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Go back a few decades and the concept of happiness at work would have seemed incongruous. Go back a hundred years and the concept of happiness at work would have seemed too ridiculous to consider. Work was what you did to survive – no question about it. It was the place where we sold our labour in order to be able to live and provide for our families. Happiness had nothing to do with it and, consequently, was absent from a huge proportion of peoples working lives.
Nowadays, with life becoming ever more complicated and demanding, people are considering work-life balance, career prospects and work-place contentment far more than ever before. It’s a luxury our forefathers might have envied (had they been able to understand what we were talking about).
According to the World Health Organisation, by 2020 depression will be the second biggest form of illness. Our ancestors faced physical dangers at work – coal-mining, mill-working, construction, engineering, inhaling noxious or toxic fumes, the list of appalling working conditions goes on and on. We, on the other hand, face the mental pressures of juggling increasingly-demanding workloads with personal demands from our private lives that can sometimes appear as strenuous as work itself. In times of recession, the pressures of work become even greater, with productivity demands rising and the ever-present threat of pay-freezes, redundancies and lay-offs hovering above us like some spectral death-figure.
There’s always been an acknowledged link between happiness and productivity. But does productivity increase happiness or happiness increase productivity? The answer you are looking for is “yes”! They are both by-products of each other, intrinsically linked and co-dependent upon each other, whichever direction you look from.
So where does the responsibility lie? Are employers responsible for ensuring we are happy? After all, it’s their productivity and successes at stake. Or are we individually responsible for our own happiness? Again, the answer to both questions is “yes”. Both parties have it within their power to increase or decrease personal happiness to the benefit or detriment of productivity. And now more than ever we need to help and support each other to build our personal and mutual happiness quotas to enable us to function and contribute to the collective goals and successes of our organisations as a whole. Happiness is a joint responsibility and produces mutual benefits.
For organisations it’s pretty easy to call upon existing research to demonstrate the business case for maintaining a happy and motivated workforce:
2. Happy people have more energy
3. Happy people are more optimistic
4. Happy people are more motivated
5. Happy people work better with others
6. Happy people are more creative
7. Happy people learn faster
8. Happy people make better decisions
Now simply turn the positive statements above to negatives, and you get the workforce from hell! Is it really in anyone’s interest to have a negative, uncreative, sickness-prone, pessimistic, lack-lustre and depressed workforce? (I think I worked in this place once!)
We spend a bigger proportion of our lives at work than we do at home. Therefore, surely our employers could and should do all they can to make our working lives motivating, rewarding and enjoyable. Many employers already excel in this area. We at The Colour Works work with teams all the time to help lay the foundations for happy working relationships based on the understanding of personal behaviours. Our work is normally instigated by an employer or senior manager who has the nous to recognise that any organisation is made up of people, not machines or buildings.
But what about individual responsibility? Well, there are things we can do to take responsibility for our own happiness as well. But before we cover some practical steps, consider this. Are people today, with all our gadgets, conveniences, wealth, possessions and the rest of the materialistic stuff we so desperately crave in the 21st century; are people today any happier than they were 50 years ago? Research would indicate that they are not. And don’t take my word for it. Have a look at www.actionforhappiness.org.
This is a movement launched to promote positive social change and increasing happiness. They have identified 10 key areas to help us to increase our personal happiness:
1. Giving – do something for others
2. Relating – connect with people
3. Exercising – take care of your body
4. Appreciating – notice the world around you
5. Trying out – keep learning new things
6. Direction – have goals to look forward to
7. Resilience – find ways to bounce back
8. Emotion – take a positive approach
9. Acceptance – be comfortable with who you are
10. Meaning – be part of something bigger.
By accepting responsibility for our own happiness, we fulfil our part of the bargain. We open up our creative self, and the possibilities that this brings. We enable and empower ourselves to interact with others better, creating synergy and optimism. We are able to move from the ‘bad day’ side of our characters to the ‘good day’ side, releasing the power and impact of our wonderful colour energies as a force for good.
Best of all, by taking responsibility for our own happiness we are able to break free from the prison of circumstance and realise our own true potential. And get this, happiness is a skill that can be learned! The trick is to understand that the following equation is wrong:
success = happiness
Instead, try this:
happiness = success
So, next time you’re feeling low and are inclined to blame it on external factors, consider how much of your current mood is really down to you and ask yourself what you can practically do about it. Why not check out www.actionforhappiness.org. Or simply Google ‘learning to be happy’. There are some great tips and practical steps anyone can take.
Prepare to take control!