By Anja van den Berg
Happy people are better workers, says Annie McKee, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.
McKee is also the author of How to Be Happy at Work and a coauthor of Primal Leadership, Resonant Leadership and Becoming a Resonant Leader.
“Those who are engaged with their jobs and colleagues work harder — and smarter,” she says.
It’s not surprising there’s a buzz and expectation around career happiness – in your lifetime you will work over 90 000 hours! Who wants to spend that amount of time being miserable?
“It’s not that we haven’t been concerned about being happy at work before, it’s just never been on the mainstream agenda,” says Sarah Archer, career coach and founder of CareerTree.
“Now, employers are waking up to the fact that contented employees are linked to productivity and performance. More importantly though, we are seeing the connection for ourselves between our career and our mental health,” Archer says.
Under McKee, the team at the Teleos Leadership Institute have studied dozens of organisations and interviewed thousands of people over the last few years. Virtually everyone says they want three things to be fully engaged and happy at work:
- A meaningful vision of the future
Sadly, far too many leaders don’t paint a very compelling vision of the future, they don’t try to link it to people’s personal visions, and they don’t communicate it well.
- A sense of purpose
People want to feel as if their work matters, and that their contributions help to reach important milestones.
- Great relationships with co-workers
Leaders, managers and employees alike agree that trusting and supportive relationships are hugely important to their state of mind — and their willingness to contribute to a team.
There are marked benefits to being happy at work, but do you believe it’s within your control?
“Many people wait passively for happiness to arrive, or not,” Archer continues. “They let fate decide whether they have a good boss, colleagues that they like or work that they enjoy. The good news is that you can be proactive about creating your own career happiness.”
Archer suggests this formula as a guide to achieve career happiness and to be prepared to make changes if you can’t sustain satisfaction in your current job or company:
CAREER HAPPINESS = (Freedom + Challenge + Balance – Stress) x Meaning
||Autonomy over the nature of the work you do, or your style of working is imperative to professional happiness
||Too little challenge leads to boredom, and your job can become mundane and dull. Too much challenge leads to stress.
||There are never enough hours in a day but if you’re spending too many of them working, you can feel out of kilter.
||Some stress helps us to perform well, but overload delivers negative stress. High stress levels on an ongoing basis lead to anxiety and burnout.
||Meaning can be opportunities to learn and grow or seeing a tangible result to what we do. It can be working for an organisation having a positive impact in the world or working in a role that directly makes a difference. This is a key component of the formula. Without meaning, happiness can be hard to find.
What about money? Money, of course, is important – we have to live, but money in itself does not bring happiness, Archer concludes.
“If you’ve had a job where you’ve chased money over meaning, you’ll know professional happiness is tough to sustain for a long period.”
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2014/11/being-happy-at-work-matters
Psychologies Magazine: https://www.psychologies.co.uk/what%E2%80%99s-secret-formula-career-happiness
The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/careers/careers-blog/whats-secret-career-happiness
Fast Company: https://www.fastcompany.com/3053697/the-secret-ingredient-to-a-productive-and-satisfying-career