A Simple 3 Part Formula for Happiness at Work

“In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: They must be fit for it. They must not do too much of it. And they must have a sense of success in it.” 
–John Ruskin

“They must be fit for it.” In other words finding ways to make the most of your signature strengths at work leads to a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Signature strengths are the things you like doing and are good at. When people reflect on times when they are utilizing their “signature strengths” (typically defined as their top 5 character strengths as measured by the VIA Survey of Character www.AuthenticHappiness.com ), they often describe an energizing effect.

“They must not do too much of it.” Less is more, even in these nerve wrecking times. Too much work, does not allow for people to take a break, leading multitasking, rapidly switching between complex or demanding tasks actually leads to time lost and the likelihood of more errors in the long run. Multitasking involves   your “Executive functions” and switching between two steps ( Step 1: I am going to do this now  – ‘goal shifting’. Step 2: here are the rules for this – ‘rule activation’) that takes time. Although these switching costs in time may be relatively small, sometimes just a few tenths of a second per switch, they can add up to large amounts when people switch repeatedly back and forth between tasks. Multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time in the end and involve more error.  Too much to do also leads to distress, that is when stress becomes too long, too intense and your ability to function at peak rapidly diminishes.

“And they must have a sense of success in it.”  People need to feel like their efforts pay off, that there is a desirable result from their work. That might be learning a new skill that will propel their career forward or increase their marketability. It maybe receiving compensation (salary, a raise or benefits) that makes the work worthwhile. It maybe a simple thank you or other acknowledgement that gives a person that sense of success. Maybe be for you is is being able to take every third Thursday afternoon off to volunteer in a school program.

  • If you are working, for yourself or other, does this formula describe your work life? What simple step or action might increase your happiness factor?
  • If you are the boss, employer, or manager, try applying this formula to your workforce. You might just discover some simple ways to increase the happiness factor at work and a happy workforce is a productive workforce.
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