Thursday and Friday all eyes are on you

Surely, this week must be THE “appreciation week” of the year. On Thursday the 1st of March, we traditionally celebrate Compliments Day. And the day after – the first Friday of March – is “Employee Appreciation Day“. Being appreciated and, as such, being given the feeling that one truly matters, is (and will always be!) one of our most important basic needs. And yet, in our corporate world, the positive impact of fulfilling this human need for significance remains seriously underestimated! In this inspiring article, Professor Antoon Vandevelde shares his view on why celebrating Compliments Day entails so much more than merely “paying many compliments”. So let yourself be pleasantly surprised by the light shed upon this matter by an Economist and Philosopher at the Centre for Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy at the KU Leuven.

The 1st of March is national Compliments Day

For many, this term causes a certain sense of unease. After all, in popular Flemish speech, the reference to someone who “pays many compliments” tends to imply that person is an actor, a show-off, someone who thinks high and mighty of oneself.

This popular understanding, however, stands in crass contrast to the rationale behind Compliments Day, which has as an objective to spotlight those employees who tend to be most modest, who inconspicuously keep the wheels turning, who are simply always there and as such, contradictorily, seem to have become invisible. Compliments Day is for those employees who dutifully take care of the often overlooked – yet crucial – details, for the old hands to whom the newbies can always turn for help and advice, for the “fixed values” of whom one only realises how fixed they actually were once they have retired.

These days, our work environments are far less hierarchically structured than they used to be. The old economic model revolved around the exercise of control: time clocks, production line work, wages and rewards in line with the outcome of the work delivered. Those were the days of a vast number of employees performing more or less the same tasks, with terms and conditions of employment determined by collective labour agreements. The culture of this economic model was one characterised by regular conflict, whereby trade unions and employers’ associations took the stage.

As the new economic model emerged, we witnessed a shift in focus away from mass production and towards a high quality provision of services. As such, creativity, customer service, personal commitment, intrinsic motivation and engagement towards the company mission are gaining in ever-greater importance.  Companies are adopting a more cooperative and horizontal culture. Whereas collective arrangements still have their part to play – no decent remuneration, no motivated employees – it has nevertheless become the case that labour agreements these days inevitably fail to cover all the bases: the essence of what is expected of employees, their heartfelt engagement, is hard to formalise. The new economic model runs on trust, rather than on control and legally enforceable arrangements.

Trust is the oil of social systems. It is of great significance to all interpersonal relationships. It is not something money can buy, nor something contracts can enforce. Instead, it flows from unspoken reciprocity. You are trusted by people whom you have trusted yourself. Trust relies on the logic of gift, rather than on trade exchange.

You read it in newspapers, you hear about it in your social circle: even well paid employees sometimes fall victim to burnout and depression. They feel devoured by routine, and claimed by seemingly meaningless tasks. They miss being recognised for the individual capacities they have. Yet in spite of the fact that they feel unhappy, they settle for the good living they make – they feel locked in a golden cage.

We expect to find a positive correlation between absenteeism and work environments tainted by a practice of harassment and bullying. We expect to find long-term absence through illness in companies with a toxic atmosphere, where bureaucratic intricacies quench employee-enthusiasm. What we expect less is to equally find employees of decently functioning companies disconnecting from work life. Time and time again, it transpires that the crux of this disconnection is the fact that employees experience a serious lack of appreciation. A lack, which often goes hand in hand with a lack of trust placed in them by management and colleagues, as well as with a hierarchical company structure characterised by an excessive amount of administrative measures and an unnecessary greed for control.

Managers can sometimes be blinded by such presumption that they fail to see their employees might be on a slippery slope. A good manager or head of department, however, is someone who has the know-how to attract the right people to the right job, and to not only salvage but also stimulate enthusiasm.  That requires him or her to allocate employees to positions which bring out the best in them – positions that are neither over-demanding, nor under-challenging. Under all circumstances, a manager needs to be attentive to the fate of his or her employees. This is not only key to the mental health of the employees themselves, but it equally has an economic advantage for the employer – the losses made by companies as a result of employees breaking down are astounding!

