Happiness: Why workplace wellbeing is a serious issue

Rachel Barnes, Marketing's acting editor
Rachel Barnes, Marketing's acting editor

Happiness. We all crave it in our lives and yet in the workplace it is so often undervalued. It seems simple. An environment where people are happy in their jobs and given the respect and freedom to be themselves will enable the best work and ideas to flourish.

There is nothing new in this, of course. Back in 1936, Dale Carnegie was promulgating the notion that having a positive, empathetic, rather than aggressive, approach to people and business leads to success. How to Win Friends and Influence People still stands as a handbook for how to treat people well and, by doing so, get the most from them.

Many companies, rightly, have pushed the happiness and mental wellbeing of their staff high up the agenda. Apple, Google, Heinz, P&G and Unilever are among those to have adopted mindfulness programmes to ensure they are productive, creative, fulfilling and enjoyable places to work. It’s win-win in my view. This is not about a frothy HR add-on. The best places to work will attract the best talent and so the cycle continues.

A simple benefit of mindfulness, as pointed out by one of our Forum contributors, is "by clearing your mind of chatter and to-do lists, you have the clarity of thought to tackle the most complex of projects". I’m no master of this practice, but nonetheless I have been able to set aside non-productive stress and find joy in the moment.

Apple, Google, Heinz, P&G and Unilever have adopted mindfulness programmes to ensure they are productive, creative, fulfilling and enjoyable places to work. 

The theme of this issue is escaping the humdrum – whether that’s technology-induced anxiety or the confines of the office – to find a "better way". For me, exploring the world beneath the surface of a tropical sea (our cover) is where I "find my Zen". My daily view of the Thames doesn’t quite deliver, but we can all learn to find ways to tune out from the screen and hone in on ourselves. There are always better, more efficient and more fulfilling ways of working – and that rarely means working longer hours.

Talking to a senior marketer recently, her view was that working from home, or away from the office, was normal practice. On certain days, she didn’t expect to see her team at their desks, and this was encouraged. By contrast, I heard from another marketer at a major brand how the boss had banned working from home. He decided that the teams needed to be together in order to produce the best work.

There is no simple answer to this, as our contributor Will Harris points out, painting a picture of a way of working few of us could dream of. While a lawyer might often work alone, marketers are collaborative beasts and thrive on working together.

Speaking to a friend  recently, he told me how his day, and that of the whole team, was organised so that it was near impossible to ever take a lunch break.

Hearing such stories is like a throwback to 80s culture. Haven’t we all moved on? Working life has changed so much in the past decade and smartphones continue to alter our working habits. As new generations come into the workforce with expectations beyond job function and pay cheque, all companies need to look at staff happiness as a real business tool. Happiness is getting serious.

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