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5 Keys to Happiness in the Workplace

byMinel Aykut | 2023-04-26
Three guys gathered around a laptop in an office environment. They are laughing.

The feeling of being happy is one of the most positive experiences in our lives and usually the goal we want to achieve. So, what do you think happens when we have this feeling at work?  

Teleos Leadership Institute founder Annie McKee, who teaches in Executive Education programs at the Wharton School's Aresty Institute, stated that being happy at work definitely makes a lot of difference. In light of her research, it is quite clear that happiness in the workplace has a connection with almost every desired outcome that individuals and organizations seek to achieve. For instance, the well-being of employees positively correlates with the success of organizations. It often precedes the idea of career success. Happy employees tend to be more productive than unhappy ones.

If happy employees lead to happy workplaces, it is therefore crucial that organizations understand what essentially contributes to this. There have been a lot of studies conducted to understand the factors that boost employees’ happiness. According to Jessica Pryce-Jones, author of Happiness at Work: Maximizing Your Psychological Capital for Success and founder of the iOpener Institute, the key is to achieve a long-term sense of happiness about work amongst employees. To develop "a new mindset".  
In this post, we’ll look at the important factors to develop that mindset. You can also read our previous blog post if you want to know more about the importance of being happy in the workplace.

But first, let’s start with the definition of “happiness at work”. 

What does happiness at work mean? 
Happiness at work is an overall feeling of enjoyment at work. It is the ability to deal with setbacks in the workplace in a positive way; the ability to positively connect with colleagues and customers; and knowing that your work is important to you and your organization. 
It is not simply a by-product of external factors such as appreciation or encouragement; it results from the way we manage our own thoughts, actions and reactions on a daily basis. 

Of course, happiness at work is also associated with external correlates but finding happiness at work is not always about the job itself. It is related to many other factors such as work environment, personality traits, interpersonal connections, stress management skills and so on. 
Jessica Pryce-Jones talks about 5 important elements that can help us to rediscover workplace happiness and sustain it for a long time. 
5 Key Elements to Become Happier at Work: 

Contribution: The more we contribute to the workplace, the happier and more connected we feel. This is about the effort we put into our work. As an example, employees who have answers to questions like; What do I want to achieve in the long term? What are my short-term goals? What problems prevent me from meeting my goals? and express these questions openly have a better chance to feel happy and satisfied at work. However, the business environment has a dynamic structure based on mutual interactions. To take this step, it is necessary to feel appreciated by managers and colleagues. So, it is also about being able to do that in collaborative working relationships.  

Confidence: If we are not confident in what we do, we become unhappy. However, it is necessary to balance self-esteem; neither too little confidence nor arrogance. There are several ways to work with this, such as therapy, coaching, feedback sessions with an experienced professional, and learning more about yourself. Either way, it is well-invested time as it is impossible to have a confident organization without confident individuals! 

Commitment: To perceive that we are doing something worthwhile, having an intrinsic interest in our job, and a feeling that our organization's vision is in line with our purpose, increases our commitment. Just as each of the 5 elements interacts with each other, commitment has an effect on the other elements. If we don't feel committed, our contribution will likely be affected. When contribution decreases our conviction, especially the motivation part, will most likely decrease. 

Culture: Adapting to the corporate culture brings happiness. It is very important that the employee and work culture are compatible since the employees who feel they fit in the organization's culture have high levels of performance and happiness at work. However, having a reverse situation makes employees feel that the organization's values do not mean much and that they do not have much in common with their colleagues. This can make an employee feel isolated.  

Conviction: Our belief in what we can do affects our level of happiness. Continuing even when things get tough so that we can preserve our energy, motivation, and resources. The way to do this is to feel that we are efficient, effective and resilient. 

A book and a pair of glasses on top of a wooden table.

3 Extra Factors: 

Trust: Building trust in the organization is based on multiple factors. Trust is a fundamental condition of working life because none of us want to work in a place we do not trust, and no employer wants employ someone they do not trust. It is necessary to create a sense of trust to sustain employee happiness in a workplace. 

Pride: Being proud of the organization is a well-known indicator of how engaged an employee is likely to be. There are several studies showing a positive correlation between feeling proud of the workplace and the commitment amongst employees. Employees who are proud of their organization tend to be more satisfied with their workplace and more willing to recommend their organization to others as a good place to work. They are also more likely to stay. 

Recognition: Recognition is a basic human need and it strengthens relationships. To be fully successful at any level in the workplace, it is necessary to apply the principles of employee recognition and encourage others to initiate this in their business relationships. Employees that feel that their work is valued are more productive. They also tend to be more motivated to improve.

The management play a very significant role in creating a basis for a happy workplace. However, according to Jessica Pryce Jones, employees themselves, as well as external factors, contribute greatly to the creation of happy workplaces. The happiest employees are those who are aware of themselves and make an effort in this regard. 

According to Annie McKee, there are 3 basic elements that should be considered: 

Having a meaningful vision of the future: It is important for the employees to see if they can build a future within the company⁣⁣. 

Having a purpose: Employees want to see that they are contributing and that their organization serves a greater purpose. According to McKee, leaders should be in constant communication with employees on these issues. 

Establishing good relationships: Having a good relationship with managers and colleagues is very important for the happiness of the employees.

A man and a woman in an office environment. They are smiling at each other whilst doing a high five.

Similarly, Science Director at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center Emiliana Simon-Thomas has written an article about 4 keys to happiness at work: Purpose, engagement, resilience, and kindness. Each one can be strengthened by practice across your team, departments, and entire organization through individual exercises and activities, development of key social skills, changes in leadership style, or changes in company policies. 

Purpose: Having a sense of purpose at work makes us feel passionate, innovative, and committed. In order to feel purposeful at work, our behavior and decisions must align with our values. 

Engagement: It is the emotional commitment we have to the organization and its goals. When we do something with joy, curiosity, and focus, we feel engaged. That's why it is important to integrate playfulness, creativity and humor into our daily routines, avoiding multitasking, supporting people in their professional development, and helping them relax. 

Resilience: It is the ability to deal with pressure and the demands of the workplace. In order to build resilience at work, mindfulness can be practised by focusing fully on the present moment and by being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment without judgement of what it is. 

Kindness: Kindness creates positivity. Acting kindly towards each other, conveying our thoughts, feelings, and actions to others with care and genuine social connection improves people's happiness. When we treat others with dignity and respect, expand empathy and compassion, practice gratitude, and manage conflicts constructively, we build kindness into our company culture. 


As a result, happiness of the employees in the workplace makes a great difference scientifically in terms of the added value it provides to the workplace, whether it is because of the effort put in by the employees themselves or a responsible approach by the management.

Finding happiness at work doesn't only depend on external factors. On the contrary, there is much we can do to improve our inner sense of happiness. The first step is to develop our own mindset; practice mindfulness, physical exercise, offer and receive generous feedback, help our colleagues, build good relationships, be flexible and kind. After that, we can have open discussions about the subject where organizations take deliberate actions to promote happiness and assess the level of happiness.
As Confucius says, “Choose a job you love, and you never have to work a day in your life”. We should keep in mind that the most basic thing is to do what we love. As long as we do what we love, happiness will follow us. 

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