Why Happiness Wins

March 15, 2019 — Written by Tom Skiba PhD

Exploitation has long been profitable. Take Foxconn, whose reported working conditions have included high worker suicide rates, corrupt pay practices, and exploitation of child labor. Foxxcon is valued at over $85 billion—and is the largest electronics manufacturer in the world.

Squeezing labor out of people while disregarding their quality of life has been accepted as a productive model for short-term growth—and for the workers of companies like Foxconn, is still a harsh reality. But now more than ever, competition requires organizations to leverage the expertise and experience of their people in a way that puts long-term benefits over short-term gains.

This isn’t limited to newer industries. Employees are taking on increasingly multifaceted roles and are asked to do more every day. To develop new ideas, show empathy and concern for customers, collaborate with others, and continuously seek opportunities to make small improvements in the way they work. Consider yourself: can you do all of these things at work while deeply unhappy? And in an incredibly competitive labor market, why would you want to?

What’s worse, workplace unhappiness can be contagious. Researchers have found that one person’s mood affects not only their immediate friends but how their friends’ friends feel! In other words, your misery can easily bring down the group.

At Humu, we help companies build stronger, happier, more capable teams with behavioral science, machine learning, and a little bit of love. There’s a lot to unpack in that mission statement, but the thing we get asked about the most—by our partners, new hires, and the occasional person on the street—is happiness.

But what do we mean when we say “happiness”? Is that just Californian fluff? And isn’t happiness fleeting by nature? When leaders tell us they don’t care about happiness, it’s most often a misunderstanding of what it really means to be happy at work.

Psychologists break happiness into two schools of thought. The ‘hedonic perspective’ is the colloquial understanding of happiness that most of us are familiar with—emotions like excitement, contentment, and glee. Most people chase hedonic happiness—and it very often backfires.

The second, or ‘eudaimonic perspective,’ focuses on the satisfaction we feel when our basic needs are met—allowing us to grow and flourish. At Humu, our evaluation of happiness considers both, as well as measures of organizational commitment, belonging, and work engagement as defined in organizational behavior literature.

But happiness is multifaceted, and both academically and in practice includes a person’s thoughts, feelings, and attitudes related to their own well-being. Decades of psychological research has shown that happier employees are a key ingredient to innovation and productivity, especially as workloads grow ever-more demanding. In fact, some estimate happiness can boost productivity by as much as 31%.

Put that way, it’s clear leaders can’t ignore happiness if they want sustainable, high-performing organizations.

Your happiness at work can be measured in a few ways, including how often you experience positive emotions on the job, how passionate you feel about the work itself, whether you’d recommend your employer to others, and if you feel a sense of belonging with your colleagues and to your company.

The challenge is that what it takes to increase happiness is rarely the same thing across all departments, teams, and individuals in an organization. On an individual level, this makes sense, since no two of us are exactly alike. And in the search for a quick-fix, we see employers wasting billions of dollars imposing one-size-fits-all solutions on tens of thousands of people at once. Despite all the frameworks, listicles, and guru advice out there, for leaders, there is no easy button for improving employee happiness.

Humu is as close as it gets. We take the guesswork out of management and performance. Because happiness requires context-specific interventions that adjust to the demands people face in their daily environment, Humu’s people analytics allow us to address the unique and changing sources of happiness individuals experience in their work lives—in a scalable and sustainable way.

Through a careful integration of behavioral science, machine learning, and love, Humu reaches every person—in any job, at any level—to help create an environment that will make them happier, healthier, and more productive.

Interested in learning more about the Humu product, and how we can help your organization define, develop and improve upon happiness (not to mention all of the business benefits it provides)? Drop us a line at hello@humu.com.

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