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New Year Resolution to make your workplace happier

03 Jan 2012 | Action for Happiness

* Break through the gloom and be happier at work in 2012 *

* Evidence shows huge benefits from increasing happiness at work *

Many people going back to work today will be feeling miserable. The holidays are over, predictions of more economic turmoil abound, and many people will be returning to jobs that they don't enjoy at the best of times.

Today Action for Happiness is proposing a New Year 'resolution' with a difference. Rather than going back to work feeling fed up, people are being asked to commit to make their workplace a happier one in 2012 - and to encourage their employers and colleagues to do the same.

Evidence shows that happier workplaces bring very significant benefits, both for the people who work there and, crucially, for organisations too. Happier people not only have better overall health; they are also more creative, more productive, better to work with and more successful in their careers.

The leaders and line managers in an organisation have the biggest influence on whether or not it's a happy place to work. But there are lots of simple, day-to-day things that all employees can do to make a difference.

5 actions for leaders and line managers:

  • Trust people - give them freedom within guidelines
  • Help people see why what they do matters
  • Give regular encouragement, praise and thanks
  • Help people find and play to their strengths
  • Encourage a healthy balance between work and life

5 general actions for a happier workplace:

  • Stop to say hello to colleagues and get to know them better
  • Find ways to make working together more fun and sociable
  • Make a habit of noting good things that happen each day
  • Change something that's making you or colleagues unhappy
  • Go out of your way to support others and help them feel good

Director of Action for Happiness, Mark Williamson, said: "It's a sad fact that millions of people in the UK are unhappy at work and going back in January can be one of the most depressing times of the year. But our working lives don't have to be miserable; in fact they can, and should, be happy and fulfilling. We're encouraging people to take simple actions to create a happier environment at work and encourage others around them to do the same. The potential benefits for both people and organisations are huge."

There is extensive evidence showing the benefits of happiness, both for individuals and for organisations. For example, recent studies have shown that increases in happiness lead to improvements in labour productivity and that companies which are rated as "great places to work" by their employees significantly outperform the stock market. Happier people have also been found to have better health and live longer than their less happy peers.

Williamson continued: "Our individual attitudes and actions really do make a difference. Taking a more positive approach at work doesn't just increase your own happiness, it affects those you work with too. And if you're a business leader or line manager then you have a huge influence over how you make others feel. This isn't some fluffy nonsense. We know that people work best when they feel good and that happier organisations outperform their peers."

Did you know?

  • A recent survey found over half of UK employees are unhappy at work. [1]
  • There is extensive evidence showing the health benefits of happiness.  The evidence that positive emotions contribute to better health and longer life is stronger than that linking obesity to reduced longevity. [2] Happy people are also significantly less likely to catch the cold virus than their less happy peers. [3]
  • Human happiness has significant causal effects on labour productivity. In a recent study, one group had an intervention which increased their happiness levels, while those in a control group did not. Treated subjects were found to have 12% greater productivity in a paid task. [4]
  • Happier organisations outperform their competitors. A study looked at the stock market performance of the "100 Best Workplaces" in the US (based on positive feedback from employees about working there) over a 12 year period from 1998 to 2010. The Best Workplaces achieved an average annual return of 10%, outperforming the benchmark S&P 500 index which returned an average of only 3.8% over the same period. [5]
  • Three important factors for satisfying work are: Mastery (doing work which is challenging but which you can manage successfully), Control (having enough discretion in how you do the job) and Purpose (the feeling that what you do is worthwhile and part of some wider whole). [6]
  • Our happiness influences the people we work with and the people they know. Research shows that the happiness of a close contact increases the chance of being happy by 15%. The happiness of a 2nd-degree contact (e.g. friend's friend) increases it by 10% and the happiness of a 3rd-degree contact (e.g. friend of a friend of a friend) by 6%. [7]

Founder of Action for Happiness, Lord Richard Layard said: "We need a concerted effort to create happier workplaces. It's shocking that over half of people in the UK say they're unhappy at work, especially considering we spend nearly half our waking hours there. People can help make this happen by encouraging their employers to take this seriously and by doing what they can personally to create a more fulfilling, positive and collaborative working environment. Let's start 2012 as we mean to go on."

Make your workplace happier

If you'd like to get happiness on the agenda at your place of work then we could help make this happen. Find out more by reading about our Happier Workplaces initiative and get in touch.



[1] Mercer (2011), "What's Working" survey

[2] Diener, E., Chan, M.Y., Happy People Live Longer: Subjective Well-Being Contributes to Health and Longevity, Applied Psychology: Health and Wellbeing, 2011

[3] Cohen, S et al, Positive Emotional Style Predicts Resistance to Illness After Experimental Exposure to Rhinovirus or Influenza, Psychosomatic Medicine, 2006

[4] Oswald, A.J., Proto, E., Sgroi, D (2009), Happiness and Productivity, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

[5] Russell Investment Group for Fortune Magazine (2011), How does trust affect the bottom line?

[6] Pink, D. (2009), Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Riverhead.

[7] J.H. Fowler and N.A. Christakis, Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years, British Medical Journal, December 2008



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