Is it important to be happy at work?

Today, Monday, 20th March is the International Day of Happiness, so it seemed prudent to change my schedule and publish a planned post on happiness.

We all think we know what happiness is, why its important. However, did you know there are international measures of happiness which look at levels of happiness in citizens in countries across the world. These are published as league tables on 22nd March allowing us to compare happiness between countries. Finland has topped the table for the past 5 years or so.

As well as governmental interest in population happiness, employers are considering the happiness of their workforces and how they can benefit their organisations if they can have a happier, more productive and profitable workforce.

So in this post I’m going to consider whether what my government and employer do can really impact on my happiness as a person, as an employee and as a citizen.

Defining Happiness

First of all I want to say that happiness and being happy are not the same thing. According to Psychology Today (2023) “Happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life, one with a sense of meaning and deep contentment”. Research shows that many of the things that makes us happy are under personal control, but we’ll go on to look at why happiness is explored at a global level, why national governments are interested and why employers should be paying attention. The research has also shown that there is a connection between happiness and wellbeing, which we’ll see is also important in the workplace.

Having defined happiness, we now need to consider being happy. If happiness is a state of being that is considered to be more long-term, then being happy is more of a short-term emotion – how I feel now, during an event etc – it is more transitory.

Annual Global Happiness Report

20th March, 2023 is the 11th year there has been an International Day of Happiness and every year on this day the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network publish their Annual Global Happiness Report. The report is compiled from global surveys across a 3 year period (2020-2022 for the current 2023 report) in the participating countries asking participants (1000 people per country per year). It asks the respondants to indicate on a scale of 0-10 where they would place their levels of happiness (I wonder if anyone has contributed to such a survey?)

According to Britannica (2023) different nationalities and cultures all have similar understanding of how we define happiness which makes measuring across international boundaries simpler as we attach a common meaning to the concept.

Why do we track national and international happiness?

At a country level, governments are interested in the happiness of their citizens. According to they are interested because “wellbeing and happiness are critical indicators of a nation’s economic and social development” – so the happier the population is the better the country performs economically.

Through their research, Gallup collects data on 6 factors which, while they do not feed into the happiness report, are considered by governments when exploring what they can do to improve the happiness of their citizens. These factors are:

  • Levels of GDP
  • Life expectancy
  • Generosity
  • Social Support
  • Freedom
  • Corruption

National Governments can design their policies to target areas where lower levels of happiness have been recorded, and by addressing issues such as poverty, low life expectancy, mental health problems and higher unemployment. By targetting these areas governments can improve the experience for people living in those areas.

Happiness in the workplace

If social living conditions of unhappy citizens impacts on the economic performance of the country, this is even more evident when looking at happiness in the workplace. Research has found that where employee wellbeing is not taken care of; where employees are unhappy and disengaged, organisations suffer badly in terms of:

  • absence increased in unhappy workers – 57%
  • increased frequency of accidents – 49%
  • unhappy, disengaged employees make more errors and faults – 60%

This all contributes to lower productivity – if this is occurring in all organisations across a countrty, then we can see why governments and employers both need to look at happiness levels as it affects performance within organisations and productivity at national levels which may impact on how countries perform economically against each other.

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of employees are not actively engaged at work. As such, employers cannot assume that their unhappy employees will leave. This is a problem they cannot ignore, hoping it will resolve itself. Evidence from Indeed suggests that half of disengaged employees do not have any plans to change jobs. However, given the costs involved in the recruitment of new staff and the reputational damage caused by poor employee relations, employers need to address issues of employee happiness and wellbeing or it will damage their employer brand.

Employee Wellbeing and Happiness

Since the Covid-19 pandemic changed our world, employers have become more aware of the need to look after employee wellbeing. There has been some concern that focus is diminishing, but many employers are still giving it some attention. According to the CIPD’s Health & Wellbeing at Work Survey 2022, 70% of senior managers are investing in wellbeing, although 90% of HR managers participating in the survey indicated that they believe that their organisation will increase their spending on wellbeing initiatives in the year ahead.

