5 ways for workplaces to support employee happiness

5 ways for workplaces to support employee happiness

via the Greater Good by Elise Proulx

Most of us spend the lion’s share of our waking hours focusing on work. If we’re not at work, we’re thinking about it. We rush off to answer emails after the kids are in bed. Some of us never turn off.

No wonder the workplace loomed large at this summer’s 6th World Congress of the International Positive Psychology Association. From fostering purposeful work to encouraging authenticity in the workplace, the Congress offered research and practical tips on the keys to well-being at work.

Here are some of our biggest takeaways that can help your organization support employees and help us all thrive in our professional lives. 

1. Character strengths matter in the workplace

We all have our character strengths. Australian organizational psychologist Aylin Dulagil describes them as “innate, malleable, positive characteristics that are enjoyable, come easily, and are energizing.”

Strengths like curiosity, creativity, and perseverance can offer a lot to the workplace. But what type of organizational climate helps bring out these strengths in us? According to Dulagil, it comes down to having a clear organizational purpose. If workers have a strong feeling about the mission of their workplace, even those who aren’t aware of their strengths are more likely to be using them.

It also helps if our strengths are a good fit for the type of job we have. German researcher Claudia Harzer’s work suggests that we perform better and are more satisfied at work the more our individual strengths align with our job tasks.

“It’s intrinsically motivating to behave authentically, to go with your inner drive,” she said at the Congress, noting that if employees can apply four or more character strengths in the course of their job duties, they are more likely to have positive experiences at work. However, in the case of less complex jobs, workers may need to apply six strengths or more to see the same benefits.

We can practice and learn how to better use our signature strengths at work, Harzer has found, and it increases our sense of work being a “calling”—which also leads to more positive experiences.

2. Feeling capable is crucial to work-life balance

For those of us trying to balance work and parenting, it helps if our workplace has family-friendly policies like generous parental leave. But the work of Australian researcher Xi Wen Chan suggests that how much employees are empowered to feel self-efficacy—the belief in ourselves and our ability to get the job done well—is actually more important than policies, in terms of benefits for the employee and the organization.

In a 2015 study, Chan and her coauthors surveyed employees about both work and non-work activities, including their levels of self-efficacy around regulating work and life (how confident they were in achieving work-life balance). The study results indicated that increased feelings of self-efficacy boosted people’s satisfaction with their job and their family life.

How can employers help their staff feel more competent? Some ideas from the study authors include allowing employees to negotiate their job scopes, supporting them in their activities outside of work (through flexible hours or sabbaticals), and implementing family-friendly policies that managers can approve for individual employees…

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