This week’s new collection Happiness At Work Edition #59 features a number of stories about the unhappiness and imbalance of our 21st century working lives, with research findings, forecasts and best practice recommendations for how we can remedy this and build a more flourishing life around our work.
Solutions range from making time for more conversation, to being more generous, to harnessing the insights from a new range of apps designed to measure our different ways of feeling at work, to getting outdoors, to practising mindfulness to playing to our preferred ways of working, especially if we are an introvert.
And, too, as this first story and a couple of our later articles suggest, we need to redesign our outdated 20th century ways of working – where we do it, how we do, when we do and who we do it with – if we really want to build a more resilient, sustainable, workable and successful future…
As the green shoots of economic recovery emerge, new CIPD research shows how urgent action needs to be taken by the corporate world to stem the leaking talent pipeline that could hinder the progress of growth.
Building on the messages in a report from the Women’s Business Council published in June, it is clear that if business does not adopt flexible or innovative working practices, it will continue to lose impressive women who decide to set up their own businesses to achieve a better work-life balance.
‘Inspiring Female Entrepreneurs,’ the second report in a three part series by the CIPD on entrepreneurial practices, highlights that there are more than 2.4 million unemployed women who want to work and that if there were as many female entrepreneurs as there are male entrepreneurs, GDP could be boosted by 10% by 2030.
To gain insight into what motivates female entrepreneurs and makes them successful, the CIPD interviewed a number of women to find out what made them go solo, what has made them thrive and what they think would encourage more to set up on their own. What became clear is that employers could have much to gain by creating the conditions in which these talented and committed women could thrive in the corporate world…
Chatting over lunch and joking with coworkers may not seem like more than pleasant distractions at the office, but they could have an enormous impact on your work life. With employee engagement declining and more than eight in 10 American workersexperiencing job-related stress — female employees being even more more vulnerableto workplace tension than men — friendship could make the difference between happiness at work and burnout. Research has found that strong social connections at the office can boost productivity, and could make employees more passionate about their work and less likely to quit their jobs.
According to Christine M. Riordan, provost and professor of management at the University of Kentucky, camaraderie is a key ingredient to happiness at work for male and female employees. A study led by Riordan, published in the Journal of Business Psychology in the ’90s, found that the mere opportunity for friendship increases employee job satisfaction and organizational effectiveness…
A NEW STUDY FINDS THAT PEOPLE REALLY ARE PRETTY MISERABLE AT WORK, AND NOT MUCH YOU CAN DO WILL HELP. BUT THERE IS ONE PRETTY EASY FIX: YOUR COWORKERS.
…According to a new study (PDF) by Alex Bryson and George MacKerron, published through the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and Political Science, of all the things we choose to do at work (other than work!), it’s casually interacting with our colleagues that makes us happiest. From the article:
The largest positive net effect of combining work and another activity on happiness relates to ‘Talking, chatting, socialising’. . . .There are clearly positive psychological benefits of being able to socialise whilst working. It is the only activity that, in combination with working, results in happiness levels that are similar to those experienced when not working…
By Judith Burns
Mealtime chatter helps boost children’s communication skills, suggests a study by the National Literacy Trust.
Children whose families sit and talk during meals are more confident, the poll of 35,000 UK children indicates.
But more than one in every four misses out on daily mealtime chats with their families, suggests the poll.
Former EastEnders actress, mother and literacy campaigner Natalie Cassidy said: “Food is fuel for our bodies. So is conversation for our brains.”
Ms Cassidy urged parents: “Even if you’re strapped for time, make 10-15 minutes to all sit down together.”…
The data suggests that sitting in silence at mealtimes is worse for children’s confidence than not sitting down for family meals at all.
The results suggest that some two-thirds (62%) of those who talk daily with their families at mealtimes feel confident to speak in front of a group, compared with less than half (47%) of those who eat in silence and just over half (52%) of children who don’t sit down for meals…
The trust’s director Jonathan Douglas said: “Our research shows just how vital conversation at home is to the future success of our children and young people.
