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Happiness in the Workplace

How does Happiness and a positive mindset increase employee productivity, creativity and sales whilst lowering absenteeism and stress in the workplace?

By Martin Kahn

Martin is Oakwood's Associate Learning Consultant and works in our Associate Team
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Both Harvard Business Review and CIPD are now showing how dramatically work related stress effects our employees. Stress related illness accounts for billions of GBP each year in the workplace leading to burnout, lower productivity, absenteeism and the newer trend of “presenteeism” (working while sick). 

As a keen student of Positive Psychology I’m very interested in Martin Seligman’s pioneering work on raising the average and moving people towards achieving their potential. Shawn Achor, American author and psychologist passionately advocates The Happiness Advantage in his books and his public talks. What he posits is that we need to redefine our terms of success as often these are broken and backwards. Currently our management style at work (according to Achor) goes something like this: “If I work harder, I will be more successful and if I’m more successful then I will be happier.” Whilst there is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful, what we do is push happiness over the cognitive horizon and do not allow our brains to experience happiness and success in the present: “got a good job, now get a better one, hit your sales targets, now we gonna change them” (Achor). Creating The Happiness Advantage at work has huge benefits including: 31% more productivity as we work harder and smarter and a raise in sales revenue by 37% (Achor – The Happiness Advantage)

Being happy stimulates the production of Dopamine in the brain and not only does this make you happier and more productive but it also turns on the learning centres of the brain allowing you to work more effectively. The effects of this on productivity, retention and loyalty to an organisation, whilst at the same time reducing stress and absenteeism, or even worse, presenteeism are immeasurable. 

Achor outlines a 10 minute daily plan done for 21 days (the length of time it takes you to re-wire your brain circuitry), and believe me this really works:

1) 3 Gratitudes – what are the 3 things you are most grateful for – trains your brain to look for the positive rather than the negative in the world (especially if you are addicted to the 24 hour news cycle)
2) Journaling – even 1 positive experience in the last 24 hours helps your brain to relive that experience balancing out the negativity that we may feel surrounds us
3) Exercise tells your brain that you are taking care of your body and floods your system with positive hormones
4) Meditation forces you to focus on one task at a time rather than trying to multi task all the time
5) Random Acts of Kindness – send one email to someone in your  network thanking them for their support or recognising them for something they have done.