I question that I have often pondered is should companies focus on making their employees happy? As someone that founded an employee engagement and wellbeing consultancy named Better Happy, you might assume that the answer would be a resounding yes. And you'd be right, however, the answer is a 'Yes... but.
Very simply put when people are happy at work they perform better and more consistently. They are more open-minded, more innovative and therefore better team players. They also tend to stick around longer. So of course we want happy employees. What I have listed here isn't what defines 'happy' but what the outcomes of 'happy' are likely to be, and it's at this conjecture that we need to consider what happiness is.
If we go about trying to nurture a culture that prioritises and promotes happiness without understanding what happiness is, we run the very serious risk of creating a culture of entitlement that doesn't lead to very good outcomes at all. You can be the nicest manager, leader or business owner in the world but still be left scratching your head when staff are stressed, unhappy and leaving.
I thought I understood what happiness meant until I spent a few years of my life living in South East Asia, living on monasteries, studying Buddhism and other spiritualities as well as the human mind. What I learned during that time altered my perceptions around what is meant by happiness and how we should go about living our lives. Fortunately for you, you don't need to go and spend two years living out of a backpack to benefit from some of the insights that I have as I'm going to share them with you here in the context of the workplace.
Let's start with what happiness isn't.
Happiness isn't momentary and sensual pleasure.
Happiness isn't comfort.
We've done a great job at creating a lot of that in the modern developed world. The problem we now face is that we believe it's our right to experience ongoing pleasure and comfort. We're told that life is to be enjoyed and that anything that makes us feel discomfort or stress should be avoided. We're told that any presence of stress or anxiety is poor mental health and should be avoided or treated. This of course leads to individuals not stretching themselves. More importantly, this is increasingly creating a culture in workplaces where managers and leaders are fearful of putting any pressure on their employees.
Although I have my own opinions on this matter, I can't state if it is the right or wrong way to approach things. But what I can say with conviction, is that this does not lead to happiness. So let us take a look at what happiness is.
Happiness is a deep level of inner peace that one develops through being a good person.
Happiness is a deep level of satisfaction one experiences through finding meaning in their lives by developing themselves to be the best they can be and contributing to other people/causes.
These are not dictionary definitions of happiness, just what I have come to believe and understand over the years.
To become good people, to continually develop ourselves so that we can contribute meaningfully to other people and causes is not easy. It's no different to a business becoming a good business, contributing to and maintaining profitability. This requires effort, change, discomfort, failing, failing again, learning, failing, learning etc.
To support your employees in being happy, you need to challenge them, they need to fail and learn. You need to help them connect with their big visions and then set challenging goals to achieve them. You need to help them not just discover their challenges and blocks but also come face to face with them.
Being happy and experiencing all of the wonderful benefits that true happiness brings about with it isn't achieved through making and keeping people comfortable. It's about showing them that the best version of themselves is comfortable being uncomfortable.
Helping your employees be happy is key to business success. Being afraid of making them uncomfortable is a guaranteed way to never achieve it.
Want to find our if we can help your business and teams achieve measurably better levels of happiness? Request a call below.