Engaged and happy teams at work… how do you do it?
Until recently, I avoided pretty much any and every article attempting to address this question. Because I strongly believe happiness cannot – and should not – be a goal in and of itself. On top of that, I am convinced that merely having a bunch of happy employees walking down the hallways of your offices doesn’t necessarily equate having a successful company.
Then, just the other day, I saw an interview with Dan Buettner, the National Geographic Fellow. This successful explorer, award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author travelled the world and discovered the 5 places on earth – dubbed Blue Zones – where people live the longest, healthiest lives, managing a vital lifestyle until well into their 80s, 90s or even 100s! And since health, vitality and happiness go hand in hand, Dan’s discovery of Blue Zones equally led him to learn a fascinating thing or two about happiness… to say the least!
That is why this interview with Dan Buettner triggered me to write this blog: because I found his analysis of happiness surprisingly refreshing.
But before I share with you his most valuable insights and tips, and translate them into work floor vocabulary for you, let me start off by asking you a question:
Your goal (surely enough!) is to lead a genuinely happy life. Below, there are 3 descriptions of life styles you could possibly lead. If you were to pick the one that would most accurately reflect a genuinely happy life for you, which one would you go for?
- You choose to lead a life completely in line with your personal mission, a life that leaves you feeling satisfied. Your job truly reflects your personal values. You are happy, but don’t necessarily make loads of money.
- You choose a job that requires you to work very hard and do your utmost, day after day. You make money accordingly (that is to say: an awful lot!) and the likelihood that you retire with a huge sum in your bank account is very high.
- You choose to lead a life marked by fun and joyous times, in which personal contact plays an important role and you spend on average 6 to 7 hours a day with friends and family. In short, in principle not a day goes by without having enjoyed many intense moments of pleasure.
– If you choose option 1, Dan advises you to live in Denmark.
– If you choose option 2, then you are better off moving to Singapore.
– If you choose option 3, Costa Rica is your place to be.
The fact that these 3 different scenarios can make different people happy, goes to show that happiness is not a concept easily or simply defined: not everyone defines happiness in the same terms and, as such, happiness comes in many shapes and forms!
For starters, 50% of happiness comes down to genetics, according to Dan. Every one of us is hormonally endowed with a certain capacity for happiness: on a scale of 1 to 10, people with more “happiness genes” will give themselves a 9 out of 10 if they are experiencing an utmost happy day, while people with less “happiness genes” will only give themselves a 6 out of 10 when they are experiencing their utmost happy day.
This genetically determined range of happiness is more or less fixed, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are still left with another 50% which we can have an impact on with a view to maximise it! And when it comes to that remaining 50%, Dan draws a comparison between happiness and a cake recipe, for which you need several ingredients.
From the results of Dan’s research, I extracted those 3 ingredients that to me seemed most important and relevant, especially in a professional business context: PLEASURE, PURPOSE and PRIDE!
PLEASURE stands for your everyday positive emotions and experiences
PURPOSE stands for your passion, your drive and your sense of meaning and connection
PRIDE stands for your sense of satisfaction in the major areas of your life.
These are 3 ingredients which you can influence and play with. And doing so will allow you to maximise your chances of successfully translating the secret of the “Blue Zones” into a happier and more engaged workforce!
Let me tell you how…
1. Create a pleasant working environment
Dan says that “your environment, where you live or how you shape your surroundings, is the biggest, most important, and most impactful thing you can do to favour your own happiness”. His research has shown that people who live surrounded by nature, nearby water or in the mountains, tend to be a whole lot happier in life.
And since any average employee easily spends 8, 9 or even 10 hours a day at work, the least we can do is apply those findings to our working environments! Because there too functioning in a pleasant environment is crucial: an environment that lets the sunshine in, one that energises you, with inspiring quotes and pictures on the walls, decorated with a little bit of in-house nature, in a building constructed with natural and sustainable materials, … these details might seem trivial at first, but they make a world of difference when it comes to the happiness levels of your employees!
2. Work on a positive corporate culture
People who feel connected with the values and mission of the organisation they work for are not only happier, but also far more engaged.
That is why it is so tremendously important to recruit your people in function of those values and mission: an alignment here is priceless!
And once that initial condition of having your values aligned is fulfilled, it is obviously just as important to imprint that PURPOSE that Dan refers to – that sense of meaning that is so vital to happiness – into the DNA of your people. Because the more people experience that feeling of completing meaningful tasks and positively contributing to the success of your organisation, the stronger they will feel connected and the happier they will be. Company values and messages merely decorating the walls of your headquarters without finding their way into the hearts of your employees are a complete waste of time, energy and resources.
Find out how to successfully imprint the values and mission of your organisation into the DNA of your people here.
3. Invest in social connection
According to Dan, people who get to regularly experience face-to-face contact are by far happier than people who spend their days staring at computer screens. In Costa Rica (1 of the “Blue Zones”), for example, buildings and cities are constructed and planned in such a way as to stimulate and increase face-to-face contact between people… and with success, one would have to conclude!
So, when it comes to company life, rely on social recognition to help people feel truly connected with each other, and create a positive and appreciative environment that facilitates this sense of connection! That way, you will automatically stimulate face-to-face contact between people and develop a working environment with positive people, who love each other, who believe in each other and who want the very best for each other. In short, a working environment in which friendships can flourish!
Because nothing is more horrible than having to spend your days working in a toxic environment, in which jealousy and harassment prosper. And that kind of environment doesn’t only make people unhappy! In the long term, it most definitely makes them fall ill too…
So now that you know the most important ingredients and know how to translate them successfully into a happier and more engaged workforce, you have no more excuse not to boost your company’s happiness levels! Create an environment in which people feel emotionally supported and safe, and are eager to come to work – day, after day, after day. In short: create your own Blue Zone!
With a lot of PLEASURE, PURPOSE and PRIDE, we will be happy to help you on your way…
Genuinely happy people do not just sit around being content. They make things happen. – Dan Buettner
Leading Angel Arteel Group
Author of the book “Dare live life”