The Science of HappinessWe often refer to the growing body of research understanding the happiness/health connection in the workplace. Happy workers are healthier, more productive and engaged, and take fewer sick days. Happiness in the workplace also boosts your bottom line and makes you likely to stay in business longer.

Today we’ll look at the science behind those statements, and how to use that science to bring happiness to your workplace.

Understanding the Science of Happiness

Pursuit-of-Happiness.org is dedicated to the advancement of scientific knowledge about happiness and depression prevention. In “What is the Science of Happiness,” its website notes that while for years psychology centered on the negative—what was wrong with people— the institute has recently  seen a dramatic upsurge in scientific studies on Positive Psychology and the science of happiness. To put it simply, discovering what makes happy people happy.

“Fortunately, many of these studies point to specific ways of thinking and acting that can strongly impact our sense of well-being and happiness. The resulting discoveries are enriching the practices of counseling, clinical psychology, psychiatry and life coaching.”

happiness makes employees perform better

Let’s look at the actions happy employees take that help your business. Data from the Oxford-based iOpener Institute for People and Performance show that, compared to the unhappiest employees, the happiest employees:

  • Spend twice as much time on task
  • Have 65% more energy
  • Intend to stay in the role 4 times longer

That’s from a website post called “The Science of Happiness at Work™.” It’s also the name of the group’s research program, which began in 2005. The webpage declares:

“We believe that Happiness at Work is a mindset which enables action to maximize performance and achieve potential.”

the 5c’s identify Workplace happiness

You can identify your happiness level at work by what the institute calls “the 5Cs”: 

  • Contribution: what you do
  • Conviction: your short-term motivation
  • Culture: your feeling of fit
  • Commitment: your long-term engagement
  • Confidence: your self-belief

“These are all interlocked, working as an ecosystem which means that they have a strong impact on each other.

And, to be happy at work, an individual must have a sense of achieving their potential, which is why it lies at the heart of the model.

You could ask workers to rate their 5Cs to measure a baseline level of workplace happiness, and measure again after instituting cultural, educational, and procedural changes to increase happiness.

trust, recognition, and pride

The institute identifies three factors that foster the 5Cs in employees:

  • Trust in an organization
  • Recognition from an organization
  • Pride in an organization

These are all things you can build in your organization to increase employee happiness. When workers are at and contribute their best—when they’re happy—it drives high performance. Many online resources, including these, explain how to develop trust, recognition programs, and organizational pride:

follow the experts

Many experts on workplace happiness regularly post the latest concepts and tips on improving happiness at work. For instance, Alexander Kjerulffounder of Woohoo inc and one of the world’s leading experts on happiness at work, writes The Chief Happiness Officer blog. A recent post, “3 Things Your Workplace Can Learn from Parks and Recreation,” shares positive examples from a TV show.

“The TV show Parks and Recreation recently ended and while I was sad to see it go, the final episodes were awesome and very satisfying.

I have admired the show for a while not just for being very funny and moving but also for how much the cast and crew obviously loved their work.”

Here are 3 lessons any workplace could learn from Parks and Recreation:

  1. Have someone nice at the top: as the cast discuss in a video clip.
  2. Give people freedom to screw up, as this video clip shows. The cast talk about the freedom they have to improvise lines because the set is ‘a super-safe environment,’ as Jim O’Heir, who plays Garry/Jerry/Larry/Terry on the show puts it.
  3. Praise each other. In this clip from a late night show, the cast plays a game in which they have 20 seconds to toast each other.

How do you create the conditions for happiness to flourish in your workplace? Share your story!
For a comprehensive guide to growing a sustained workplace culture of respect, trust and appreciation, download our FREE eBook: Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude.
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