The case for workplace Happiness
I was with someone the other day who clearly loved her work. In fact I’m privileged to know many people who absolutely love their work and derive great happiness and satisfaction from it…and I count myself amongst that group.
However for so many people this isn’t the case…for millions, work is a necessary evil to pay the bills. Imagine how business and organisations of all types would feel to be part of, and how they would perform, if one of the KPIs was a ‘Happiness Index’. I am well aware that that this suggestion has a chequered history falling, as it does, within the realms of a hard to define and perhaps intangible area as far as KPIs are concerned.
Bhutan was the first nation to really promote the Gross National Happiness approach as one of its primary measures and this has subsequently been picked up by the UN which publishes regular indices on national ‘happiness’. Whilst Bhutan scored highly on the indices that made up its own measure this, in fact, masked a whole gamut of economic, moral and social issues that need addressing.
So in suggesting that organisations consider a ‘Happiness Index’ I don’t do so lightly, knowing that it isn’t a panacea for all the challenges that sit within an organisation. It is however time, in my view, that organisations looked to a future that made room for far more qualitative and so called ‘touchy feely’ measures of success and performance within the KPI mix. An over reliance on ‘hard’ measures – financial and operational – misses the fundamentals of the engine room that contribute to these statistics, i.e. the people within the business.
The latest UN report states that ‘happiness is desirable not only as an end goal but also because it has beneficial side-effects—namely, that happier citizens are more productive, live longer, earn more, and contribute more to society.’ The Huffington Post when commenting on the 2015 report said ‘the basic point that well-being depends not only on wealth but also on the quality of our human relations is at once obvious (who could deny it?) but somehow absent from our politics and our daily discourse. We don’t have headlines declaring “trust is down in the U.S.” (which it is), but we have endless news headlines declaring “GDP growth has slowed.”’
And whilst organisations are using employee engagement surveys to sort of measure this area – these really don’t go far enough. There is a need to get much more specifically into issues of trust, well-being and job satisfaction in order to understand and access the benefits of a happy workforce.
Given the need to ensure the sustainability and prosperity of our organisations as part of a healthy and happy society surely focusing at least some of our effort onto the happiness of employees seems to make sense to me.