International Day of Happiness 2021: Keep Calm. Stay Wise. Be Kind

Chris Andrew
By Chris Andrew

The International Day of Happiness is coming up this Saturday. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the theme for this year is well and truly focused on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

Keep Calm. Stay Wise. Be Kind

It’s got me thinking about happiness and what it means in the world of work – particularly in light of the year we’ve had. 

There is a school of thought that believes happiness comes to us in moments, but ultimately, what we’re all really looking for is love and connections with other people (as a somewhat sceptical fellow, I feel I can buy into that idea more than the eternal quest to achieve a constant state of delight). What organisations should be focusing on now more than ever is creating a shared sense of purpose, belonging and wellbeing amongst their people.

So, what does happiness really mean when it comes to the employee experience? Do we want happy employees? Yes, of course but happiness doesn’t necessarily result in productivity and ultimately, wellbeing and fulfilment. 

For many years, Caburn Hope has been championing the importance of creating a working environment in which employees feel psychologically safe and are trusted to do their job, in a way that works for them. We are now seeing more and more organisations starting to appreciate that ‘presenteeism’ isn’t the same as ‘productivity’. Empowering people to work in the way that best suits them and their situation will foster an engaged and productive workforce. It’s just a shame that it’s taken a global pandemic to get there.

However, just giving your people more space isn’t enough. This is a big culture change for many organisations and change doesn’t happen on a Tuesday morning. It takes time, support and regular embedding of the key messages to bring about the kind of behavioural change that really sticks. That support should come in a big way from your Wellbeing strategy. Historically, wellbeing initiatives have been largely reactive and based around employee benefits. And whilst benefits, such as Employee Assistance Programmes are tremendously important and valuable, creating a collective sense of wellbeing amongst your people goes beyond HR initiatives. Everyone needs to be accountable.

Wellbeing is a constantly evolving journey. It’s not an initiative. It’s a state of mind (literally). Wellbeing requires a holistic approach to make it feel real and authentic within your organisation.

I’m not saying forget the programmes – flexible working initiatives, livestreaming yoga and free Headspace (or similar) memberships are all absolutely key proof points to show you mean what you say. Just make sure that they’re all wrapped up in a story that all your people can feel part of.

So, in the lead up to the International Day of Happiness, consider where you can create little moments of happiness for the people in your team. It could be as simple as phoning them up (yes on a phone) and asking them how they are, without a project-related objective.