Acts of Kindness

(Go to 11.05 on the video, Shawn Achor cites the research supporting this).

The last item on the list inspired a bunch of students to share biscuits with classmates stuck studying in the McGregor (no relation) Reading Room at the University of Virginia. If you’re looking for ideas for Random Acts of Kindness, there’s a whole website on the subject.

The idea of happiness as a work outcome is an easy target for the cynics, but the research is there, and it’s not a new idea; Alexander Kjerulf wrote a book “Happy Hour is 9 to 5”  first published in 2007 which talks about the connection between happiness, motivation and success.  It’s perhaps not surprising that he comes from Denmark recently assessed as the world’s happiest country in a UN report.

A fact that the national brewer was quick to adopt for an advertisement in Copenhagen’s airport. Fair enough, I did find their product an agent to feeling happy when I was there last week.

Be Happy at Work

Some days it seems like a tall order; with competing priorities, looming deadlines and demanding emails.

How can we be happy at work? And how can we help those we work with be happier?
Apparently it’s easy – in six easy steps according to a new book “Happy Hour is 9 to 5” by Alexander Kjerulf.

  1. Be positive
  2. Learn
  3. Be open
  4. Participate
  5. Find meaning
  6. Love

He goes into some detail explaining the behaviours that match each.

He points out that these six things come from us, not from the company or the boss, and that we can all use them to change our own workplaces. There is a caveat with that, the company needs to allow this – if not we might have to change where we work.

It sounds deceptively simple, but it matches research by Harvard who came up with 7 ways to be happy at work, first on their list is “smile”. Their second is “stop worrying which maps to “be positive”, and their list ends with “have fun”.

Kjerulf’s book finishes with advice to make an action plan, but as you might expect this isn’t a standard action plan. He’s noted the same difficulties with ambitious goals that I have and his action plan is a list of 5 actions you can accomplish in the coming week. Each action must be fast, easy and fun.

So next in the coming week I will

  • Go somewhere cool with one of the project managers in my team for our “future” brainstorming.
  • Take in home-made biscuits or muffins to the office
  • Praise someone outside my team
  • Sit with a different team for half a day (we have flexible work spots so this is possible)
  • Say “yes” to a crazy idea that takes me out of my comfort zone

I’m already more interested in that than my regular “to do” list!

NOTE: You can buy a physical copy, purchase a pdf version or read “Happy Hour is 9 to 5” for free online.

image happy via pixabay