The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone’s lives upside down. For some, the change has been more dramatic than for others.

The same can be said about most companies, which will have had to become extremely agile in the way they have managed their teams, serviced their customers, and delivered value to their shareholders. Old ideas and thoughts of “it can’t be done” suddenly became “it can be done”, and “this is very ‘doable’”. Decisions that usually took a while to make were taken in days, and sometimes even hours.

We were all booted out of our comfort zones into the unknown. Creativity, innovation, and seeking new ways of achieving the impossible owed through every company!

This blog is the first in a two-part series on why happiness matters in the workplace. In the second part, I will provide practical tips on how to start implementing happiness in your company.

In the past few years, there has been a call for companies to focus on honouring stakeholder rather than shareholder returns. This focus has uplifted the well-being in four domains: leaders, employees, customers, and the community. Some companies have made this shift from the industrial revolution age to the human revolution of leading; however, they still remain in the minority.

COVID-19, as disastrous as its global impact has been, has fast-tracked the emphasis companies are placing on the well-being of their leaders and employees. Perhaps for the first time, they’re genuinely realising that without their people, there will be no business to service customers, no growth, and inability to maintain their competitive advantage. The pandemic has started to bring humanity back into the workplace, and to give employees a voice.

It may sound absurd, but incorporating well-being into your company means allowing happiness to filter in. Bringing humanity into an organisation means making happiness a primary strategic goal of executive leadership. Of course, making a profit will remain the primary motive, but it cannot be at the cost of having unhappy leaders, employees, or customers.

What is happiness?

The happiness concept has been around for the last 30 years. It’s not a ‘phase’; it’s here to stay, and will in future gain more and more momentum. Right now, happiness has already infiltrated psychology, medicine, and education, and it’s starting to gain traction in business and government. Danish philosopher Knud Ejler Løgstrup says that, as a leader, you have an ethical obligation to treat those around you in such a way that it increases their level of happiness. You may have never considered that, as part of your leadership role, you need to ensure that your employees are happy.

So, what is happiness? Is it a frivolous topic to align with leadership, organisations, or politics?

Most leaders feel that happiness doesn’t belong in the workplace, and certainly not in politics. Happiness is everyone’s own personal affair, isn’t it? And it’s up to everyone to work on their happiness levels in their own time. Well, it doesn’t quite work like that, because people can’t compartmentalise their lives into these various domains. Instead, they all interlink with each other. Think about it this way, you can’t be happy at work and unhappy in your personal life, as the one spills over into the other.

The simplest definition of happiness is to experience frequent positive emotions, combined with a sense that, overall, life is satisfactory and fulfilling. It might seem like a broad definition, but to ensure that employees experience mostly positive emotions at work, and are generally satisfied and fulfilled by their work, suddenly doesn’t sound so easy anymore. Of course, the positive benefits happiness brings to the workplace are immense: increased productivity, creativity, learning, resilience, and better decision- making. Also, it reduces absenteeism, stress, depression, and disengagement. These can all severely impact the bottom line, teamwork, and culture.

Alexander Kjerulf, one of the world’s leading experts on happiness at work said that “happiness is not only an integral part of leading, but should be the ultimate goal of leadership.”

How much do you make happiness a critical part of your leadership role?

“True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers; not the enrichment of the leaders.” – Robert Townsend, US business executive.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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