Lead With Happiness at Work. Happy employees are more engaged, motivated, and productive; these six holistic practices can boost connection, teamwork, and happiness at work.
As a holistic physician, I’ve spent decades studying how our emotions and other hidden factors affect our overall health and happiness. I believe we should take a holistic approach not only to our personal health and well-being, but also when it comes to our work and workplaces.
Are our jobs making us feel happy, fulfilled, and valued? Or do we more often come away from the workday frustrated, stressed out, angry, or sad? And what can we do — as business leaders, entrepreneurs, and team members — to make our work and workplaces happier?
As a leader, you might think happiness is low on the list of work priorities, behind concerns such as growth, profitability, and market share. But there is ample evidence to back up the idea that happier employees and workplaces lead to greater success. For instance, a review of 225 studies found that happiness leads to greater success across multiple life domains, including marriage, friendship, income, and work.
Yet up to 84% of workers report their workplace conditions contribute to at least one mental health condition, according to an October 2022 report from the U.S. Surgeon General. And in a Gallup survey from June 2022, only 32% of U.S. employees surveyed said they felt engaged in their workplace, while 50% were “not engaged” and 18% were “actively disengaged.”
Since the pandemic began, more people have been reevaluating their lives, with many concluding their time is too valuable to spend in jobs where they feel miserable. Many also crave work that allows them to make a positive difference in life.
As leaders, we know that engaged employees and teams are critical to success, with benefits such as increased productivity, greatly reduced turnover, and increased revenues. There is much we can do to make our teams and the individuals in them feel appreciated, valued, listened to, and heard. Here are six ways to start:
1. Build Supportive Relationships – Surround yourself with positive, supportive people who care for you and your company’s mission. Encourage teamwork by recognising and placing high value on staff members who work together to accomplish tasks and achieve solutions. Walk your talk and model the behaviours you want to see in your employees by leading with a positivity, enthusiasm, and a willingness to jump in and lend a hand when you can.
2. Practice Kindness and Generosity – Being generous when it comes to helping others pays numerous rewards in the workplace. When you offer your time to give an employee or team member guidance on a project, or to brainstorm solutions together, you show them how much you value them and their work and collaboration. This helps others feel supported and has been shown to boost happiness, both for the person offering assistance and for the one accepting it. Create a culture that recognises employees who take the time to help each other and work together toward shared goals and achievements.
3. Express Gratitude – One of the best ways to do this in a team setting is to take time to celebrate your wins. In our staff meetings, we often begin by celebrating an achievement and recognising those team members responsible. Whether your successes are large or small, take time to recognise them and the work that you did to achieve them. Doing so will build pride, teamwork, and a positive feedback loop as people get in the habit of looking for and replicating these feel-good success stories.
4. Practice Forgiveness – I believe practicing forgiveness is the number one thing we can do to reduce stress in our lives, and that holds true in our work as well as our personal relationships. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. It’s crucial that we take responsibility when we fall short. It’s equally important that we express and practice forgiveness. When we forgive someone who has made a mistake, this helps shift the energy going forward. When leaders express forgiveness, it wipes the slate clean, inspires employees to approach tasks with greater care, and helps restore trust.
5. Practice Choosing Emotions – Many people mistakenly believe that we are at the mercy of whatever emotions we tend to start feeling. But the reality of it is, no matter what the circumstance is, we choose our emotions. It just takes practice. The next time someone says or does something that tends to trigger a negative emotion in you, step back, take a deep breath, and think of an emotion that will better serve you in the situation. For instance, you might choose to feel mercy or pity on someone who hurts you, rather than getting angry. By acknowledging and directing your emotional response in difficult situations, you exercise emotional intelligence that is a hallmark of calm and deliberative leadership.
6. Release Emotional Baggage – Like practicing forgiveness and choosing emotions, letting go of negative feelings from difficult and traumatic experiences will make you a better leader. We call these unresolved feelings trapped emotions, and they are a major roadblock to well-being and happiness that can damage relationships, including those that are critical to workplace success. When an emotion becomes trapped, a person will feel that emotion more easily under circumstances similar to the one that created that emotion in the first place. So if a person has a trapped emotion of anger, for instance, that person will tend to become angry much more readily than he or she otherwise would. Sometimes people have multiple trapped emotions that form what I call a Heart-Wall™. This is an energetic blockage that prevents people from freely giving and receiving love. It is easy to see how Heart-Walls contribute to loneliness. You can learn how to release trapped emotions and Heart-Walls at emotioncodegift.com.
So practice building supportive relationships through your words, actions, and leadership. Make gratitude and forgiveness cultural values along with accountability and achievement, and give your people opportunities to reach for happiness both inside and outside work. By leading with happiness, you are taking a holistic approach to your team’s well-being and ultimate success.