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International Day of Happiness 2018

Happiness by Ken Dodd – an iconic song by a genuinely happy comedian. He will be remembered as someone who always smiled and bought laughter to us all. This is a song that truly resonated with me growing up and seems especially apt on this International Day of Happiness.

I often walk into work and greet everyone with a smile and a good morning, only to be surprised how few people actually acknowledge me with a smile or respond with a good morning in return.

Maybe it’s because I work in a co-working/sharing environment where building relationships can sometimes be difficult without a common thread that ties you. You may work in the same building, but you don’t form as a team as you would like in a normal workplace environment.

On the other hand, isn’t this just normal, everyday etiquette when connecting with people you encounter on a day-to-day basis?

Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

I’ve been thinking about this today on the International Day of Happiness. A day dedicated to happiness at work, in ourselves and in our communities.

We associate smiling as a way of showing that you are feeling cheerful. In fact, even if that’s not the case, when you smile the brain activates endorphins and transmits a sense of happiness and wellbeing – so it ends up being true.

In the World Happiness Report 2018 published by the UN, the UK was ranked 19th out of the top 20 happiest nations. Finland took the top spot (last year ranked 5) dropping last year’s number one ranked Norway into second place followed by other European countries including Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Netherlands.

In fact, in the top 20 you had 12 other European countries who are happier as a nation then we are. Really? I was a little surprised that we weren’t higher.

That led me to ask myself, ‘Are we really not that happy as a nation? Why is that?’

I am sure there are a variety of factors here. The more recent events around Brexit, for example, and a sense of uncertainty for the future – could that be one of the reasons why we are not happy?

The World Happiness Report measures happiness based on the following factors which are found in happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, health, income and good governance. All the things that make people happy.

In a separate survey by Conde Nast regarding the best nations for work/life balance, Finland was ranked 4 with Norway not even given a mention in the top Ten, would I be right in assuming that while Norwegians are a happy nation– they don’t really have work-life balance?

This is in no way a detailed analysis of happiness, and if you want to see the full report I encourage you to read it in the links below, it’s really interesting, but when I think about workplaces I always remind managers and business leaders that external factors are one of the driving forces behind workplace happiness.

Social and political factors in society can have a huge impact on the lives of your workforce. The stresses of family, relationships, debt, mental health issues, political landscape, changes in technology and the pressure of keeping up – all these issues place our workforce under tremendous pressure and the list is endless.

At work there are the demands of deadlines, targets, long hours and having to be flexible. In addition, we are often forced to get on with people we have not chosen to work with so that we can be seen to be a team player, leading to the inevitable clash of personalities. It can all get too much.

When thinking about the happiness of your workplace, I have always used three touchpoints that you need to address as an employer.

Your Workplace

Your Workforce

The Marketplace

Do you have the right Workplace environment, one that drives creativity and innovation? These are the tangibles; the touch and feel, relaxing zones, an open-door policy – a workplace where your employees feel connected. It’s about the vibe of your organisational culture, one that truly resonates with your employees on an emotional level.

Think Google, Facebook, Bloomberg: they do an amazing job around creating a space for employees that makes them feel happy. They provide snacks and drinks all day and have a large array of programmes and initiatives built around creating a more fun, connected and happy workplace environment.

The second is your Workforce; this is about what you do. How do you welcome your new hires into the organisation? What kind of experience do they have? What do you do for them on their first day? How do you inspire your employees to feel that their job has more meaning?

Looking a little deeper, how do you share information amongst yourselves? Do you have a culture that fosters openness and transparency? How do you promote a sense of fairness (because life on the outside can be very unfair)? Do you show appreciation and recognition at work and, more importantly, if your teams are not happy what are you doing about it?

A well-connected and happy team performs better because they talk more; they understand each other’s weaknesses and strengths and are able to leverage those for the benefit of the overall team and organisation.

These are examples of experiences that not only help your workforce build capabilities and skills but do so in a fun environment. And if they are happy the chances are you will be able to retain them longer.

Finally, the Marketplace. This is about the external drivers. This is a hard one as you have no control over it, but it’s important to recognise it. Your employees are people, after all, and they are impacted by decisions that they have to make every day about their lives: child care issues, personal tragedies, health, travel, family situations. If it’s worrying you, it’s worrying them too.

You have to ask yourself: as a company, how do we help our employees balance their work lives and support them during a personal crisis?

So, on this day of International Day of Happiness, I ask you all to smile more and celebrate life. Try and be happy and do what you can to help create a happier workplace environment; but as business leaders always recognise the pressures that people have every single day of their lives. And to YOU: be kind to yourself and take care of yourself.

YOU are responsible for your happiness.

I really like the Action for Happiness approach to the Ten Keys for happier living:

 I leave you with the late Ken Dodd’s Happiness – Enjoy


Conde Nast CN Traveller 2018, an article by Caitlin Morton: “These countries have the best work life balance in Europe”

GREAT DREAM Ten Keys to happier living by Action for Happiness to download the full report go to