Answer This: Are You Happy?

Chew on this for a moment:

“Life is made of moments. We can choose to create and collect the happy ones.”

HappyI had an opportunity to explore this idea when I recently attended the AdClub’s Women’s Leadership Forum. There I had the distinct pleasure of listening to Nataly Kogan of Happier.com. Her story is fascinating, and I recommend you check it out; but more importantly, I recommend everyone stop and take a moment to think about how you capture the happy moments in your life – and I don’t mean Instagram.

Time for an admission – yes, I consider myself a happy person.  But if asked, I probably wouldn’t start my answer with all the little, seemingly inconsequential small moments that are a part of my life. For example, am I happy right now because my daughter put her stuffed Piglet in my suitcase so I would have company on my business trip? Well, yes, but that wouldn’t have been my answer to the philosophical question “are you happy?” And if, as science proves and I explore below, those smaller moments are the true fabric of happiness, maybe I’ve been missing the boat in not celebrating and being present in those moments more.

My personal “ah-ha” moment aside, as the President of a growing Agency that is so focused on culture (as many organizations are), I can’t help but think about the opportunity we have to apply the science of happiness to the workplace as well. Maybe instead of focusing on the perks and freebies that we think matter, there’s a better strategy.

The volumes of psychology and neuroscience research show that focusing on the positive and connecting those happy moments to the people around us can make us happier, healthier and more productive. According to Happier.com, here’s where we need to start:

  1. Collect, Pause and Reflect –Leadership must create an environment where employees can share their successes – small and large. It can be formalized through an enterprise social network like Chatter or Yammer, or a Performance Management System that includes employee feedback functions.  Or a less formal approach that could include celebrating successes via email and team meetings with peers and management.  Point being, institutionalizing opportunities for employees to collect, pause and reflect is key to a happy workplace.
  2. Say Thank You – Research on gratitude has demonstrated a strong association to happiness, with outcomes that include: helping people feel more positive and appreciative of positive experiences; improved health; a stronger capacity for adversity; and, stronger interpersonal relationships. Building gratitude into the fabric of your organization is critical. This could include dedicated kudos in staff meetings, giving to a charity of an employee’s choice or helping them with their commuting costs to thank them for the hours they are putting in. For more on gratitude in the workplace, I recommend checking out this piece from The Greater Good Science Center at The University of California, Berkeley, which revealed that employees “actively suppress gratitude on the job, even to the point of robbing themselves of happiness.” Wow.
  3. Embrace the OutdoorsResearch has also shown that getting outdoors can have an incredibly positive impact on your emotional well-being. Now I’m not suggesting that we all move our desks to the office courtyard, but supporting this idea can take many forms: from flex policies that let employees work from home to wellness programs that support physical activity during the work day. The added benefit is the kickstart to creative juices that can come from a change in environment.
  4. Try Something New – This one strikes incredibly close to home as we operate in a rapidly evolving industry where we are always looking for ways to innovative and take risks to maintain our competitive edge.  For employees to take risks and innovate, they need to know the organization has their back and will support them, regardless of outcome. Creating a culture where “ballsiness” (as we like to claim) can means things like letting employees move between departments/teams to follow a passion and breaking the silos that stifle this; encouraging employees to contribute to projects that might be outside their core focus area so they can stretch their skills; and, incentivizing them for innovation and creativity.

So in the end, what’s the goal? According to Happier.com, rather than saying “I’ll be happy when,” people say “I’m happier now because.” So then perhaps rather than saying “my organization will be a great place to work when,” say “my organization is a great place to work now because…” Finishing that sentence is a responsibility we all share, from CEO to intern, from a two-person mom and pop to a Fortune 500 global organization.

Let’s collect some happy moments.

Amy Lyons
President

Photo Credit: seanbjack via Flickr

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Posted on April 2, 2014 in Agency Life, Culture, Public Relations

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