“Talking and communicating at home, for example at mealtimes, will help children gain the skills they need for a successful and happy life.”
By Beth Gilbert
Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Introverts — people with quieter and more reflective personalities — typically thrive within the inner workings of their own minds. Extroverts, however, are more outgoing and tend to feel comfortable surrounded by people.
But social savvy isn’t the only difference between the two personality types: Research shows that the factors that contribute to an extrovert’s happiness and those that add to an introvert’s happiness don’t always mesh.
“An introvert’s rocket fuel is an extrovert’s Kryptonite and vice versa,” says Nancy Ancowitz, business communication coach and author of Self-Promotion for Introverts. “Long stretches of quiet activities like reading, writing, and researching may energize an introvert, but can serve as solitary confinement for an extrovert. Frequent social interactions and multitasking can energize an extrovert and really zap an introvert.”
by John French
The David Suzuki Foundation has discovered happiness. A report from the foundation has confirmed that a daily dose of nature boosts happiness and wellbeing…
The foundation asked more than 10,000 Canadians and 250 workplaces to participate in what it called the 30×30 Nature Challenge. Those participating were challenged to get outside for half an hour a day for 30 consecutive days.
Trent University Researcher Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet conducted the research initiative.
“We found that participation in the 30×30 Nature Challenge almost doubled their time spent outside during the month and reduced their screen time by about 4.5 hours per week,” said Nisbet of the spring report. “They reported significant increases in their sense of well-being, feeling more vitality and energy, while feelings of stress, negativity and sleep disturbances were all reduced.”
Nisbet reported the research indicated workplace participants said they felt more productive on the job. She reported participants indicated a slightly stronger sense of identification with the natural world and a desire to spend more time outdoors. Many of the people who took part in the challenge said they felt happier by eating lunch outside or walking through a park.
According to the foundation, the results of the challenge are consistent with growing evidence that even brief nature contact enhances positive mood and reduces stress…
by Sean Blanda
When it comes to when and how we help others, most of us fit into one of three categories:
- Givers, who help others unconditionally, demanding nothing in return.
- Matchers, who usually only help those who have helped them.
- Takers, those who demand help but never offer.
Penn professor Adam Grant is a Giver. He’s also the youngest tenured professor at Wharton and is the author of the best-selling Give and Take. Grant believes that the success of our careers is due to our generosity with our time and knowledge. Givers, he says, are usually either at the top or bottom of their field, with Matchers and Takers sprinkled in between.
After publicly proclaiming to the world that he answers any and all favor requestsin the New York Times, Grant is the best test case for his own theory. However, Grant manages it all well thanks to being ruthless with his time. I asked him how he handles the deluge and if he has any advice for those of us who feel too squeezed to be good “Givers.” …
By Elise Proulx
…“The science of positive psychology has now achieved a point where it is comparable to the other sub-disciplines of psychology,” wrote IPPA president Robert Vallerand in the Congress’ welcome message. “And the scientifically informed applications of positive psychology are more popular and diversified than ever.”
As Vallerand suggests, the leaders of positive psychology have always prided themselves on delivering scientific findings with clear practical applications. Here are three of the most striking and practical insights I took away from the Congress.
1. Look to the future for a meaningful life.
Now-familiar research shows that we are happiest when we live in the present and that practicing mindfulness — which involves tuning in to our thoughts, emotions and sensations in the present moment — is good for our bodies, brains and relationships.
But in their IPPA keynote, Martin Seligman and Roy Baumeister, both giants in the field of positive psychology, argued for the importance of focusing on the future. Looking ahead, they believe, can bring meaning to our lives — a school of thought they call “prospective psychology.”
The core of this concept is that it becomes a lot easier to understand some of the complexities of the human mind once you consider that we evolved to predict the future — and that doing this well is key to survival. “So intelligence isn’t about what you know,” said Seligman, “but about how well you can predict an act in the future.”…
So while happiness may be all about the present, meaningfulness may be found in the future. Only by connecting the two can one find the greatest meaning, purpose and happiness in life.
