Happiness at Work is Not a Lost Cause

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Home > Articles > Happiness at Work is Not a Lost Cause

 Happiness at Work is Not a Lost Cause

William Wan | Today's Manager
September 1, 2017

When you feel unmotivated or overwhelmed with a task at work, challenge yourself to do something kind for someone else, and see the difference it makes.

In today’s fast-paced society, many people show up at work each day without feeling emotionally invested in what they do. The stress of the daily grind can create a cycle of low motivation, dwindling productivity, and escalating unhappiness.

This is not surprising as Singaporeans work some of the longest hours among workers in the world’s most developed countries, according to a study by Dutch researchers. Singapore’s average of 2,287 hours per year is much higher than Japan’s 1,706 or the United States’ 1,703. We are only behind Hong Kong’s 2,344.

According to a 2012 survey conducted by JobsCentral, two out of three Singaporean workers indicated that their workload has increased in the last six months and that stress levels have risen in the same period. Forty per cent of Singapore workers polled named office politics as a major stressor; 35 per cent cited workload, and 35 per cent felt that they lacked support. 1

While there will always be pressure to perform and deadlines to meet, happiness at the workplace is not a lost cause if kindness is its starting point.

Research has shown a clear link between kindness and happiness. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies confirmed that doing a kind act bestows a sense of satisfaction not only on the receiver, but also on the one who performs the act and those who witness it. Kindness releases a mixture of chemicals (including dopamine and serotonin) in our brain, making us feel good.2

Researchers who have been studying employee motivation and well-being, have also found that happiness at work is not so much a function of salary, benefits, or job titles, but the relationships fostered at the workplace. 3

Since most of us spend more than half of our waking hours in the office, the quality of interaction with our colleagues and superiors greatly influence our perception of the workplace environment.

A Gallup report on “The State of The American Workplace” 4 has found that strong social connections at the office can boost productivity—making employees more passionate about their work and less likely to quit their jobs.

How can we promote a supportive work environment where management and staff enjoy a greater give-and-take relationship that is mutually beneficial, to set each other up for success, and help one another get through the day-to-day challenges of work?

First of all, managers can pave the way by treating employees with respect, empathy, and compassion, so that employees feel valued and appreciated. This creates a fair, collaborative, and open culture where employees are more empowered to be ambitious and creative.

Likewise, employees should also return the same kindness and appreciation to their managers by exercising integrity and pride to produce excellent work. In this way, a growing cycle of kindness can boost morale and heighten the motivation to excel.

In the Singapore Kindness Movement, even though our team is split to cover several sectors, we encourage everyone to support one another’s projects and events—whether by guiding, sharing past experiences, or simply being on-site to lend a helping hand.

Simple acts of kindness like greeting one another, smiling more often, and saying “Thanks” to one another can go a long way in creating a happier work environment. Such acts are even known to reduce work stress.

If practised on a daily basis, such acts can promote a culture where people are quick to recognise and return the kind and thoughtful gestures of others.

In fact, there are studies that show a “positive feedback loop” between kindness and happiness. When we are kind, we become happier, and the happier we feel, the more likely we are to do another kind act. 5 And people who engage in kind acts become happier over time. 6

Kindness is a simple concept to practice. Perhaps one might think that kindness is too simple a solution to the complex challenges we face at the workplace today. Yet it could be the elusive key to achieving happiness at work.

The next time you find your motivation dwindling or feel overwhelmed with a task at work, challenge yourself to do something kind for someone else, and see what a difference it makes!

1 Tay, J, 2017, Survey Results: Nearly one-quarter of Singapore workers feel bullied at work, JobsCentral, http://community.jobscentral.com.sg/articles/survey-results-nearly-one-quarter-singapore-workers-feel-bullied-work.

2 Wan, W, Why a little kindness can improve your work, https://www.challenge.gov.sg/print/insiders-take/why-a-little-kindness-can-improve-your-work.

3 Co.tribute, How to build camaraderie in the workplace, http://info.cotribute.com/blog/how-to-build-camaraderie-in-the-workplace.

4 Gallup, 70% of US workers not engaged at work, http://www.gallup.com/strategicconsulting/163007/state-american-workplace.aspx.

5 Dixon, A, 6 September 2011, Kindness makes you happy… and happiness makes you kind, http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/kindness_makes_you_happy_and_happiness_makes_you_kind.

6 Advani, P, 11 August 2013, How random acts of kindness can benefit
your health, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/priya-advani/random-acts-of-kindness_b_3412718.html.


Copyright © 2017 Singapore Institute of Management

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Today's Manager Issue 3, 2017

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