The American Gallup Institute conducted a 25-year long, cross-country study on employee work perception. In an average company, 25% of employees would be eager and enthusiastic, but at the same time, almost 1 in 5 employees would back out and give a minimalistic interpretation to their job. The rest of the employees, the large majority, would do their job just fine, without deviating from the norm in either the positive or the negative sense. Averages, however, cover all kinds of truth: the best companies are in fact blessed with 8 eager and enthusiastic employees, and only 1 employee who tends to take on a negative attitude*. Success is closely connected with the soul people put into their job, and this dedication doesn’t appear out of thin air: it is largely the result of a company culture in which appreciation is held dear.

Appreciation, however, is not something to hold near to your heart merely as a concept. It needs shaping and expressing: if someone managed to help you out, you send an email or an unexpected gift, which has more symbolic meaning than monetary value. For every occasion, you pay a compliment. A word of appreciation breaks the daily grind, and lifts an achievement out of the ordinary routine. A compliment is complementary: it complements and completes the agreed upon remuneration. It doesn’t have to be grand and impressive. We often even use the diminutive. But that doesn’t stop that tiny compliment from making a big difference.  It heals the possible or actual wounds stemming from strenuous effort, from the wear and tear of routine work, from the exhaustion felt after the completion of a next to impossible task.

Antoon Vandevelde
Institute of Philosophy
Centre for Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy
KU Leuven

* For more on this topic, see Rik De Wulf, Soulmade. Bezieling op het werk, Davidsfonds, Leuven, 2015, p. 38 et seq.

How to create a strong employer brand in an unsexy sector – a leading example!

What do you do if your company is in urgent need of new talent, but finds itself in a business sector deemed “unsexy”?
What do you do if you simply don’t have the means to meet the requests put forward in wage negotiations, yet still have to be able to attract specialised profiles in order to continue growing as a company?

For years, logistics service provider H.Essers was facing exactly these challenges. Until, a couple of years ago, they decided to completely change course when it came to their HR management approach, making for the fact that they have meanwhile turned into the leading example in their “unsexy” sector.

H.Essers is a family company that was founded by Henri Essers in 1928, and has since become one of the leading companies in Europe in the field of transport and logistics. The company has experienced solid expansion in the last decades, making for the fact that it now has over 5,400 employees across 67 branches in 15 countries in Western and Eastern Europe. In 2016, H.Essers reported a turnover of 571 million euros and it has the ambition to boost this figure to 1 billion euros by 2020. In 2017 alone, the company hired no less than 350 new employees!

Wake-up call

“I remember as if it were yesterday.”, says Mike Dautzenberg, Group HR-director at H.Essers. “Two years ago, a big Swedish furniture company had planned to open a branch in Hasselt. They had locally advertised their vacancies and had, without any difficulty, received more than 10.000 applications. That same year, we too were looking for new employees. The difference being that we even had tremendous difficulty receiving a mere 100 applications in response to our posted vacancies! That was the moment I realised it was high time for us to seriously question our entire Employer Branding strategy – if we didn’t, there was no way we were ever going to realise our growth ambition.”

Long-term vision

“The advantage of working for a family company is that the family has a long-term vision. We are given the time and space to build and create – step by step, in a truly sustainable way. That means that even if we wouldn’t reach our targets, that still wouldn’t mean the end of the world: as long as the company can keep on expanding in a healthy way, we are doing well. … On top of that, the Essers family first and foremost focuses on the wellbeing of their employees. Hilde Essers often uses the words “one big family”, and walks her talk because that is truly how she sees her people. If I, for example, don’t feel 100%, she immediately notices. She is an entrepreneur who leads from the heart. I don’t think I could go back to working for an organisation that has a short-term focus and prioritises numbers above people. So I took along this mindset when re-creating our HR strategy.”, Mike says.