2. Detaching from work is a good thing … for most of us.
…Sonnentag defines detachment as a sense of “being away from work.” While this feeling has different sources for different people, it could include staying off work email and not thinking about work in the evenings and on days off.
Detaching from work allows individuals to feel recovered and refreshed, Sonnentag said, which then allows them to have more energy and be more efficient in their work lives.
Sonnentag says detachment from work seems especially important — not surprisingly — when job stressors are high. Indeed, the more time pressure employees feel, the less able they are to detach, which leads to a negative spiral of stress and rumination.
Supervisors should take note: Being realistic about deadlines may make for a more efficient operation.
But not everyone feels the benefits from detachment: Employees who have strong positive emotions toward work — such as firefighters who feel their jobs provide a positive social impact — may benefit more from not detaching. For this group, the positive feelings they have during the day spill over into evening rest time, and detaching can actually negate those positive feelings.
That said, while each individual needs to assess his or her own need for detachment, for most of us, periodically disconnecting from the stress of work and the burdens of technology — for example, by taking a Friday night family break from all electronics – is probably an important way to guard against burnout — and make us better workers.
3. “We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.”
These words from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill infused psychologist Marino Bonaiuto’s talk on environmental psychology.
Bonaiuto, of the University of Rome, studies how the physical components of our environment are linked to and affect our mental states and social interactions. When an individual’s biological or psychological needs are met by the resources available in the environment — green spaces, physical layout of infrastructure, well-tended buildings — there is good “person-environment fit” that leads to greater well-being…
In this way, Bonaiuto was affirming a theme I heard often at the Congress: the power we have to shape our happiness and the happiness of those around us. Whether as individuals or working together as groups, the presenters emphasized, we can affect our external environment and internal landscapes for the better…
by Cheryl Rezek
A mindful leader can respond to change with focus and clarity, and avoid repeating the same mistakes
What does the ancient eastern practice of mindfulness, often associated with orange-clothed chanting monks, have to do with the fast-paced, performance-driven style of western leadership? In tough times, it could act as an influential asset in the public service’s fight for survival.
Mindfulness is about paying attention to what is happening in the present moment, a moment in time. It is about focusing attention on the present in a way that allows that moment to be experienced and observed closely. It involves developing the skills to allow yourself to engage actively with whatever is happening at the time, as well as concurrently viewing that moment from a more strategic standpoint.
…When there is less clutter and fewer distractions within one’s own head it is easier to gain clarity and perspective; mindfulness allows one to both notice more detail and see the bigger picture.
A mindful leader can reduce disorder by bringing focus and intent to the situation. By acknowledging and accepting change, the leader can step back, observe and respond with composure and purpose.
Dealing with change
If leaders realise that change is inevitable, they can encourage sufficient resilience in individuals, teams and organisations. …This helps to safeguard an organisation from disillusionment and destruction by enforcing outdated rules and processes.
Research on mindfulness suggests that it can also help to:
• reduce the cost of staff absenteeism caused by illness, injury and stress
• improve cognitive functioning, memory, learning ability and creativity
• improve productivity and improve overall staff and business wellbeing
• reduce staff turnover and associated costs.
Mindful leadership is not a patronising fad implying that, if we are calm, everything will be fine. The reality of our working world is that all may not be fine. What mindfulness can do is develop a thinking, emotional and instinctual mind so that the leader can do the best for self, team and organisation.
by Shawn Murphy
Meaningful work stirs up internal satisfaction through doing the work and releasing it for others to benefit and experience.
While meaningful work is experienced at an individual level, its power is fully unleashed when it’s a characteristic of workplace or team culture.
So, then, what do leaders need to do to cause meaningful work? Here are nine essentials.
Clarity in Your Values
Know what you stand for to anchor your leadership…
Culture of Optimism
The work environment needs to lead employees to believe that great results are possible through their contributions – individually and collectively. Additionally, employees are inspired by the good works of others and by their own output.
Concentration on People
A leader must believe that employees are the cornerstone to a business’s success. Leadership actions and decisions essential for meaning are made from this central belief.
