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The Science of Happiness and how it Influences Organisations

Drake WorkWise Team

There is no question that happiness and productivity in the workplace go hand in hand. Not surprisingly, creating a happy workforce is integral to the success, sustainability and viability of any organisation. The pursuit of happiness is widely recognised globally, with endless workplace benefits on the individual, team and organisational level. This article explores the science of happiness, how we can influence happiness, and why it matters to organisations. 

Happiness can be explained as positive emotions towards pleasurable activities in everyday life. Pleasure, comfort, gratitude, hope, and inspiration are examples of positive emotions that increase our happiness and move us to flourish. In scientific literature, happiness is referred to as hedonia (Ryan & Deci, 2001), the presence of positive emotions and the absence of negative emotions.

Human wellbeing is not only made up of Hedonic, but Eudaimonic principles, which refers to vast literature describing our personal meaning and purpose in life (Ryan et al, 2001). 

The purpose of this article was not to provide insight on what it means to be happy, but rather understand the science of happiness and how it can be used to influence systemic change in organisations. For many years, science and psychology has rather focused on the things that could go wrong in life and trying to mitigate associated risks. How often do you hear people going to a Psychologist to talk about their positive emotions? Thankfully, Positive Psychology has changed this. While there is still a need to focus on those who experience struggle, we equally need to elevate those without struggle, and help them to achieve a higher level of functioning and happiness. With space to focus on the positive in life, we can explore the thoughts, actions, and behaviours that improve productivity, happiness in relationships, and life fulfillment. 

Now that we understand what happiness is and how to explain the science of happiness, how do we influence happiness in the workplace? 

Here are several tried and tested strategies that organisations can adopt:

  1. Add plants to your office! Plants release oxygen, promoting serotonin release, regulating humidity and cleaning air of toxins. They promote feelings of calm, and absorb carbon dioxide which dampens productivity. 
  2. Ensure workspaces have natural light. Humans respond well to natural light; it regulates vitamin D levels, improves sleep patterns, reduces headaches and drowsiness, and makes us happier.
  3. Ergonomics. How many organisations have an ergonomics department or ergonomics champion that ensures workers have the right workplace setup? Over time, incorrect posture can cause musculoskeletal discomfort, which in turn can compromise levels of concentration and productivity. 
  4. Collaboration. Humans are social beings. We are at our best when we can share information, engage with others, and work in a team. 
  5. Nutritious food. Consuming nutritious food and drink works wonders for our physical health and wellbeing. Most of us spend more time in the office than at home, so having access to healthy food is imperative, boosting morale, productivity, job satisfaction and performance.
  6. Smile more. Smiling and laughing releases feel-good endorphins. The best part - it doesn’t cost anything to smile!

In addition to the research on the science of happiness, research extends to the science of happiness in the workplace. Findings conclude that when employees are happy, we see:

  • Increased levels of productivity. Happy workers show higher levels of engagement, attention to customer needs, and an improved concentration span. According to Psychology Today, happy employees spend 80% of their week focussed on tasks compared to 40% in unhappy employees. 
  • Increased levels of creativity and new ideas.
  • Increased motivation, self belief, and resilience. 

In addition to understanding the impact of the science of happiness on workplaces, we need to understand the impact of unhappy employees on workplaces too. Unhappy employees see a 25-30% reduction in goal achievement, supporting coworkers, self belief, confidence, resilience, motivation, engagement levels, trust, and feelings of self-fulfillment. 

In support of the global pursuit of happiness, the World Health Organisation has established Happiness Day. The mission of the day is to “serve as a beacon of light, inspiration, and hope for all who aspire to live happy and fulfilling lives.” Happiness is widely recognised as a fundamental pillar of life. We all need it, not only to fulfil our own intrinsic needs, but to be able to coexist in a complex world, and help to maximise productivity in workplaces and lead them to long-term sustainability and viability.

If you’re looking to supplement existing workplace strategies and create a more positive and happy working environment, contact our wellbeing experts for an obligation free call today.  


Call us on 1300 362 262


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