As economies slowly recover from recession and we look to our future feeling a little more secure, the question “are you happy at work?” keeps cropping up in conversations I’m having with colleagues and friends. The answer is a simple “yes” or “no” for some, but for many it is not so straightforward. Happiness can be difficult to pin down.
Here are some definitions of happiness:
It seems easier to define happiness at home in our personal lives; we know what we like, what makes us laugh and what gives us the kind of positive energy we need. We instinctively know, therefore, if we are happy or not, and - during the roller coaster ride most of us are on in our personal lives – we know if we are averaging pretty well.
At work, however, it can be harder to define happiness. At home being happy is a key indicator of how fulfilled we are. We want our children to feel loved and happy. We look for the activities that make us smile. Yet happiness at work is not often considered a key success criteria, or if it is then it is not prioritised. Other indicators such as efficiency, meeting targets, customer satisfaction and being profitable are more likely to be top of the pile.
So how can you be happy at work? It’s not just about saying “today I’m going to be happy” or having “5 tips for happiness”. It’s about knowing yourself and what makes you feel good.
What makes you happy?
If you took a minute to write a list, there would be a good proportion of that list that could apply both in and outside of work. Reflect on your day and consider what happened that made you feel happier or gave you a greater sense of well-being.
So, if I’m more aware of what makes me happy, how can I fit it in at work?
The demands on our time at work are often more pressing than they are at home. Sometimes there is barely enough time for a lunch break let alone time for something that could be considered a lower priority.
Gallup, the world’s largest polling organisation, researched wellbeing at work and found that…
people in positive relationships at the workplace:
-…are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.
-…produce higher quality work.
-…are more focused.
-…have better memories.
-…have higher wellbeing.
-…are less likely to get injured.
…and that employees who agree with the statement “my manager cares about me as a person”:
-…are more likely to be top performers.
-…produce higher quality work.
-…are less likely to be sick (or take sick days).
…are less likely to change jobs.
Surely this research underlines that making time for well-being at work should be a priority?
Lift your head up, step back and have a look around.
Change your perspective – stand up. It only takes a second. When you do that you may notice something that will be simple to do, but will make a difference. Yesterday I was sat at my desk in the office working away at my laptop, when a colleague leant over and opened the blinds in front of me so I could then see the sunlight and woodland. She then opened the door next to us so we could feel the fresh air and hear the birds in the trees. I immediately felt better. I wasn’t able to notice that opening the blinds and door would help because I was glued to my laptop. She had been the same, but a trip to get a cup of tea helped her change her perspective and notice what would help. How much time did it cost? About 5 seconds. How much benefit was there? I felt a little more relaxed, energised and happier.
There is an activity I do with groups in their workplace, where I ask them to think back to the last hour of work and reflect on how they have been feeling, coming up with a few key words to describe their attitude. We then take a walk outside for a few minutes, preferably somewhere with trees or grass. When we’re back to within sight of the office I ask them to close their eyes and take in what they hear, smell and feel. I then ask the same question. The words used to describe their new attitude are invariably more positive. All of this takes about 10 minutes.
As employees and employers there are always things we can do that make us feel happier. Take a walk, talk to someone about non-work stuff, eat healthily, have a 2-minute break. Whatever it is only you will know, but you will need to change your perspective in order to notice the need to do it.
Scott Rose is General Manager at Impact UK.