08 Mar Focus on happiness at work rather than cutting costs and payroll
Happiness hardly seems at the top of the management agenda when the financial world is falling apart. But, as participants at a seminar on “Recession: health and happiness”, organised by the Economic and Social Research Council, heard last week, it probably should be.
Hard times put a premium on real priorities. One of the founding assumptions (and justifications) of conventional economics is that money CAN buy me love, or at least wellbeing: and if wellbeing increases with wealth, GDP growth is obviously of cardinal importance. But in many countries over the past half century, soaring levels of crime, deprivation, depression and addiction to alcohol and drugs seem to have consumed much of the increases in happiness that ought to have accrued from steadily rising living standards.
The Easterlin paradox, as this is called – after American economist Richard Easterlin – has prompted economists such as Richard (Lord) Layard of the LSE and Warwick University’s Professor Andrew Oswald, both speakers at the event, to argue that the aim of public policy should switch from GDP growth to measures that more directly relate to human happiness. As BBC presenter Evan Davies, who chaired the session, pointed out, this is the first recession since the dismal science began taking happiness seriously: an appropriate time to consider the lessons and act on them.
To read more of Simon Caulkin’s article from the Observer – click here