the secrets to workplace happiness

“Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct.” —Eleanor Roosevelt (Image via Marcie Casas, Flickr)

Workplace happiness is in the spotlight now as Japanese tech company Hitachi recently announced its latest product, a wearable “mood monitor” for employees.
The device looks like an ID badge but contains “an acceleration monitor to measure the wearer’s motions throughout the day in real-time, based on the concept that an employee’s physical movements indicate or influence mood,” according to Carolyn Cox of The Mary Sue.
“When the devices are worn by an entire office,” Cox writes, “workplace happiness is measured on a scale of 1-100.”
Each monitor collects individual data 50 times per second, then sends it to Hitachi’s cloud-based servers where it is taken together to “interpret the group’s overall mood,” according to The Wall Street Journal’s Japan Real Time blog.
Using this data, employers can pinpoint problem areas. One test company used the Hitachi data to restructure break time and reported significantly increased employee satisfaction as a result, according to Japanese news site RocketNews24.
The reaction to Hitachi’s product announcement has been mixed. Even though Big Data is already prevalent in and out of the workplace, a “mood monitor” may go a step further and could raise privacy concerns.
It’s also a pricey way to gauge workplace happiness, at least for now. Each individual monitor has an annual subscription fee of $843.
But the Hitachi device brings up an important discussion about workplace happiness and how to achieve it.
Read on to find out why building workplace happiness is easier than you think, with or without Big Data’s help.

Why Workplace Happiness Isn’t Your Real Goal

[Tweet ” “If you want to be happy, be.” —Leo Tolstoy”] Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder. —Henry David Thoreau
There’s nothing wrong with wanting employees to be happy. Research clearly indicates that happier employees are healthier and more productive.
But as a workplace goal, happiness can be misleading. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, workplace happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct. When workplace happiness is the goal, it’s a guidepost that’s constantly moving just out of reach.
In her HuffPo article “Why Employee Happiness Shouldn’t Be Your No. 1 Goal,” Sue Bingham, founder and principal at HPWP Consulting, discusses the downside of pursuing happiness. She points to Matt Sirmans, president of Garner & Glover Company, as an example of someone who discovered the hard way that workplace happiness is a “shallow pursuit.”
Sirmans “tried to position his company as an exceptional workplace by emphasizing employee happiness but soon discovered he couldn’t please everyone,” Bingham writes.
So, he tried a different course of action. Instead of pursuing happiness as a goal, he challenged employees and raised expectations. The result? Employee pride and passion — and, by the way, happiness.
“It’s not that you shouldn’t care about satisfying employees’ wants and needs; it’s that a focus on employee happiness is an imbalanced and unrealistic business goal. Genuine happiness stems from fulfillment in life and work, and that’s the perk companies should strive to provide,” Bingham writes.

The Real Way to find Workplace Happiness

“Workplace happiness” is great shorthand for what we’re all after, but when it comes to implementation, your goals should be more concrete and focused on process. Otherwise, employee happiness will remain elusive.
“Pursuing happiness as your primary goal is like a dog chasing its tail,” writes Randy Conley at Blanchard LeaderChat. “Studies have shown that people who place more importance on being happy end up becoming more depressed and unhappy. Rather than happiness, we need to pursue meaning and purpose.”
There are many smart pathways to building workplace happiness through an engaged workforce. Conley mentions meaning and purpose. For Bingham, the key words for employee engagement are involvement, investment, challenge and empowerment.
Here’s another: celebration. Instead of waiting for happiness to come to you, seek out the happiness that’s already there and celebrate it!
Meaningful, regular employee recognition is a quick way to draw attention to the good things that are already happening in your workplace.
Fast Company columnist Mark C. Crowley, author of “Lead from the Heart,” names positive communication as one of “3 Uncommon Ways to Drive Happiness in the Workplace.”
There seems to be a magic ratio for positive communication, Crowley writes. A team of researchers at University of North Carolina transcribed business meetings at 60 companies and parsed each sentence for positive and negative words.
“What they discovered was that the companies with the greatest financial performance had a better than 3:1 ratio for positive communication. They additionally found that a ratio of 6:1 was characteristic of teams with consistently extraordinary achievement,” Crowley writes.
Rewarding employees and praising their strengths is a powerful way to build workplace happiness, and it’s something you can begin doing today.
For a comprehensive guide to growing a sustained workplace culture of happiness and appreciation, download our FREE eBook: Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude.
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