Great results on a small budget

Every euro that goes towards the Rewards & Recognition Policy at H.Essers has to be turned over several times before it can be spent. Furthermore, there is no margin to pay out fat salaries.
Yet, in spite of this, these days, H.Essers manages to attract new talent all the time. Plus, both their absenteeism and employee turnover rates are low, the latter one being as low as 8% – a remarkable achievement in the in the field of transport and logistics!

Person to person, heart to heart

Believe it or not, these remarkable achievements are easily explained: every initiative that is taken, is taken within the framework of enabling a “heart to heart” connection. First and foremost, the focus always lies on the wellbeing of the employees and their families. Because when employees feel happy and appreciated, when they have the feeling they are being treated as valued members of the company (instead of being treated as “just another worker”), when they feel they are being taken care of, that is when they will radiate this positive energy onto their colleagues, their families and every person that crosses their path.

Initiatives with a high WOW factor

Mike told about all kinds of initiatives he has taken in the past seven years. I would like to share five with you in this blog.

1. My H. Essers care
In addition to free hospitalisation and group insurance, as a member of H. Essers’ staff you can also enjoy very favourable rates (up to 35% cheaper) for home, fire and car insurance. To this end, the company has entered into a partnership with its dedicated insurance company. In this way, H. Essers can ensure that employees can save hundreds of euros on an annual basis. In addition, all resident family members can also benefit from this benefit.

2. Refreshing surprises
During the hot summer months, H. Essers offers its warehouse staff free chilled water. The company also sends ice cream carts out to every site in Belgium to surprise every employee with a delicious ice cream. There are more healthy initiatives in the form of fruit baskets, a smoothiecar or the flu vaccine shot offered free of charge each year. In this way, nice connection moments are created, while spending is limited.

3. Contact points with the management
A. Every year, initiatives are taken at the various sites to eat together with all employees, this can be done in the form of a BBQ where the management itself does the grilling, but they also have been seen stirring in a giant pan of paella.
B. At the end of the year a fun ‘reindeer party’ is organized. A big tent is put on the parking lot at the company headquarters and every employee is invited after work to enjoy some delicious french fries, a pint of beer, or…. just to soak up the nice atmosphere and talk to colleagues.
C. Every two months, CEO Gert Bervoets and Mike Dautzenberg join forces and go out on the “Gert & Mike on tour”, visiting five branches. For a whole day they talk to the people on the shop floor and listen to their stories or concerns. This way they really get to know what is going on in the workplace and can capture improvement ideas.
D. The concept of “Young Wolves” was organised for the first time in 2017. During this evening, employees who have up to two years of service, are invited by the management to a nice informal evening that ends with a snack and a drink. The Management Board then shares the vision for the future and talks about the role everyone plays in it. Each board member tells his or her personal story by means of a booklet of friends. They explain who they are, talk about their family or hobbies, and tell them how they started so many years ago, what road they covered so far and where they are heading now.

4.  Additional benefits
H. Essers is always looking for all kinds of initiatives to increase the purchasing power of the employees. For example, they have set up a benefits platform in which employees receive an extra discount at certain stores. But it goes even further. A cycling event was recently organised on the site in Genk. Several bicycle suppliers were invited to exhibit their models. All employees of H. Essers were given the opportunity to purchase a bicycle at very competitive prices. This way they not only promote more healthy exercise but also allow employees to make an interesting purchase.

5. Beyond money
If the company’s results are good, they naturally want to share this with their employees. However, what they had noticed was that paying an extra bonus, created a disappointing effect. After all, the amount was not so large and by expressing this in cash, people were more frustrated than motivated. After all, this did not really appear to be a form of appreciation. Two years ago, together with the trade unions, the management decided to take a completely different approach. It was decided to convert that amount into points employees could shop with on an online platform that was specially built for H. Essers. The perception was completely different because it was no longer expressed in monetary terms but in points. Moreover, the employees could then really choose something to pamper themselves or their family instead of the money disappearing in the household pot. The fact that people ended up in a kind of online cave of Ali Baba created a completely different perception. This allowed them to choose from gifts, charities, experiences … And often the choice was made together with the family, so that the feeling, experience and visibility was a vast improvement over the old cash reward.

