Part 1 of the Happiness at Work series by Enparadigm
In her book Happiness at Work, Jessica Pryce-Jones states that individuals will spend an average of 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime. That’s approximately 20% of total waking hours in a 75-year life span.
Imagine spending all these hours being unhappy..
Most people describe their jobs as overwhelming and draining, repeatedly cite shortage of acknowledgment and appreciation, and experience an acute lack of purpose. It is baffling to see that after so many years of evolution, ‘happiness’ is still not actively associated with work.
The roots of this problem lie in how human beings have viewed work & vocation historically. The following figure shows how the concept of work-life has evolved:
Today, due to remote work, the lines between work and life have blurred so much that it is no longer possible to distinguish between the two. We spend so much time at work that our job roles define our identity. We do not have the luxury of continuing to separate work and happiness, especially in the context of Future of Work.
In Future of Work, Happiness goes beyond job satisfaction and engagement. In his book “Flow - Psychology of happiness,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi uses the concept of ‘Flow’ to explain how one can get so absorbed with work that they forget about time. They find happiness and fulfillment in what they do, irrespective of their external circumstances. This state can be achieved when one loves what they do and is good at it. Simply put, Flow is achieved when one is aware of their ‘Ikigai’.
Ikigai, a Japanese concept, can be roughly described as ‘the reason for one to get out of bed every morning.’ It overlaps between what you love to do, what you're great at doing, what the world needs and what you can be paid for. If individuals can answer these questions and align their answers to their work, finding happiness is a strong possibility.
A workforce segment at the core of Future of Work that values happiness at work is the millennials. According to USA Today, Millennials value happiness at work more than higher paycheques. Leaders who understand this are already focusing on the millennials’ idea of fulfillment at work since they know that the attitudes and preferences of this segment will reshape workplaces. Here are some factors that such leaders focus on to keep the millennial workforce engaged and happy at work.
Happiness is a state, not a trait. Organizations need to create an environment where people thrive. The first step in incorporating a culture of happiness at work is identifying an organizational framework that defines these vital elements of happiness in your organization.
Having a sense of control leads to higher engagement. Basic aspects like the personalization of workspace, allowing people to take ownership of ideas or teams can boost engagement and make individuals feel happy.
A fair and transparent R&R policy plays a vital role in the overall happiness of employees. Even a perceived instance of unfair treatment can turn a happy employee into an unhappy one. Regular and transparent benchmarking can help in ensuring an effective R&R program.
When there is no fear of failure, individuals can think freely and innovate. Innovation and design-driven organizations create a safe environment for individuals to experiment and learn from failures.
Robust training & development programs help individuals keep up with the changes in the organization, upskilling and learning something new. This increases their confidence to deal with changes, improve efficiency and increase self-worth.
A thriving business requires thriving employees. Promoting health, diversity, and inclusion as part of wellbeing at work makes individuals happier and more productive.
The importance of autonomy & flexibility is grossly understated in many organizations. When individuals are allowed to choose how they deliver results, from where they can work (remote working), their work timings, etc., they feel empowered and demonstrate more ownership and accountability. This element is all the more relevant in a pandemic and post-pandemic business world.
Regardless of the approach chosen to weave happiness into the organization's culture, having a robust framework gives direction and helps sustain happiness at work programs. Also, having an external partner who can assess the organization objectively using such a framework dramatically improves the impact of the programs.
With the increasing overlap of work and life and prolonged working hours, in Future of Work, it is vital that happiness is ingrained at an individual level and infused into the organization's culture. Happier people equal higher productivity and profitability. It is time leaders focused on happiness as a non-linear multiplier to workplace productivity. In addition, it fosters a mindset shift, with individuals viewing work as enjoyable rather than enduring.
For happiness at work initiatives to become part of the culture, organizations need to evaluate happiness parameters of the organization through a robust framework. The evaluation should preferably be done through an external partner who understands happiness at work to maintain objectivity. Then organizations will need to identify people who demonstrate required behaviors and design systems that integrate and support happiness driving initiatives. In part 2 of this series, we will understand this in detail when discussing how organizations can implement this framework.