Both CIPD and Indeed suggest that good wellbeing measures are attracting talent to organisations. Furthermore, CIPD indicate that where wellbeing is not being promoted or supported by employers, those organisations experience increased staff turnover, losing key talent.

In conclusion, from an employment perspective, internationally if 85% of workers are not engaged in their organisations, there are a lot of unhappy workers performing poorly which will be impacting on an organisation’s bottom line. To perform better, companies need to look to employee happiness and provide sound wellbeing packages to attract and retain healthier and happier workers which will give the companies a competitive edge.

If organisations can improve their relationship with their employees and governments take steps to address the imbalances across their societies so they have a happier population, we should all be happier.

Additional Reading,Betterment%20of%20the%20Human%20Condition.,sharply%20in%20the%20last%20decade.

Have you ever paid attention to the Happiness Index before? Did you know there is a separate index for happiness at work? Do you think our happiness is something that can be or should be addressed by our governments and employers?

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  1. Interesting! I’ve never had an employer of mine talk about ensuring a happy workplace, though the place I work now does seem to have a lot of genuinely happy people– more so than places I’ve worked in the past.

  2. Agreed, happiness at the workplace is vital for optimum achievement. It also contributes positively to professional growth and personal growth.
    Thanks for this lovely share, Brenda.

    • I didnt really dig into the rankings for individual countries yesterday, but I know that the UK is less happy than 1 year ago. But as I say that I wonder if we are less happy, or just other countries have pushed us down by being happier. The rankings show where we are compared to other countries rather than the measure itself. I guess I’ll need to.explore more

  3. Absolutely Magnificent blog post Brenda. Verily verily I say to you that you are an incredible Blogger and this blog post is evident that you can curate an article , paraphrase it with your own words and then write your thoughts about the topic which is happiness in this post. Also, I didn’t know March 20 is marked International Day of Happiness just like I didn’t know that today March 21 is International Day of Forests😀

    Moreover, great insertion of reference here that define happiness and the variation between being happy and happiness. I have to agree with the findings here that unhappy employees are likely to cause faults and accidents. That is why being happy and in a great state of mind is prevalent in ensuring a happy and successful employee and a successful government🙌🙌

    • Aw thank you so much. Your comments have made me a very happy blogger – which probably also means I’ll be a happy employee and lecturer today 😁😊

      Certainly in customer facing roles, happy employees can make a big difference to the customer experience. 😀

  4. Whoa, what a data-backed post here. I have two stances on this topic. The first is that of course we’ll want to do something that lines up with our gifts. Barring that, I don’t see anything wrong with taking up any work if necessary. The second part is that I’ve found I need to learn to BE happy wherever I’m at, instead of hoping that it’ll come externally from my job. Easier said that done though, lol.

    • It’s certainly easier if you enjoy the work you do, however our happiness can be affected by so many things

  5. What an interesting post on International Happiness Day – I hadn’t really thought of the “macro” level view of happiness. Great data and synthesis, Brenda!

  6. Interesting stuff. I’ve never taken part in a national survey about my happiness levels although I’ve completed many mental health assessments over the years as part of therapy. I would love to know if anyone else has been surveyed and where the government gets their data!

    • It seems like it’s Gallup that carries out these surveys.

      I know employers will carry out various surveys of employees – engagement, well-being (just done that one myself) and culture

  7. I have read the Gallup report on happiness and of course other topics. It’s certainly interesting to define what people think makes them happy. And then I have to wonder about the divergence between what we think makes us happy vs. What actually makes us happy. At work this can mean many things, but I can speak from experience when I say, a happy team is a productive team.
    Coincidentally I just started the Happiness Project. A simple way to create a shift in mindset with weekly ponderings. I hope you’ll join in the fun.

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