Conclusion

Attracting talent is becoming increasingly more difficult for companies. Only offering a competitive salary package or cafeteria plan will not suffice. You need to do better!

The most important component to attract and retain people is to make them feel that they are really making a difference in the organization, first and foremost by appreciating them. Due to the rapid technological evolution and increasing complexity, there is a danger that people will drop out sooner if they do not really feel connected to their organization. The trend that I see in companies is that they start to reason even more from the ratio (figures) and all focus on technology alone. But you can not make a connection by expressing even more in cash or by implementing additional technical systems. In the first place, you do this on the basis of small ‘human’ things that ensure your employees feel really committed, just like in the story of H.Essers.

Would you like to know more about our motivation or recognition platforms? Send me an e-mail on nathalie@arteel.eu and I will be happy to show you a case from your sector.

Nathalie Arteel
Leading Angel Arteel Group
Recognition and Motivation Expert

Well-kept secrets about the old-school “Secretaries Day”

The old-school “Secretaries Day” is that day of year upon which traditionally secretaries, administrative assistants, receptionists and other administrative support professionals are showered with cards, flowers, chocolates and lunches as a way of recognizing their contribution to the workplace. In Flemish, there is a widely used expression: “to put someone in the middle of the flower bed”. And when it comes to “Secretaries Day”, this expression can be taken quite literally, since flowers are still the number one gift on this third Thursday of April. At the same time, however, recent research has shown that fewer and fewer employers are making the effort to celebrate this day, and that is a pity!

“Secretaries Day” was brought into existence in the United States in 1952. By 1989, the concept had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and set foot in Europe, where it became a tradition too. In the course of the decades, however, “Secretaries Day” has undergone quite a transformation: these days, we tend to refer to it as “Administrative Professionals’ Day“, a term used to encompass the expanding responsibilities and wide-ranging job titles of administrative support staff in the modern economy.

In many an organisation, administrative professionals are key figures. Considering the fact that they are often the ones making first contact with potential clients and customers, they tend to be any organisation’s “representatives”. Furthermore, a 2015 study conducted by Robert Half highlighted the rapidly changing role of our contemporary management assistants, who are being given more and more responsibilities and projects to handle.  They are expected to display substantial levels of flexibility, and a good sense of initiative and independence – all of them strengths that are in the top 3 of most important “soft skills” looked for in any administrative support professional. In a nutshell, the days that so-called “secretaries” were above all expected and required to touch type, be fluent in several languages and master MS Office to a tee are long gone.

Nevertheless, in spite of this substantially re-written job description, those who consider celebrating “Secretaries Day” discriminative and sexist, are still plentiful. On the discriminative note, their reasoning is that it is outdated to attribute such amounts of attention to what is, in essence, merely one of the many important functions within an organisation. Appreciation for a job well done is important, but the same applies to any other job well done within that same company. Doesn’t every organization equally run on the efforts delivered by hardworking accountants, janitors, sales people or even its CEO? And on the sexist note: what about our male administrative professionals? Shouldn’t we equally be celebrating them?

I, personally, can see where these critics are coming from. It is a little like Valentine’s Day: if you only celebrate your love for someone on the 14th of February, you’re in trouble… big trouble!  True appreciation deserves – and needs – to be expressed all year round, and one single token of appreciation on Administrative Professionals’ Day is not in the slightest going to make up for a lack of recognition the other 364 days of the year. Which is not to say, obviously, that that one single token of appreciation on that one special day isn’t an indispensable link in a long and strong chain of necessary and sincere moments of appreciation throughout the year, because it most definitely is: let’s not underestimate the effects of the role played by the media here! “Secretaries Day” is a hot topic and this is bound to create at least some expectations amongst your administrative staff. Secretly, many assistants will hope to be treated to that lunch, that special card, those flowers or chocolates or any other token of appreciation. So our advice is to not cast Administrative Professionals’ Day aside. Instead, see it as an additional and special opportunity to express your appreciation that vital little extra – with the emphasis on extra, because as said before: one moment of appreciation a year is not going to do the trick!

