How to Achieve Happiness in One’s Work-Life
I’ve been reading a lot about a new job position that has been established in some organizations – Chief Happiness Officer (CHO). In a Wall Street Journal article, there is discussion about Erika Conklin, CHO of a digital marketing startup, who included procuring beer and Jet Skis for a company retreat to Sarasota, Florida. She looks for unusual ways to create team-building activities. It sounds good but I wonder why these activities are conducted under the auspices of a new officer. Isn’t this something that Human Resources should do? After all, the HR function should be devoted to employee wellness.
What Does a CHO Do?
According to the article, it’s hard to quantify how many companies have CHOs, but thousands of workers now identify as such on LinkedIn—65% more than two years ago, according to the social-media network. The position isn’t entirely new, but it hasn’t always been seen as needed, either. In one of the first notable uses, McDonald's "promoted" Ronald McDonald to chief happiness officer in 2003 as a joke.
More recently, tech companies such as Google and SAP have assigned the label to non-mascots, presumably to project offbeat corporate cultures. Whatever the label, the idea is to show that companies are invested in employees’ mental and emotional health, according to Karyn Twaronite, the global head of diversity, equity and inclusion at Ernst & Young. “Companies are having to pay much greater attention to how their employees feel,” says Ms. Twaronite, whose company recently added a mindfulness leader and a chief well-being officer.
Happiness at Work
In her book, "The Writing Life," Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” In a study by the personnel firm Indeed, 92% of people said how they feel at work impacts how they feel at home. Finding ways to be genuinely happy in our work and personal lives is certainly an achievement in and of itself, but it also makes us better at our jobs. Psychology professor and happiness specialist Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky says that research shows happier people experience more success, positive reviews, greater creativity, higher incomes and less burnout.
Leading psychologists and well-being experts also believe it's even more important to focus on well-being in times of transition and change, which we have certainly seen over the last year and a half. On top of that, job loss is one of the top five most stressful events in a person’s life. Well-being contributes to overall happiness—and happier people are more likely to be resilient, energetic and innovative in times of great challenge or stress.
One of the questions in the 2021 Workplace Happiness Survey conducted by CNBC and Survey Monkey asked people what the primary reasons they'd consider leaving their current job for new opportunities.
Most respondents said they’d leave if they’re not paid fairly (30%), followed by not feeling happy at work most of the time and not feeling energized when performing work-related tasks. It's worth understanding how you feel at work to decide if you're in the right role, with the right company, or if it's time to make a change.
What Does it Mean to Be Happy?
Happiness can mean different things to different people. Indeed’s research reveals that people often misjudge what drives their happiness at work. While many believe compensation is the top predictor of happiness, in reality, the social elements of work prove to be more important. For example, dimensions like being energized by your work (17%), feeling like you belong (12%) and having a sense of purpose (11%) all rank higher than pay (5%):
Indeed’s work happiness study and consultation from leading happiness experts at Oxford University’s Wellbeing Research Centre, have helped to identify the following key drivers of work happiness:
- Belonging - I feel a sense of belonging in my company.
- Energy - In most of my work tasks, I feel energized.
- Appreciation - There are people at work who appreciate me as a person.
- Purpose - My work has a clear sense of purpose.
- Achievement- I am achieving most of my goals at work.
- Compensation - I am paid fairly for my work.
- Support - There are people at work who give me support and encouragement.
- Learning - I often learn something at work.
- Inclusion - My work environment feels inclusive and respectful of all people.
- Flexibility - My work has the time and location flexibility I need.
- Trust - I can trust people in my company.
- Management - My manager helps me succeed.
- Stress level - I feel stressed at work, most of the time.
- Satisfaction - Overall, I am completely satisfied with my job.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow has stated in his work on the Pursuit of Happiness: While we may think fair pay and flexibility are drivers of happiness, we might look at them more as fundamental needs. Once those are met, we can focus on the aspects of our jobs that prove to drive more happiness, such as feeling like you belong, doing work that energizes you and feeling more appreciated.
Maslow identified happiness as part of being loved and belonging. His hierarchy of needs shows that to achieve the highest level of needs – self-esteem and self-actualization – a person must be happy.
The idea that happiness can improve one’s quality of life, should be no surprise to my loyal readers. I blog about happiness and well-being often and have written a book about it.
Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, The Ethics Sage, on September 6, 2022. You can sign up for Steve’s newsletter and learn more about his activities on his website (https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/) and by following him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.