Connection Among Employees
Meaning expands when people have a sense of belonging. Brené Brownadvocates that people need to believe they can be themselves and not worry about fitting in. When connections exist among employees, belonging can emerge.
Constancy in Purpose
Leadership 101 always asks us to paint a picture of where we need to take the team. Purpose helps paint such a picture.
Deeper meaning emerges when there is conflict between what we believe and do, and with different beliefs and approaches presented by others.
Charisma for Learning
Meaning thrives on insight and awareness. These two criteria are only possible when we stay in a continuous learning loop…
Courage to Care
Address half-ass work and missed deadlines. Celebrate milestones. Give just-because recognition. Have the courage to show you care about people and quality results – consistently.
Work that results in little or no progress frustrates, infuriates, alienates, and decimates meaning and hope. People must see progress and alignment with the purpose you communicate. Without progress, meaning wanes.
This list presents a major leadership challenge. The weak leader will choose to procrastinate in creating a culture where meaningful work abounds. However, given the abysmal state of the workplace, it’s a choice that cannot be overlooked if a thriving culture is important to producing results and keeping talented people from leaving your team.
The research also provides useful insight for anyone whose job it is to ensure their organisation can attract and retain the right employees.
For instance, the findings that those who work flexibly or study part-time have the greatest sense of wellbeing should spur any organisations to think about how training, education and a creative approach to working hours can be used as employee benefits.
The negative impact that illness and disability has on wellbeing is a call to action for all employers to take these issues seriously in the support they offer their employees. Not just through reactive measures like employee helplines and health insurance but by proactive wellbeing programmes – whether these relate to financial or physical wellbeing.
More broadly, the focus on wellbeing is a reminder that happiness makes a great difference to the way people approach their lives. This applies to the workplace as much as anywhere else…
By Nastaran Tavakoli-Far
Unhappy workers leave.
Recent studies show that up to 70% of workers in the US are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work.
Happy workers tend to be more productive – which makes it sensible to focus on making sure your staff are content…
Tiny Pulse is an app which sends out short weekly surveys to workers to see how happy they are, and makes graphs of the results so bosses can see how workers feel each week. Employers can tailor the surveys, and can also give positive feedback straight to workers.
The app also allows employees to communicate with their bosses – anonymously.
Better tech at home
Microsoft chief envisioning officer and author Dave Coplin believes workers often have better technology at home than in the workplace; it used to be the other way around. As a result he thinks people are often frustrated at work.
“Today people feel trapped by technology,” he says, explaining many workplaces have limited its use.
Work.com’s Nick Stein agrees. Work.com is a platform that aims to increase performance, by focusing on aligning goals between employer and employee, providing feedback, and mutual motivation. On Work.com employees have profiles which display their expertise and goals, and employers and employees can praise each other on performance day to day, rather than in one end-of-year review.
Mr Stein says the internet has given people more voice than ever before, but work environments have not kept up – it can still be hard to speak up.
Workers may feel they need to be at a certain level before they can express their views…
Healthy brain, healthy work
Companies don’t have to use bespoke tools to create happier workers. Devices used to measure various health indicators can also gauge worker happiness.
Neuroscientist Rob Goldberg believes that pushing people is simply bad for the brain. The result is that they don’t do their best work.
“We really need to push the perspective that brain health and performance are one and the same thing,” he says.
Mr Goldberg is part of Neumitra, a start-up out of MIT. Their app Bandu measures stress levels via a special wrist watch.
Feeling stressed is a survival mechanism – however it stops the brain focusing and functioning effectively, according to Mr Goldberg. He says employers should monitor workers’ stress levels and adjust accordingly.
There may even be the need for fundamental changes. Mr Goldberg points to the high stress levels caused by getting into the office at rush hour.Apps like Cardiio, which measures heart rate, can be used to check employee health.
