The key to workplace happiness isn’t more “fun,” according to a recent Harvard University study that analyzed data from Track Your Happiness app users. The secret to happier employees is creating an environment conducive to a state of work “flow.”
“The most surprising result of this study is that we’re most often the happiest when we’re lost in what we’re doing, aka being ‘in the zone.’ Conversely, we become less happy when our minds wander,” author Geoffrey James wrote for Inc.
Break-room pinball machines and gym memberships may delight your employees in the short run, but lasting happiness occurs when employees feel a connection with the work itself.
This revelation is not exactly new. Pioneering psychology researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discovered the connection between deep happiness and “flow” decades ago. He explained his groundbreaking research in a 2004 TED Talk titled “Flow, the Secret to Happiness.”
Happiness isn’t just a nice personal goal. It’s smart business. Happy employees are 22 percent more productive than unhappy ones, according to a recent Chicago Tribune article.
Recent research suggests the workplace is already a “happy place” for many people, as a break from the stresses of home and family life.
How can a company build on that and create thriving workplace happiness by facilitating a “flow”-friendly environment? Take the steps below day by day and see what a difference just one week makes.
Day 1: Manage Distractions
Accept that distractions will always exist. You can’t magically eliminate the lure of social media check-ins and juicy gossip or the annoyance of a coworker’s beeping phone, but you can choose how you react to it and encourage others to do the same. Noisy coworker? Headphones. Mean or prying gossip? Nip it in the bud and change the subject.
Don’t beat up yourself or others for a lack of focus, according to Forbes’ “How to Avoid Distractions in the Workplace.” Instead, experiment and create an individualized coping plan.
Day 2: Wag More, Bark Less
Complaining is not necessarily a happiness-killer, but ongoing and purposeless griping is. Thumper’s Rule — “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all!” — isn’t an edict to keep quiet about a real problem. Instead, seek solutions and find constructive, cooperative ways to solve the issue without dragging the whole workplace into negativity. Today, think about ways to make your workplace more authentic and transparent. Committed workers know why their work matters to the company — and exactly how to improve it.
Day 3: Pay Attention to Other People
Is there an employee or group of associates you know nothing about personally? Strike up a friendly conversation by asking about their family, weekend plans or a work project that makes them proud. Remember, employees are people and not assets. Employees who feel valued are more connected to and invested in their work.
Day 4: Spread Gratitude
Along the same lines, make sure the people around you know how much you appreciate their work. Think of gratitude as a cultural force. Saying “thank you” is important, but it has to be backed by genuine feeling, knowledge and specificity. (How can you really thank someone for their work if you’re not sure what it is they do well?)
Day 5: Be Resilient
Resilience means not being too swayed by the ups and downs of everyday life. Today, be mindful of how you respond to “good” or “bad” news. Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness at Work, describes workplace resilience like this: “That no matter what the circumstances, we are always able to begin again in a new moment. This is what we mean by resilience. No matter what happens to us at work (or elsewhere), we can use challenges as opportunities to grow, increase our awareness, and learn methods for making future challenges more tolerable.”
Day 6 and 7: Take a Break
Just over a century ago, many workers routinely put in 100-hour weeks. But reformists then successfully campaigned for the 8-hour workday and the weekend as we know it today. (For more on the history of this transformation, check out the PBS documentary “How the Weekend Was Won.”)
Time off is not frivolous — it’s restorative and allows us to return to work with better focus. University of Rochester psychology professor Richard Ryan, who studied mood variations among employed adults, told British newspaper The Independent, “Far from frivolous, the relatively unfettered time on weekends provides critical opportunities for bonding with others, exploring interests and relaxing — basic psychological needs that people should be careful not to crowd out with overwork.”
For more on building a culture of happiness and gratitude, download our FREE ebook, “Winning with Workplace Gratitude”. Click the image below and start sharing your gratitude today!
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