The happiness factor

Creating wellbeing at work is not as easy as it seams. This is partly because not everyone has the same idea of happiness. Even the Macquarie Dictionary is a bit vague, defining wellbeing as “a good or satisfactory condition of existence; welfare”.

A lot of focus is on physical health as an aspect of wellbeing, in particular the costs of “lifestyle” diseases such as cancer, heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. One employee with a serious health problem can cost up to $12,000 a year in lost productivity.

With a significant proportion of corporate Australia demonstrating multiple poor health indicators such as obesity, smoking and high blood pressure (much of it due to an aging workforce), the cost to business can easily be extrapolated to be millions of dollars annually.

Managers tend to define wellbeing in terms of productivity, where as employees define it in other ways – such as satisfaction with their life and their perception of their health. It’s less about the physical things such as a nice working environment, or good relationships with people; these things are essential, but at the end of the day it comes down to how they feel about themselves.

Wellbeing is the responsibility of the individual. However, corporations must set an environment which is conducive to wellbeing. Pay, promotion and career development are important – but they’re not everything to everybody. Things like being part of a winning team, a company that has the ability to compete and win the lion’s share of the business it contests, and has high morale as a result, are often more important than being paid the right amount or where the next promotion might be coming from.  As Sigmund Freud said, the elements of a fulfilling life are “love and work… work and love, that’s all there is”.  Of course, in the workplace, ‘caring’ may be a more appropriate term, but the sentiment is still the same.

Martin Seligman – the author of Authentic Happiness – says we need to remind ourselves each day or the good things that happened that day. People who go to sleep in a positive state are more likely to be contented and productive. 

All workers want to have fun. And when managers are in a good mood, research tells us that they elicit more laughter from staff, which helps them absorb even bad news more effectively and respond more nimbly and creatively. In other words, laughter is a serious business.


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