Yet working 9-5 is a historical throwback to the manufacturing production line, and is no longer relevant for many companies, he says. So one easy way to reduce stress might be to change working hours to reduce the amount staff have to travel at peak times…
Journalist and founder of the non-profit The H(app)athon Project John Havens believes that other health related apps and tools can and should be used by workplaces.
He points to apps like Cardiio, which measures heart rate using an iPhone’s camera, and Affectiva, created so that advertising agencies can read people’s emotions through their facial expressions. These tools may not have been designed with offices in mind, but he says they can be used by bosses to see how well, and in turn how happy, their workers are.
However, he believes there are other factors at work.
“Most of it boils down to having a sense of purpose and meaning,” he says about workplace happiness. “These should be more of a focus.”
Basic questions, not tools
Consultancy Delivering Happiness believes in the importance of deriving meaning from work. It began as a book by Zappos chief executive Tony Hsieh, looking at how companies could make workers happy while also pursuing profits.
Now they consult, helping businesses focus equally on worker happiness and profits.
Chief executive Jenn Lim says happy workers require a company that knows what its values are, and that this is more important than tools and technologies.
“[Not asking these questions] is the answer to why we as a society can’t sustain our happiness,” she says. “It all comes back to very basic things. If we don’t have the values in place all the rest could be a lost cause.”
A new study has highlighted the impact that Britain’s ‘all work and no play’ culture could be having on employees’ personal lives.
Health cash plan provider Medicash conducted a survey of more than 1,000 working parents and found that more than four out of five (83 per cent) felt guilty about the amount of time they dedicated to their jobs.
Half (50 per cent) of respondents said their work commitments had limited the amount of time they could spend with their children and 46 per cent had experienced problems in their relationship with their partner.
A quarter (25 per cent) of workers have neglected friends because of their career responsibilities, according to the research.
Focusing on how demanding jobs can impact family life, the study found that 50 per cent of working mums and dads had missed a child’s sports day, school play or parents’ evening and 43 per cent had worked through holidays.
The majority (59 per cent) of people polled admitted that their children had complained about the amount of time they devoted to work.
Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University and director of employee wellbeing firm Robertson Cooper, said: “The fact that many people feel guilty about how they spend their time is hugely significant – it shows how important it is to maintain work-life balance.
“The evidence shows that flexible working delivers to the business’ bottom line, with employees feeling less guilty about how they spend their time and achieving a better balance between work and home commitments.”
by Jenn Godbout
Author Philip Pullman wrote, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” Whether we’re talking about life, business, or art, storytelling is an essential skill. Maybe even THE most essential skill. But that doesn’t mean it comes naturally.
Whether it’s your own personal bio, a summary for your company’s “about” page, or a pitch to a major client, fitting everything important into a concise yet engaging narrative is a challenging task. So we turned to performer, comedian, and storytelling guru David Crabb to share his storytelling framework. It’s called the Five Beats of Storytelling, and you can use it to make any story more interesting, engaging, and memorable.
For example, let’s say you’re a business major-turned-illustrator who’s jumped from finance to freelance and is now seeking an in-house position. When the interviewer asks about your work history, you’ll want to convey how your background is relevant, your excellent work ethic, and your passion for the position. The five beats can help you hit your mark AND keep your audience engaged. Here’s how it breaks down:
Beat 1: The introduction
Where you set the scene and tell your readers everything they need to know to understand why what you’re about to say is important…
Beat 2: The inciting incident
The question that your story is asking OR when the protagonist (you or your company) is faced with a challenge. This is a great place to show vulnerability…
Beat 3: Raising the stakes
A series of moments that give weight and context to the inciting incident. This is a great place to get specific and provide details that will make your story more memorable…
Beat 4: The main event
This is where we see the inciting incident come to a head (aka the climax). This is either the answer to the question we asked in the second beat or where the protagonist solves his or her dilemma — a pivot or a change (even if it’s just a shift in attitude) should occur…
Beat 5: The resolution
In the fifth beat, you have an opportunity to highlight what makes the story unique. If you’ve just described a failure or challenge, this would be the time to reflect on what you learned…
For all of these stories and more see our Happiness At Work collection…