Understanding happiness to thrive in the workplace
23 August 2021 — Written by Aishwarya Muralidhar
It’s no surprise that being happy at work has a direct correlation to your performance and productivity. Research suggests that happy employees are 12% more productive. However, an overwhelming majority of us struggle with feeling happy at the workplace. Just 41% of employees say that they are happy most of the time at work! What can leaders and employees do to turn this around?
During our Masterclass with Sriram Kalyanaraman, the founder of Amaidhi School of Transformation, we delved into better understanding happiness. What is happiness? Why is compassion at the workplace important? And how can we all work towards building a happy work environment?
While it may sound like a straightforward question, articulating the feeling of happiness into words is harder than it seems. All of us understand and experience happiness in our own ways. However, we find a way to communicate the feeling due to a shared comprehension of language constructs. In India, words like nirvana, sugha, and preya are all used to convey happiness, but each of them has subtle differences.
Nirvana stands for enlightenment, sugha means happiness, while preya conveys temporary happiness.
The Hindi language alone has three different words to specify the feeling of happiness! It’s the case with different cultures around the world too! For instance, the Japanese use the term mono no aware to describe the fleeting existence of beauty and nature. The Greek uses the word eudaimonia to express happiness that comes from the fulfillment of one’s life’s pursuits.
What does all of this mean for us? Our understanding of the word is limited to our vocabulary and the language that we use! All of us associate happiness with different things and therefore understand the word differently.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of things, we need to confront one specific societal conditioning that we’ve all been subject to in our lives. The idea that work environments will be stressful and expected too! By having this thought on the back burner, we’re already going into work with a negative mindset. It’s important to recognise this before we get on to finding ways to be happy at work.
Jim Smith, a happiness coach, says, “Happiness is a decision, not an event.” It is an act of will. It is an act of will. While the workplace can be stressful, it is eventually up to us to find eudaimonia amidst the chaos. Compassion at the workplace starts with ourselves. Although we can’t control external events, we can control our actions and reactions. When in a positive frame of mind, we take actions that drive results more effectively.
The above image shows our body’s heat/energy signatures of individuals while experiencing different emotions. If emotions can influence the body, can’t the body affect our emotions as well? How do you feel when you sit at a desk with your hands supporting your head? Lethargic? Boredom, perhaps? How about when you have your arms open wide while holding a happy memory in your mind?
The body is the fastest response mechanism we have available to us. When you feel drained of energy, move. It could be just a brisk walk or a smile at the thought of happy memories!
Shift your mindset
Be it through journaling, meditation, or asking open-ended questions to help you delve deeper into yourself, take the time to check-in. A happy heart, a settled mind, and a relaxed body; help you to stay calm and happy.
During the masterclass, Sriram emphasised that compassion can come across in many forms. At the workplace, there are times when we might have to put our foot down. Tough action, when needed, against an employee or a counterpart can also be compassion. Don’t feel guilty if you’re ever in that position!
“Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength” - Dalai Lama
To be compassionate is to understand when someone is going through a hard time and reach out to them. Compassion brings forth positive emotions like gratitude, which can help reduce anxiety. Be there for others, even if you’re not quite sure how you can help. It’s the thought and action that counts.
It further communicates dignity and worth, helping people at work feel valued. It increases the sufferer’s attachment and commitment to the organization too. A compassionate workplace builds overall levels of collaboration, encourages witnesses to work more for the common good, and inspires pride!
Happiness at the workplace starts with ourselves. However, we should all make a collective effort to enrich the workplace to be a safe space for everyone. Take the time to work out your anxieties with work and don’t be afraid to reach out to someone, or be there when in need!