Personal Productivity

Is It Possible to Be Happy at Work?

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez Tags Motivation Science Work & Life Workplace

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I don’t know if everyone is able to feel it, but happiness at work exists. Most of us have experienced what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls a state of flow, a time when you’re absorbed in your creativity and feel a great satisfaction developing your work. Even if you are working, those moments of happiness are perfectly comparable to those you spend with your family and friends.

If you can experience those states of flow recurrently while you work, the work is no longer a mere instrument to pay the bills and becomes an important part of your happiness. Some say, and I strongly agree, that you cannot be happy in your life if you are not happy at work.

It is in the interest of your company for you to be happy at work. A happy worker is a more committed and less stressed worker, gets the job done faster and with fewer errors, has 65% more energy, makes better decisions and stays in the company for up to 4 times longer. And since you try harder and are more productive, the company’s results improve. That is why more and more companies are concerned about generating this intangible in the workplace, looking for happier and more committed workers that produce better results in terms of efficiency and profitability.

But getting there is not easy, because we don’t really know what happiness is—everyone understands it differently—and, of course, we don’t know how to measure it. What we must not forget is that each individual is solely responsible for their own happiness.

Salary increases and other benefits such as free access to a gym, free coffee, etc. only improve the sense of happiness temporarily, in the short term. For two reasons: because after a certain life quality threshold, more money barely increases our happiness, and because human beings get used to everything. Once you have gotten used to free coffee every day, you no longer perceive it as something extraordinary that brings satisfaction or motivation to work.

You can not “sell” this happiness, all we can do is create the right conditions for each person to find their own space, encouraging their intrinsic motivation. Generally, an individual feels motivated and satisfied when they have autonomy in their work, when they are able to improve their skills, and when they work with a purpose (the three pillars of motivation).

No matter the little extras you might be offered. In the end, happiness in professional life basically comes from doing what you love—or succeeding in coming to love what you do—and from good relations with the rest of your colleagues.

However, it should be clear that the job is going to provide us with a wide range of emotions. A company is not exactly a paradise where there are no problems or conflicts. The good mood should not impede the appearance and discussion of different opinions and ideas. Also, there will be bad times that you simply have to overcome.

I leave you here with a very interesting and amusing TED talk from Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, about the importance of positive psychology to be happy at work:

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Francisco Sáez

Francisco is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a Software Engineer who is passionate about personal productivity and the GTD philosophy as a means to a better life.

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