There is a nursery rhyme that very aptly epitomizes happiness at work:
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream
Visualizing the boatman rowing the boat merrily spreads a feeling of invigorating goodness- happiness. Acceptance of life as a dream might sound utopian but casting a thought on it could perhaps help to explore new avenues of a blissfully happy existence.
Are we happy with our job? Or are we just satisfied or unsatisfied with the work and workplace? Do happiness and satisfaction have a connection?
If these questions are popped at people, the responses may be varied. For some, happiness at work equates to satisfaction with work and that, in essence, is not correct. Some others may find work and workplace to be a drag and some will merrily say that they are indeed happy at work.
The Chief Happiness Officer and founder of Arlette, a Wholebeing Institute,- Arlette Bentzen, is seriously engaged in the activity of making people happy at work. According to her, job satisfaction is something that is triggered by the brain and depends on other people and different external factors; on the contrary happiness at the job comes from the heart and is about loving what we do. It depends solely on ourselves. Happiness is derived by taking initiatives and is more about personality and personal choices.
Traditionally, many organizations focus on job satisfaction, however, this concept is somewhat dated. Salary, bonus, perks and pension plans may be the important yardstick for satisfaction at work, but it can hardly provide wholesome happiness through meaningful engagement.
For many, happiness at work might seem to be a spark that is fleeting by nature. Maybe it is partly true, however, when engagement is linked to overall happiness it tends to be more permanent in nature. The feeling of happiness at work can be pervasive when nice things are happening all around. The day is bright and sunny, a party is being held in the office, or even while sitting next to a favorite colleague. However, to feel perpetually happy with our work and be deeply engaged with it, the work has to have real meaning for us. Whereas happiness may come and go like a flicker, engagement helps to weave together a rich range of experiences thus enhancing the happiness at work index.
Let us delve into the business of happiness at work. Scandinavians, as a race, attach a lot of value to happiness at work. The Danes, the Swedes, and the Finns have single words denoting “happiness at work”. In Denmark, they call it – Arbejdsglæde (pronounced ah-bites-gleh-the). Here arbejde means work and glæde means happiness. It is about making one feel good about what they do, it is also about liking people.
In an interesting TEDx talk, delivered by Alexander Kjerulf, from Copenhagen Denmark, ‘happiness at work’ is very deftly articulated. Alexander speaks about one particular bus driver in Copenhagen, who makes it a point to welcome all his passengers abroad the bus and generally make them feel cared for. His actions spread a lot of happiness amongst the passengers. The driver is happy at work and so are his passengers.
In fact, anyone can be happy. An individual, group of people or a company can possess a happy disposition. A few nurses joining a hospital and all of them being assigned to a section that is known for its grumpiness. The senior nurses are always quarreling and don’t trust each other. The doctors are always dissatisfied with the service of the nurses and above all the patients patiently suffer. The new set of four nurses first invite all the other nurses to a party and make it a point to thank the older nurses whenever they receive some help. In fact, they start the practice of rewarding all those from whom they receive help, a token that can be worn on the uniform like a badge. Gradually things improve and the doctors are surprised with the higher level of efficiency achieved by the nurses’ team and ultimately the patients are happy too.
Happiness brings success but chasing success only for the sake of success will never bring happiness. Happy people are always more productive, helpful and are certainly better managers. From an individual perspective, a happy individual is healthier, more creative, and is likely to earn more. He or she is definitely more responsible and is less likely to indulge in dangerous or reckless behavior.
Happiness at work and in life depends on circumstances. However, evidence-based keys to happier living list down “giving”, and “relating”, as the two main keys to happiness. “Giving” is about doing things for others while “relating” is connecting with people.
In the modern world, happiness at work is one of the most important sources of happiness in life. Moreover, being happy at work is the first step towards being successful in the job. Not only individuals, but happy companies also make more money. Happiness at work is an individual’s responsibility and so let everyone take ownership. Someone said that the best way to understand that a person is happy at work is when he goes to the office and returns every day, whistling all the way.
Unlike the Scandinavian countries, in Bangladesh, there is very little study on the lines of measuring happiness at work. It is more about measuring job satisfaction. Various studies and scholarly articles, list down the facts about job satisfaction in the public and private sectors. Most of the studies are confined to the area of satisfaction derived from the pay, perks, facilities, increments, etc. Employees and workers speak about workload, reward systems, company policies, ambiguity in job roles and communication channels.
This brings us to the moot point – are we happy with our jobs? We need to ask ourselves a few questions. Some introspection and certain probing thoughts can evaluate our position vis-a-vis happiness with the job. Here are a few questions worth pondering:
- Do I consider happiness at work to be a tool for my overall wellbeing?
- Do I like what I do at my work-place?
- Is my work engaging enough to keep me occupied mentally?
- Do I like my co-workers?
- If the need arises, will I be willing to help or even receive help from my co-workers?
- By nature am I an open person who is willing to learn, appreciate and forgive if need be?
An honest attempt at replying to these questions will tell us if we are happy with our jobs.
Renowned Bengali writer Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay, in his famed novel Aranyak, beautifully brings forth the human dilemma about prosperity and happiness. He says –
What do humans want – prosperity or happiness? What is the use of prosperity if there is no happiness? I know a lot of people who have attained a lot of prosperity in their lives but have lost happiness.
So let happiness rule our lives.