Happiness at work

5 keys to workplace happiness

André Francois
André Francois 2023-11-27

The feeling of being happy is one of the most positive experiences in our lives and usually the goal we want to achieve. So, what do you think happens when we have this feeling at work?

Teleos Leadership Institute founder Annie McKee, who teaches in Executive Education programs at the Wharton School's Aresty Institute, stated that being happy at work definitely makes a lot of difference for the workplace and people. In light of the research, it is quite clear that happiness in the workplace has a connection with almost every desired outcome that individuals, businesses and organizations seek to achieve. For instance: Well-being of employees positively correlates with health of employees and organizations, and often precedes career success. Happy employees tend to be more productive than the unhappy ones. You can also read our previous blog post, if you want to know more about the importance of being happy in the workplace.

If happy employees lead to happy workplaces, it is therefore crucial that organizations understand what essentially contributes to this. There have been a lot of studies conducted to understand the factors that boost employees’ happiness. According to Jessica Pryce Jones, author of Happiness at Work: Maximizing Your Psychological Capital for Success and founder of the iOpener Institute, what contributes to the individual and the organization is to enable them to have a long-term sense of happiness about their work, that is, to develop "a new mindset". In this post, we’ll look at the important factors to develop the mindset that we can be happier in our work, but first let’s start with the definition of “happiness at work”.

What does happiness at work mean? Happiness at work is an overall feeling of enjoyment at work. It is the ability to deal with setbacks in the workplace in a positive way; the ability to positively connect with colleagues and customers; and knowing that your work is important to you and your organization. It is not simply a by-product of external factors such as appreciation or encouragement; it results from the way we manage our own thoughts, actions and reactions on a daily basis.

Of course, happiness at work is also associated with external correlates but finding happiness at work is not always about the job itself. It is related to many other factors such as work environment, personality traits, interpersonal connections, stress management skills and so on. Jessica Pryce Jones talks about 5 important elements that can help us in rediscovering workplace happiness and sustain it for a long time.

5 Key Elements to Become Happier at Work:

Contribution: The more we contribute to the workplace, the happier and more connected we feel. This is about the effort we put in our work. As an example, employees who have answers to questions like what do I want to achieve in the long term, what are my short-term goals and am I achieving them, and what problems prevent me meeting my goals. The employees who express these questions openly, with the appropriate party, in the workplace can fulfill this. However, the business environment has a dynamic structure based on mutual interactions. In order to take this step, it is necessary to feel appreciated by managers and colleagues. So, it's also about being able to do that in collaborative working relationships.

Confidence: If we are not confident in what we do, we become unhappy. However, it is necessary to balance self-esteem; neither too little confidence nor arrogance. There are several ways to work with this, such as therapy, coaching, feedback sessions with an experienced professional, and learning more about yourself. Either way it is a well invested time as it gives both happiness and results to have good confidence. It is not possible to have confident organizations without self-confident individuals!

Commitment: Not working like our own workplace is also one of the reasons for unhappiness. Perceiving that we are doing something worthwhile, having a strong intrinsic interest in our job and feeling that our organization's vision is in line with our purpose increases our commitment. Just as each 5 elements interact with each other, commitment has an effect on other elements. So, if as an employee we don't feel committed, our contribution will likely be affected. When contribution decreases, conviction, especially the motivation part, will most likely decrease.

Culture: Adapting to the corporate culture brings happiness. It is very important that the employee and work culture are compatible, since the employees who feel they fit in the organization's culture have high levels of performance and happiness at work. However, having a reverse situation makes employees feel that the organization's values do not mean much and they do not have much in common with their colleagues. This can make an employee feel isolated.

Conviction: Our belief in what we can do affects our level of happiness. Continuing even when things get tough so that we can preserve our energy, motivation, and resources. The way to do this is to feel that we are efficient, effective and resilient.

