lunes, 16 de septiembre de 2013

What’s the secret to being happy at work?

Alexander Kjerulf is the founder of Woohoo inc and one of the world’s leading experts on happiness at work. He is a speaker, consultant and author, presenting and conducting workshops on happiness at work at businesses and conferences all over the world. His clients include companies like Hilton, Microsoft, LEGO, IKEA, Shell, HP and IBM.

Good Day at Work have asked Alex for his perspectives on well-being and work, influenced by his career travelling the world to speak about and coach happiness.


Hi Alex, thank you for speaking to Good Day at Work! You’re known as the ‘Chief Happiness Officer’ and you have spoken and consulted on the subject all over the world – so, what’s the secret to being happy at work?
Alex: I think the main secret is that happiness at work does not come from what most people think – things like raises, bonuses, perks and promotions.
Looking at the research in the field, there are two main factors that make us happy at work: results and relationships.
Results is about being good at your job and accomplishing something that is meaningful to you personally. Relationships is about liking the people you work with and feeling that you belong and are accepted for who you are in the workplace. When we have that, we're happy at work. When we don't, we are absolutely miserable.

You’ve worked with companies like Microsoft, Shell and IKEA. Are big businesses engaging with the idea of happiness, and how to create it, more than say, 10 or 20 years ago?
Yes, and that is fantastic. More and more workplaces are realizing that happiness at work is the best path to growth and profits.

What impact has the global recession had, and the slow recovery, for our ideas of happiness and the work that you do?
It's gone two ways. Many companies have used the recession as an excuse to treat their employees badly. They seem to think that with higher unemployment rates, employees have no choice but to put up with bad working conditions and longer hours.
Other companies have done the exact opposite. They have realized that in tough times, they need their employees to be highly motivated, creative, resilient and productive – and the only way to achieve that is to have a happy workplace.
I speak at many of these companies, and they are the ones who manage the crisis well and in many cases they can even grow and expand market share compared to the competitors who just give up on their people.

In your writing and your speeches, you discuss the cultural differences that can contribute to people’s ideas on work and life – the Japanese have a word for death from overwork, but the Danish have one for happiness at work. How easy are these to tackle do you think? Will Danish companies always be more satisfied, happier, than Japanese businesses?
I don't mean to paint Denmark as some workplace utopia, but there are some fundamental things that we got right. These include:
Sensible working hours. Danes have some of the lowest working hours in the OECD countries but also one of the highest productivity levels. We work fewer hours but get much more done in those hours.
Focus on happiness. Danish workplaces focus on happiness at work and Danish employees fully expect to like their jobs.
Informal workplace culture. Danish workplaces are not very hierarchical and stiff. Employees can be themselves and their input is valued.
Other countries have a very different workplace culture, that makes it much harder to create happy workplaces.

As one of the world’s leading speakers on the topic, how did you first come to be interested in the idea of happiness at work?
I have a background as an entrepreneur in IT consulting and have always made happiness at work my top priority for myself and the people I work with.
Personally, I refuse to do work I don't enjoy.
Also, I hate seeing what happens to people who don't like their jobs. The way they gradually lose their energy and creativity is one of the saddest things I've ever seen.

In the UK, we’ve had some big stories over the summer which highlight obstacles to happiness at work – zero hours contracts, discrimination against working mums. Do you think there are any changes we need to make as a society to help us be happy at work?
I do feel that politicians and workplaces in the UK (and many other countries) have used the recession as an excuse to introduce changes that are bound to make people unhappy at work.
As a society, we can definitely do things to make it easier for people to train for and find jobs they will ultimately enjoy. Things like access to cheap (or free) education, vocational training can definitely help.
Also, we need to help people who are unemployed and not stigmatize them. The vast majority of people want to work to make a living and make a difference.

Who are your role models, in business and in life? Is there a figure who represents want Wohoo inc is all about?
My role models are the people all over the world, who love their jobs and are not afraid to show it. The teacher who is always there for his students. The bus driver who is happy behind the wheel and has time to joke with the passengers. The skilled plumber who knows his trade and enjoys helping his customers.

Finally, what’s the one piece of advice you would give to leaders and managers who want to make their workplace happier?
Happiness at work is something we do – and managers can do so many things on a daily basis that make their people happier. Or unhappier.
We have to think in terms of results – managers doing everything they can to make sure that their employees have all the tools, resources and training they need to do a fantastic job. And then tell them, when they do well.
And we have to forge great relationships – managers must make time to know, understand and value their people.
And of course, managers need to be happy at work themselves. We know from the research that emotions are contagious – and if the boss hates his job, I can promise you that the employees will hate theirs too!

Fuente: Good day at work, Well-being stories

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