What do we talk about when we talk about happiness? Many people talk about (and sell) the idea of happiness. In fact, this seems like a fad, similar to being thin or not eating meat. But like everything else in life, we must turn to the person who really studies happiness to know what we are talking about: the psychologists.
The different theories point out aspects such as economic well-being or social connections , among others, as those that most influence our happiness. Of course they are important, but how does happiness affect our work environment?
We spend most of our life at work and, on many occasions, we do so with an emotional tone, let’s say, neutral .
Happiness in the work context
If we work, we can get excited about certain projects and we can even feel moments of intense connection with our team. There are moments of happiness. But, most of the time, this state occurs by chance.
We don’t usually associate work with happiness, and this is the beginning of the problem. If we randomly ask several people in a work situation, they are likely to tell us that happiness is constituted by having a job, that they consider themselves lucky because of it. And that, as long as that is the case, being happy while working is rather secondary. We already do other things to be happy, they would tell us.
But by not associating our work with possible happiness, are we not denying an important part of our life? Going happily to work even seems a bit obscene . It is not well seen that someone can manifest it; the softest thing you will receive are comments referring to the luck you have, as well as others much less considered.
Greater well-being at work, higher performance
The most curious thing is that the research on happiness in the work environment shows to what extent its influence on productivity and health is enormous. Those who are happy at work perform better and have fewer casualties.
A survey conducted by Gallup in 2015 shows that only 32% of American workers claimed to be “actively involved” in their jobs. The majority (52%) did not feel involved and 17% considered themselves totally disconnected from their work environment.
We’ll have to do something, won’t we? A big part of the problem is boredom. Doing the same thing over and over again is a guarantee of being bored permanently. Boredom and happiness don’t fit together, these are the first changes to be made. Looking for the opportunity to learn new strategies and tools, facilitating mobility between departments in the company, looking for common places to exchange ideas … seem to be some of the best antidotes to fight boredom and promote well-being and excitement in the company .
The trap of the work routine
Another factor that is directly associated with happiness in the work environment has to do with routine. Leaving the office at breakfast or lunchtime, having spaces to meet with colleagues from other departments or companies, encourages our brain to remain in an active tone . If, in addition to this, companies dedicated part of their time to promoting exercise and mindfulness, the effects would be spectacular. It already happens in companies that do so.
Reducing the time of endless meetings , adjusting them to a set schedule and with a moderator in charge of distributing the turns, is also a powerful element to dissolve boredom. Short presentations. Short questions. Short cycles of tasks. This seems to be the key to keeping the happiness muscle in shape.
And smile. Doing so is intimately linked to happiness. It may seem obvious, but it is like spreading a rumor: if we smile, we are generating an effect on those around us. There will be those who resist -even actively-, but they will have to succumb or find themselves isolated.
Enhancing Happiness at Work
Undoubtedly, we will always have someone who will tell us that if we are not happy with the work, we should quit. It’s a very respectable option. Complicated these days, but possible. However, it comes from a point of view according to which happiness comes from the outside. Therefore, it is better to change our airs, than to change ourselves.
If your option is to try the latter, I propose some ideas that may be valuable to start turning this happiness in the work environment around.This applies to any work reality we want. In some it will be more complicated, but it is achieved with dedication and conviction. And, moreover, if all levels of the company are convinced of this , it will be much easier to do so.
1. Know what makes you happy
It seems easy to assess whether or not we are happy, and to what degree we are. This doesn’t mean we do. But what seems more complicated is to define what makes us happy, personally . We are different, unique, so it seems logical that we each have, so to speak, our own “happy footprint”. That which makes us intimately happy.
This is not only about the working environment, although everything is certainly interconnected. Knowing what makes us happy and collecting it in a list to be aware of it is one of the first exercises we propose you.
Let’s keep in mind that happiness includes both pleasure and purpose , and is not just the positive emotion we assume. Let’s write both. What makes us feel pleasure and what makes us feel actively involved in something.
2. Actively build happiness in your work environment
Happiness doesn’t just happen. We don’t just need to be aware of what makes us happy, passively. We need to build it. Make it happen.
It’s not easy, especially when we’re very busy. It’s like finding the space to go to the gym. But once you do, you can’t live without it anymore! Start slowly with the little things that connect you with a sense of purpose and belonging . It might be having breakfast with a friend on your break to do so, looking after a plant you have brought into the office, listening to music while preparing a report … these are little things that add meaning to your work environment. You make it your own.
These seemingly small changes can have a very significant impact on how you feel about your time at work. You’re building your own little environment of personal happiness at work. You can start by thinking about what you would like to change from now on. Make a list of what is exclusively up to you, and another list that may contain proposals for reaching consensus with your colleagues, or propose it to your bosses.
3. Look for opportunities that make you feel purposeful
Most of the time, we may not have the opportunity to choose what we want to do, what projects we would like to do, which people we would work with. Let’s look for a way to get involved in what we are assigned , as well as making the person who is directing us see what our interests would be, what projects you would like to be involved in.
In a way it is about conveying interest and involvement. If we do it in something that we have been assigned, what won’t we do in something that we would also like to do!
4. Know what gives you energy and what doesn’t
In this we are also unique. For some people, collaborating and working with others to solve challenges makes us feel alive. For others, being able to devote full attention to detail and see it from a point of view creates a sense of flow. Some people prefer to work in a team and some don’t. Consider what makes you feel more energetic, it is essential that you know. Also what does not. Because, in some moments, you will inevitably have to do it.
Paradoxically, when you know both, you perform better -and are happier- in the situations that we like best as well as in those that do not excite us. By being aware of the latter, and eliminating negative expectations towards them , we relax, and we feel surprisingly much better.
5. Identify what makes you unhappy
Of course this is not a bed of roses. There are times when it seems that everything goes wrong . A bad day, marked by an unpleasant situation, can make us feel really miserable.Even if we try to change it, it will happen. But we should not think that a bad day means a bad life. On the contrary, recognizing the bad moments will make us appreciate the good ones even more, and work to enhance them.