Spread a little happiness at work in 2014

With renewed enthusiasm for the year ahead many start to look for a new challenge, either within the same the same organisation or a new company. At the heart of this is the desire not only to earn more money, but to become happier. Happiness at work is a win-win situation for both employee and employer.

Surveys on engagement and happiness at work indicate that happy people at work perform better. According to UK entrepreneur Jessica Pryce-Jones who is the author of ‘Happiness at Work: Maximizing Your Psychological Capital for Success,’ – happy people are almost twice as productive as their colleagues; they take less sick days and enjoy their jobs more. They are also likely to earn more and be promoted.

According to several pieces of research in the UK and the USA, the act of giving to others without any strings attached can have a profound effect on happiness. This idea can also be encouraged and applied effectively in the workplace and impact happiness, fulfilment and satisfaction.

Last year the Journal of Social Psychology did a survey measuring life satisfaction. They assigned 86 participants to three different groups. One group was instructed to perform a daily act of kindness for the next 10 days. Another group was also told to do something new each day over those 10 days. A third group received no instructions. After 10 days, the participants completed the life satisfaction survey again.

The groups that practiced kindness and engaged in novel acts both experienced a significant—and roughly equal—boost in happiness; the third group didn’t get any happier. The findings suggest that good deeds do in fact make people feel good—even when performed over as little as 10 days—and there may be particular benefits to varying our acts of kindness, as novelty seems linked to happiness as well.

The subject of people performing random acts of kindness or ‘Paying it Forward’ was the subject of a novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde which was turned into a film in 2000. The concept is simple – someone does you a good turn and you pass it on and they pass it on. It is about spreading kindness and making someone’s day through small acts that cost very little but have a big impact on others.

So how can these ideas be applied effectively at work and what impact could they have?

Adam Grant, professor of management at Wharton University in the USA explains how these acts, which he calls ‘Five minute favours’ can be life changing in his bestselling book ‘Give and Take – a revolutionary approach to success.’

Grant argues that givers are more successful at work and these ‘favours’ can be performed daily because they only take up small chunks of time. Five minute favour ideas include sharing knowledge with colleagues, taking time to mentor someone when you are busy or introducing two people who will benefit in some way from meeting or networking with each other.

Grant explains that when he was a new entrepreneur, many people helped him without expecting anything in return. After working in Silicon Valley for a few years, he realised that the practice of helping strangers was widespread and also essential for the growth of a start-up community. He witnessed how giving back was helping companies find the right teams, get the best advice as well as important feedback on new products.

It is the goal of most business owners to keep their employees happy, engaged and loyal and it can be hard particularly when budgets are still lean. However, encouraging a culture of giving and kindness doesn’t cost anything and could make a big change to how people feel about their work and their colleagues.

Here are some ideas for five minute favours that could spread a little happiness at work or even change someone’s life.

· Being a good reference for a colleague or a supplier on Linked In

· Reviewing a product and proving helpful and concise feedback they can use

· Sending an email thanking someone for a job well done and ensuring that people are copied in on it

· Share, comment or retweet information given by a colleague or supplier

· Being a mentor for someone

· Remembering to thank people at all levels in a company

· Doing some free work for a client but then asking them to ‘pay it forward’ and do it for someone else

· Leave a chocolate or lottery ticket on someone’s desk anonymously

· Smile and make others smile and make someone’s day – it costs nothing.

Marielena Sabatier, CEO, Inspiring Potential