7 Elements of A Happy Workplace (Part II: Perceptions of Work)



When it comes to happiness, perspective is everything. Expecting everything to go exactly the way you want it to be before you can be happy is a surefire way to be consistently disappointed.


Given the fact that happiness itself can be such a subjective concept, it follows that the mental frames through which we choose to see our work and our lives is hugely important.

By helping your employees to understand and shift their perspectives about the work they do, you’re (metaphorically speaking) teaching them how to fish instead of just doing the fishing for them. Here’s how to do just that.

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1. Going back to the why


According to positive psychologist Martin Seligman, meaning is a key element of the “PERMA” framework for happiness and what it constitutes. To have a sense of meaning in what you do is to know that you’re serving something larger than yourself. In other words, it is to know your “why”.


For author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, the “why” is the penultimate motivating factor behind human behaviour. It’s how brands influence human behaviour, and why inspirational leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. were able to win over millions of people to support their cause and take action as advocates and activists at every level of society.

When you’re crystal clear about your purpose at work and in life, it functions like a self-replenishing reservoir of inner strength and fortitude that you can tap on every day without exception, regardless of what befalls you. As the Nietzsche put it, “he who has a why can bear any how.”


Numerous empirical studies support the power of meaning in motivation at the workplace. People who know their “why”s consistently demonstrate a greater willingness to take on challenging tasks and give their best at everything they do, and

Conversely, functioning on autopilot may by itself allow you to achieve efficiency and effectiveness at the outset. Eventually, though, it also leaves you more susceptible to burnout and the kind of jadedness and ennui that can arise from getting bored with the daily grind. At the end of the day, no one wants to feel like just another (easily replaceable) cog in the machine.


Likewise, one of the best ways to empower your employees is to help them discover their “why”s, and to keep going back to it. Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, has a few pointers on how to do this:

  • Meaning doesn’t have to be revolutionary: it could be as simple as using your skills and strengths to help your colleagues flourish at work
  • Allowing your people to interact with the end users of their work can provide a huge boost of motivation and happiness. When people can directly see the difference that their work, it makes a huge difference
  • Acknowledge and reward people for their work; practicing gratitude in the workplace is one of the simplest ways to facilitate meaning and boost morale



2. Encourage job crafting


Different people need different things to be happy, motivated and engaged at work. The best way to let people thrive at work is to grant them autonomy, coupled with a sense of ownership.


This is where “job crafting” comes in. Coined by Yale psychologist Amy Wrezsniewski, “job crafting” refers to “what employees do to redesign their own jobs in ways that foster engagement, satisfaction, resilience and thriving. In other words, it’s how people redesign their jobs to suit their own needs and attain optimal performance.

Employees who engage in job crafting display a greater sense of ownership, dedication, and engagement at work, above and beyond those who don’t. Consequently, the more engaged you are at work, the happier you are.


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