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Liggy Webb

The Learning Architect

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How to be happy at work

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Happiness at work can boost productivity and our general wellbeing, says Liggy Webb, who provides some tips on how to make work a happier experience.

The concept of happiness at work is increasingly being explored and examined in the workplace. I for one am absolutely delighted about this especially when I observe so much stress and unhappiness in some organisations.
There is no doubt about it, life is becoming increasingly challenging and according to the World Health Organisation by 2020 depression will be the second biggest form of illness.
Levels of workplace stress are alarmingly high and with some of the economic challenges we face, more pressure is being put on people to increase their productivity at work with seemingly no additional reward.
"People engagement has been the buzz for a while now, however what is the point in attempting to engage your people if they are fundamentally unhappy?"
As deep public-sector cuts loomed, Prime Minister David Cameron told a conference in 2010 that it was time "We admitted that there's more to life than money," adding: "It's time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB – general wellbeing."
Last November, the government asked the Office of National Statistics to produce measures to gauge "general wellbeing". France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has declared his intention to include happiness and wellbeing in France's measurement of economic progress, while Canadian statisticians also poll subjective wellbeing across the country.
There’s a clear link between happiness at work and productivity. This only leaves the question of causation: Does being productive make us happy or does being happy make us productive? The answer is, of course, yes. The link goes both ways and keeping people fit and “in work” is a key government initiative. 
Traditionally “Happiness at Work” has been viewed as a potential by-product of positive outcomes at work, rather than a pathway to success in business. However a growing number of experts, Boehm and Lyubomirsky included, state that it should be viewed as one of the major sources of positive outcomes in the workplace.
Dr Laurel Edmunds and Jessica Pryce-Jones have researched the issue of happiness at work at length and have produced the following definition from their findings:
 
Happiness at work is about mindfully making the best use of the resources you have to overcome the challenges you face. Actively relishing the highs and managing the lows will help you maximize your performance and achieve your potential. And this not only builds your happiness but also that of others who will be affected and energized by what you do.
 
It amazes me that some employers still don’t fully recognise and embrace the concept that happy, healthy people equate to a thriving and successful business. People engagement has been the buzz for a while now, however what is the point in attempting to engage your people if they are fundamentally unhappy?
On April 12 2011 a new movement was launched called Action for Happiness (www.actionforhappiness.org) to promote mental wellbeing and is attempting to bring together people from all walks of life who want to play a part in creating a happier society for everyone.
The movement's supporters say it is not just about fluffy slogans or interfering do-gooders. Founded last year and led by Lord Richard Layard, a professor at the London School of Economics, it requires members, who can sign up via the website, to set up action groups to promote happiness wherever possible: at work, at home or in the community. I for one having now thoroughly researched the movement will be giving this my unequivocal support.
The key principles of the movement identify 10 keys to happier living based on scientific evidence that includes: 
  1. Giving – doing things for others.
  2. Relating – Connecting with people
  3. Exercising – taking care of your body.
  4. Appreciating – noticing the world around you.
  5. Trying out – keep learning new things.
  6. Direction – having goals to look forward to.
  7. Resilience- Finding ways to bounce back.
  8. Emotion – Taking a positive approach.
  9. Acceptance – Being comfortable with who you are.
  10. Meaning – being part of something bigger.
With so much more evidence and success stories emerging now about happiness and wellbeing and the potential benefits it seems that an investment in happiness makes great business sense. So if you need to build a business case for happiness consider the following:
  • Happy people get sick less often - Getting sick is a productivity killer and if you don’t like your job you’re more prone to contract a long list of diseases including ulcers, cancer and diabetes. You’re also more prone to workplace stress and burnout.
  • Happy people have more energy - Happy people have more energy and can therefore be more efficient in everything they do.
  • Happy people are more optimistic - Happy people have a more positive, optimistic outlook, and seek out opportunities and solutions rather than problems and obstacles.
  • Happy people are more motivated - Low motivation means low productivity, and the only sustainable, reliable way to be motivated at work is to be happy and like what you do.
  • Happy people work better with others - Happy people are a lot more fun to be around and consequently have better relations at work.
  • Happy people are more creative - If people are in a good mood on a given day, they’re more likely to have creative ideas that day, as well as the next day, even if we take into account their mood that next day.
  • Happy people learn faster - When you’re happy and relaxed, you’re much more open to learning new things at work and thereby increasing your productivity.
  • Happy people make better decisions - Unhappy people operate in permanent crisis mode. Their focus narrows, they lose sight of the big picture. Conversely, happy people make better, more informed decisions and are better able to prioritize their work.
Clearly the whole topic of happiness is not isolated to the workplace, however, for those who work we do tend to spend a bigger part of our lives at work than we do at home and the ability to manage work/home balance is also very important.
Liggy Webb is the founding director of The Learning Architect a consortium of niche industry experts. Liggy has developed a range of techniques to support individuals and organizations to cope more effectively with modern living and the demands and challenges of life in the twenty tens and beyond. She is also the author of The Happy Handbook -  A Compendium of Modern Life Skills. For more info visit www.liggywebb.com and www.thelearningarchitect.com.
 

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Liggy Webb

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