What Does Happiness at Work Look Like?

The 25th-29th of September 2023 is “International Happiness at Work Week”. The purpose of this campaign is to highlight the importance of happiness at work and how organisations can build an environment for their teams that puts them in the best position to thrive.

Now we must state – much like exercising for an hour a day for health benefits won’t mean much if you are not using the other 23 hours of your day effectively – nutrition, recovery, sleep, and mindset. You have to be looking at the whole.

The same for “International Happiness at Work Week” – it won’t mean much without focus on the other 51 weeks of the year – your culture, education, initiatives, fairness, freedom, and growth are just a few examples.

We like the fact this week brings awareness to an important and often surprisingly complicated topic.

What is Happiness?

Before we go any further it is important to look at what happiness is. This is a complex one – if you google “happiness” 3,040,000,000 results appear (as of 8th Sept 2023). Researchers have yet to pin down the definition or an agreed-upon framework for happiness, and it is a huge conversation in the field of Psychology as we continue to learn more about this area.

If we take the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “happiness” it is a simple one: “The state of being happy” but happiness goes much deeper than that. Typically, happiness is an emotional state characterised by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfilment. When most people talk about the true meaning of happiness, they might be talking about how they feel in the present moment, or referring to a more general sense of life satisfaction.

In this article we are focusing more on the latter as if just thinking about our subjective mood, can be rather too simplistic for the workplace – moods change and no one is happy all the time (no matter what social media tries to have you believe).

So Why is it Important?

Happy employees are 13% more productive (Oxford University, 2019). Happiness is consistently being linked to engagement, good team dynamics, productivity and the profitability of businesses. Organisations with happier and healthier individuals are constantly outperforming those without on the stock markets (Stephenson, 2022).

In such uncertain times with so much change going on with how we work, recovering from a global pandemic, political unrest, financial uncertainty and not to mention personal factors and challenges for our employees -ensuring strategic and relevant wellbeing strategies are in place has never been so important.

Very simply, when your people are happy:

  • Their mental and physical health improves
  • Your culture thrives and engagement is high
  • You attract and retain high-performing team members
  • Everyone feels included, safe and heard. Improving how hard and well people work.

It should go without saying but I have spent many years working in corporate environments so I will say it, looking after your people is also ethically the right thing to do!

Key Factors to Workplace Happiness:

When looking at this we used the “Happiness Index” fact-based neuroscience model (The Happiness Index, 2019) to break down happiness into 4 key themes:

  1. Freedom – Your people need to feel free to be themselves, accepted for who they are and seen to feel happy. DE&I is fundamental to a thriving workforce. It’s also important that people are given autonomy and allowed to make choices, not always micromanaged by management and feel they are trusted.
  2. Safety – When we don’t feel safe we go into “fight vs. flight” which can result in us being highly reactive to situations, resulting in confrontation, conflict and toxicity. We see a drop in performance as people are distracted from their jobs and unable to think clearly and creatively about the tasks in front of them.
  3. Relationships – It’s impossible for people to feel happy at work if they don’t have positive relationships with their peers, managers and senior leaders – we are social creatures and thrive in groups we can relate to.
  4. Acknowledgement – When we get positive feedback and recognition, we like it, it makes us feel happier. Regular and constructive feedback should be provided to team members then allow them to speak and feel heard. This has now been found to be the number one factor for workplace happiness (The Happiness Index, 2020).

How can you Improve Workplace Happiness?

As we mentioned earlier, just like us being happy as individuals all of the time is unrealistic, so is everyone in your company always being happy. Saying that there are strategies we need to implement in order to improve general levels and then keep them high sustainably.

Our HumanOS top tips to improve Workplace Happiness are:

  1. Measure – To understand how happy your team are, first you need to measure it. Partner with companies who can help you gain this data and do so with validity.
  2. Listen – Give space for individuals to be seen and heard and ensure you create a culture where they feel safe to do this. Leading by example is key here.
  3. Show Empathy – Understand and connect with your team members on a deeper level. When you show empathy, you can recognise the unique needs, concerns, and emotions of their team members, fostering a sense of trust and support.
  4. Inclusive Culture – Ensure you are doing things regularly that add to the wellbeing of your teams. Make space and support DE&I, offer initiatives and education for wellbeing-related matters, and promote Emotional Intelligence and support between employees to ensure happiness and wellbeing flourish. Culture is not built in one week, it requires constant effort and is a never-ending process.
  5. Be proactive – Test and trial different methods and services to find what works for your organisation based on your people (and your data!). It is much easier to do this before the problems start disrupting the business, as opposed to having to be reactive towards them.
  6. Give your people space – Flexible working hours, hybrid working, autonomy – find what works for your teams, and what conditions they need to thrive and implement these.
  7. Celebrate – Celebrate both the success of your people to show your support for them and also the success of yourselves for implementing initiatives that truly make a difference to the individuals in your teams and your business as a whole.

Happiness at Work Week brings valuable awareness of the importance of employee happiness and can be a useful reminder for organisations to review their policies and assess the happiness, health, and wellbeing of their teams.

To celebrate we will be running our very own HumanOS “Happiness at Work” Masterclass for all our decision-makers, management and leadership teams within our platform. The masterclass will cover everything mentioned in this article in more detail as well as provide guidelines for formulating strategies to improve happiness within your organisation.

Book in via the Masterclass section on the app or drop us a message at info@humanos.co.uk if you need any help.

HumanOS 🌅


Oxford University (2019). Happy workers are 13% more productive. [online] www.ox.ac.uk. Available at: https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2019-10-24-happy-workers-are-13-more-productive.

Stephenson, R. (2022). The Future of Workplace Wellbeing. [online] FormScore: understanding employee wellness and performance. Available at: https://www.formscore.today/articles/future-of-wellbeing#:~:text=Better Wellbeing %3D Better Stock Market Performance&text=This study collated over 15 [Accessed 9 Sep. 2023].

The Happiness Index. (2019). Boost Engagement, Staff Retention & Performance | The Happiness Index. [online] Available at: https://thehappinessindex.com/.

The Happiness Index (2020). WHAT MAKES PEOPLE HAPPY AT WORK? Insights from The Happiness Indicator – a real-time view of workplace happiness. [online] Available at: https://storage.googleapis.com/stateless-thehappinessindex-co/2020/10/92e1946e-inidicator-unicornv2.pdf.