“The whining schoolboy, with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail,
Unwillingly to school.” – William Shakespeare (As You Like It)
Replace schoolboy with jet-setting executive, satchel with laptop bag, school with office… and Shakespeare’s words continue to ring true even today.
As complexity and pressure to perform at the workplace multiplies, happiness has probably diminished to an all-time low. A shocking statistic by Gallup reveals that a mere 32 per cent of the workforce in the US is actively engaged at the workplace. The India story is no different. The World Happiness Report by United Nations lists India at a dismal 118, much lower than Pakistan (92), China (83) and Kosovo (77).
Why is workplace happiness important? Most believe, happiness is bound to follow if they are successful. There is an inherent flaw in this argument. Success is invariably a moving target! A meta-analysis of over 200 studies on happiness, covering 2,75,000 people from across the world, indicates ‘Happiness is not the outcome of success, but a precursor’.
Happiness is not just a warm, fuzzy feeling or the buzz in your head after a glass of champagne. Research from neuroscience and positive psychology provides ample evidence on the performance boosting ability of happiness. Engaging the prefrontal cortex (the thinking part of the brain), being in a reward state and the neurochemistry of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin can lead to magic at the workplace. Consider this: Happy employees:
Most organisations haven’t been able to crack the happiness code. Bean bags and free beer is mere tokenism. While some have tried to create the ‘all-important’ position of a Chief Happiness Officer, shouldn’t every employee take ownership of their happiness?
The good news is that awareness levels are on the rise. A majority of MNCs have started adopting their global best (and happy) practices in their Indian offices. American Express powers a successful employee engagement and assistance service ‘Healthy Minds’. In fact, ‘happiness@work’ is not just a catchy advertising slogan, but a very popular and effective programme in the organisation. It should come as little surprise that American Express, historically, enjoys among the lowest attrition rates and was recently ranked second in the ‘Best Place to Work’ study. Table-topper Google has probably set the gold standard with respect to workplace happiness and continues to enjoy success in terms of employee engagement, productivity and breakthrough innovation.
Some Indian organisations have started taking giant strides. Tata Sons, the salt-to-software conglomerate, was one of the first off-the-block to have codified their pursuit of workplace happiness. The Tata brand is a distinct example of core values being consistent across the market-place and workplace culture. Café Coffee Day is another fabulous example where the growth pressure of launching stores every week doesn’t interfere with workplace happiness. From the barista at a store to the senior leadership team, there is a ‘happy’ kick in every employee… just like in their coffee!
In pursuit of profit and productivity, organisations often obsess over ‘return on investment’ and rightfully so. Maybe it is time to focus on purpose and start tracking ‘return on happiness’. It is bound to pay back in spades!
The article first appeared in DNA
Sorbojeet Chatterjee is a marketing consultant, media specialist, certified life coach, avid traveler and a doting dad. He is the Co-Founder of Happ Coach (an online platform for Life Coaches and Mentors). He tweets @sorbojeet