Still need convincing?

Well, let us then challenge you to try a completely different approach by going back to the roots of the old-school “Secretaries Day”. The original idea behind the introduction of this day was to take a moment to reflect on the added value secretaries bring to the table when it comes to the running of an organization, to thank them for that and to boost the public image of the job.

So, from this point of view, why don’t you just drop the whole idea of that yearly bunch of flowers and, instead, take the time to write your administrative assistant(s) a little note, telling them how and why they matter so much to you and your organization as a whole.

We bet you this will leave a lasting impression – one that won’t whither the way a bunch of flowers does!

In need of inspiration? No worries! We are happy to share with you some of our inspirational messages that are bound to help you on your way.

Every day, you do your utmost. With your smile and your professionalism, you are always there to assist not only our customers but also our colleagues. Your engagement and enthusiasm are contagious. To us, your presence is invaluable. Thank you for being who you are!

Thank you for always thinking along and for taking such good care of us all, for your engagement and for your inner strength. You are a truly valued fixture in our organization and an indispensable link when it comes to our success. For all of those things, we are forever grateful!

Thank you for your engagement, for your flexibility, for your unstoppable enthusiasm – day in, day out. Today is YOUR day! Enjoy it to the fullest.

You are our Queen / King of the Office, our tower of strength – exquisite all the way! And even though these words might sound a little cliché, this is nevertheless truly the way we feel about you. So thanks a million for everything you do for us!”

You are our anchor. You always see the silver lining and your can-do attitude is a source of inspiration to many of us. We are very happy and proud to have you on our team. Thank you for being who you are and for doing exactly what you do – day in, day out.

Or maybe, last but not least, the following fun fact might be a useful one to bear in mind this coming Thursday: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “secretary” has its roots in the Latin word “secretum”, “secret” – thus originally referring to “a person entrusted with a secret”.

In other words, this profession we celebrate on Administrative Professionals’ Day has been associated with trust and discretion since the earliest of times… surely enough, that in itself deserves some special attention, no?

Leen Joos

6 tips for the most amazing summer holiday

How do you organize a summer holiday that every member in your family truly enjoys? As a female entrepreneur, mother and spouse, this is one of my biggest challenges too: I have a 11-year old son who loves gaming, a 22-year old daughter who loves partying, a hard-working husband who loves playing sports and an overly energetic dog who loves running.

And in the course of making a holiday memorable for each of them, it’s an equally big challenge for me to make sure that I myself come back home fully energized too!

Does that challenge sound familiar to you? Experience has taught me there are lots of women out there trying to deal with that exact same situation…

That is why in this blog I would like to share with you six simple tips to help you create unforgettable moments with your family, while at the same time managing to free up enough time for yourself.

1. How to pick the right holiday destination?

In this day and age, we are seduced by so many offers of great holiday destinations that we tend to forget to define what we are actually looking for before we make our booking. So the perfect place to is by having every family member write down what his/her fve most import holiday values are.
These can be values:
a. Related to basic needs such as food, level of comfort, family time, friends, …
b. Related to physical needs such as sports activities, wellness, …
c. Related to other surroundings and activities such as culture, nature, shopping, …
Find common denominators and pick a holiday destination that allows you to combine most of them.

2. Good agreements make a good family

On our first vacation day, I tend to ask everyone to list three things they definitely want to do or visit during our stay there. By sharing those priorities, it is clear for everyone what everyone else loves to do, and what is important to them. So we plan out our stay based on a pick-and-mix, making sure we include something for everyone.

