Happiness at Work as a Symbol of the 21st Century or another Fashion Wave?


Happiness at Work as a Symbol of the 21st Century or another Fashion Wave?

Happiness. A word that is used almost daily. What does it exactly mean for us? Do we seek it not only in personal but also professional life? Will the 21st century become known as the era in which companies started to actively strive for the happiness of their employees?

The term “happiness management” has recently emerged in companies in relation to various positions (eg happiness manager, happiness officer) and activities (eg happiness breakfasts). This is frequently a more-attractive name for things that have been in place in the organisation for a long time and whose substance will be affected only marginally (if at all) by changing the name. Aside from a large number of new studies, articles and books, the more-frequent occurrence of the word “happiness” in connection with the labour market may be perceived as further evidence that happiness at work certainly ranks among key topics in society.

Does this global trend have solid foundations or is it only a bubble that will eventually burst?

From bliss to positive psychology

Surprisingly, happiness has not been an issue of recent years or even months as one could assume considering, for example, the media coverage of the topic. The issue was already addressed by Ancient philosophers who sought to define the essence of a happy life using related terms, such as pleasure, bliss and welfare. At that time, happiness was perceived as achieving pleasant feelings by satisfying one’s life needs or reaching for a higher sense.

In line with developments in society, this approach to happiness evolved and changed. In psychology, this topic was widely debated at the turn of the millennium in relation to the new trend of “positive psychology” formed in the USA. To a great extent, positive psychology laid the scientific foundations for and was the inspiration of happiness at work.  

Therefore, if happiness is not to be approached as something used solely for promotion, catching attention and increasing the attractiveness of anything to which the label of “happiness” is added, it will be necessary to examine current scientific findings regarding this topic – and needless to say there are many. We may start with psychological concepts, such as flow, psychological resilience, learned optimism, positive leadership and personal wellbeing.

More than a fashion trend

A long-term trend has indicated that it is insufficient to stir up happiness merely by external circumstances. Feelings aroused in this manner do not last for long. Apart from external factors such as teambuilding and sports activities as well as random acts of generosity, employers may offer more coherent happiness programmes built on the latest scientific findings in this area, giving increased attention to the internal happiness development.

What may be the specific areas of focus? Ranging from self-knowledge, identification of the strengths of each employee, positive approach to problem solving and challenges to stress and burnout prevention. If we manage to apply psychologic principles of happiness into practice, we will be able to observe their positive impacts on employees in the form of happiness and motivation as well as physical and mental health.

The term “happiness at work” may spark various reactions among people – either a smile or a disapproving shake of one’s head. If we, however, deal with the issue from a scientific perspective as outlined above, positive implications will be obvious. Happiness at work does not have to become a forgotten fashion wave attributable to the needs of the millennial generation or a typical feature of start-ups but beneficial reality for all.

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