In addition, here we give you 3 Extra Factors:

Trust: Building trust in the organization is based on multiple factors alone. However, in general, trust is a fundamental condition of working life because none of us want to work in a place we do not trust, or no employer wants to work with someone we do not trust. It is necessary to create a sense of trust for a sustainable employee happiness in a workplace and therefore a successful teamwork.

Pride: Being proud of the organization is a well-known indicator of how engaged an employee is likely to be. There are several studies showing a positive correlation between feeling proud of where employees work and their commitment. Besides, employees who are proud of their organizations tend to be more satisfied with their organizations as a place to work, be more willing to recommend their organization as a good place to work, and to be more likely to stay with the organization for many more years.

Recognition: Recognition is a basic human need and it strengthens relationships. To be fully successful at any level in the workplace, it is necessary to apply the principles of employee recognition and encourage others to initiate this in their business relationships. Employees’ feeling that their work is valued, positively affects their job satisfaction and productivity. Therefore, they tend to be more motivated to maintain or improve their good job. This guarantees the success of the business. It is also important in creating an innovative and pioneering organizational environment.

Leaders play a very significant role in determining and setting the pace for creating happy workplaces. However, according to Jessica Pryce Jones, employees themselves, as well as external factors, contribute greatly to the creation of happy workplaces. The happiest employees are those who are aware of themselves and make an effort in this regard.

On the other hand according to Annie McKee, there are 3 basic elements that should be considered:

Having a meaningful vision of the future: It is important for the employees to see if they can build a future within the company⁣⁣.

Having a purpose: Employees want to see that what they do is working and contributing, and at the same time, their organization serves a greater purpose. According to McKee, leaders should be in constant communication with employees on these issues.

Establishing good relationships: Having a good relationship with managers is very important for the happiness of the employees. Relationships with colleagues are equally important as well as executive relationships.

Similarly, Science Director at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center Emiliana Simon-Thomas talks about the 4 basic elements: Purpose, engagement, resilience, and kindness. Each element can be strengthened by practice across your team, departments, and entire organization through individual exercises and activities, development of key social skills, changes in leadership style, or changes in company policies.

Purpose: Having a sense of purpose at work makes us feel passionate, innovative, and committed. In order to feel purposeful at work, our behavior and decisions must align with our values.

Engagement: It is the emotional commitment we have to the organization and its goals. When we do something with joy, curiosity, and focus, we feel engaged. That's why it is important to integrate playfulness, creativity and humor into our daily routines, avoiding multitasking, supporting people in their professional development, and helping them relax.

Resilience: It is the ability to deal with pressure and the demands of the workplace. In order to build resilience at work, mindfulness can be practiced by focusing fully on the present moment and by being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment without judgement of what it is.

Kindness: Kindness creates positivity. Acting kindly towards each other, conveying our thoughts, feelings, and actions to others with care and genuine social connection improves people's happiness. When we treat others with dignity and respect, expand empathy and compassion, practice gratitude, and manage conflicts constructively, we build kindness into our company culture.


As a result, happiness of the employees in the workplace makes a great difference scientifically in terms of the added value it provides to the workplace, either it is the effort of the employees themselves or the responsibility of the leaders. In view of the observation on happiness at work, how then can organizations detect potential barriers to a happy and productive workplace? Finding happiness at work doesn't only depend on external factors. On the contrary, there is much we can do to improve our inner sense of happiness. Therefore, the first step is to develop our own mindset that we can be happier in our work, practice mindfulness, workout, offer and receive generous feedback, help our colleagues, build good relationships, be flexible and kind. After that, we can have an open discussion about the subject matter where organizations take the deliberate step to promote happiness and assess the level of happiness. To this end, as Happy at Work, we can guide you on this! If you're thinking "how", you can learn more here! As Confucius says, “Choose a job you love, and you never have to work a day in your life”. We should keep in mind that the most basic thing is to do what we love. As long as we do what we love, happiness will follow us.

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