And there is something else we tend to do to make our holiday a success: we set some general dos and don’ts for our youngest son. To make it very clear to him which type of behaviour we, as parents, expect of him during our stay, we set up a recognition program with stars. We define 8 things for which he can earn stars on a daily basis. For example, things like eating healthy food, always being polite, displaying a positive attitude during sports activities, doing 2 pages of schoolwork, participating in activities organized by the Children’s Club, …  At the end of our stay, the earned stars are converted into a gift voucher which he gets to spend to buy a gift in the gift shop of the hotel. I can guarantee you this tactic generates a lot of extra energy, not only for us parents but also for the kids themselves.

3. Plan every day

Every morning at breakfast (or sometimes even the night before, at dinner) we plan our upcoming day.  Our plans take into account the weather forecast for that day and are based both on everybody’s preferences and on the activities organized by the hotel. By clearly planning out our day, we are all much more focused, we don’t lose time arguing about what to do and we all have the same mind-set.

Really, it is just like at home: if you are able to manage your time well and plan things carefully, you are able to enjoy your holiday more intensely, with the sweetest memories to cherish afterwards!

4. Discipline yourself

One of my personal challenges during my holiday usually is to control my weight as I tend to gain weight easily when I am in a more relax state of mind and being. That is why I get up at 6am almost every morning to go for a run in the mountains. I can assure you this is tough most mornings, but I can also assure you the rewards are endless! Every time I am out there in the mountains running through the forest, I get to enjoy the most beautiful sunrise, the most delightful smell of herbs and plants, the most peaceful silence of being out there all alone, … I even run into a deer sometimes! Those experiences are beautiful beyond words and I benefit from that effort of getting up for a long run during the entire day: I feel completely in balance, and my day is much longer because I get up early. As a result, I am able to do more activities with my children and spouse, while still having enough me-time. So continue with your good habits during your vacation. And even if you end up skipping a day or two – which happens to me too sometimes – don’t let that throw you off track to start again the next day!

5. Spend some time together at home after you get back

It is important to take some time to “adjust” after you get back home – the mere idea that you can come back and know that you still have some days to spend together with your family before going into work again, creates a valuable peace of mind. It gives you time to do some groceries, to organize certain things, to fix things that need fixing at home, … in short: to slowly get into the flow again. And by slowly getting into the flow, your mind will be much more open to new ideas and delight you with inspirational flashes that would not have appeared if you had immediately started work again. Indeed, it is better to have a shorter holiday stay but to leave some days to spend at home afterwards, than to extend your holiday stay to the last day of your vacation, and then start working again – this generates so much more unnecessary stress!

6. Make the transition to working life easier by planning in things to look forward to

For lots of people, the mere thought of being pulled back into the hectic business world is very tiring.

That is why I think it is very important to already schedule in some small, fun things to look forward to in the months that follow your vacation – things of which the mere thought already creates energy! This doesn’t have to be a trip to Hawaii… no, I really mean small things such as planning an evening out with your spouse or a good friend, or treating yourself to a massage, or planning to take an afternoon off to go shopping, or going to a concert, or organizing a party, or… It is all about quality time, and the mere idea that you have new inspirational events to look forward to will make it easier to step into the sometimes-crazy carousel of daily life again.

Conclusion

These six tips may all be common sense to most of us, but they are not always common practice. That is why I took the time to write them down for you, so they can prompt you to experience the greatest of holidays with your family, return fully energized and even look forward to starting work again – sharing that positive summer energy boost with all of your employees and customers!

Enjoy your summer holidays!

Nathalie Arteel
Leading Angel Arteel Group

3 surprising tips on how to create more engaged & happy teams

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Nathalie Arteel
Leading Angel Arteel Group
Author of the book “Dare live life”

More about Dan Buettner and his books.
Do the True Happiness Test and find out how happy you really are.