When I was 21 my girlfriends and I went on a working holiday around Australia and our first stop was Brisbane. Within a few days I obtained a position working in an office. It was a rather old fashioned type of office laid out like a classroom, with all of the desks lined up in rows and the supervisor’s desk up front facing us. The supervisor was a very dour man who would time us whenever we went to the bathroom. If anyone took a break longer than 2 minutes, they would be spoken to. Talking, or any type of interaction was frowned upon and if you were caught talking, you were yelled at by the supervisor. We were expected to sit at our desks and work silently until the bell went. Now I have always been a hard worker, even when I was young, but the atmosphere in that office did not make me feel happy, inspire me to work hard, it just made me rebellious. Five days later I had the good sense to walk out, it was the one and only time I ever walked out of a job.
There is a reason why companies such as Google, Apple and Coca Cola provide a different work culture today. Google are known to provide video games, pool tables, cafes and micro-kitchens. Many of these forward thinking companies provide spaces for time out, or to meditate. They encourage collaboration because they know that happy workers are more productive.
In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor says that a meta-analysis of happiness research brought together the results of over 200 scientific studies on just under 275,000 people. They found that happy people are more successful in every area of life. They are more productive at work. They have better relationships. They make better leaders. They have less sick days and they earn more money.
To be happy there are three main criteria that need to be met.
1. We need to feel pleasure, and I interpret that as having our needs met and living a life that is fun. Often as we mature and take on more responsibility it’s easy to drop all of the activities that represent fun for us, but it doesn’t matter how old we are or how busy, fun is important.
2. We need social connection. Many people withdraw into themselves whenever they feel sad, hurt or down, that is the worst thing we can do. When we reach out to others we experience feel good hormones which can turn our mood around.
3. We need to live a life which is meaningful. I experienced so much confusion when I was younger because I didn’t know what I was meant to do. Once I started working with and helping people, which is something I love doing, I felt as if I had found my life’s calling. I still feel that way today.
Studies now show that the old style of barking orders fostered a stressed and fearful workforce, and is not as effective as having employees who make being happy their number one priority.
I highly recommend Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage, it is quite brilliant.