Smile day is celebrated on the first Friday of October, dedicating twenty-four hours to smiling and acts of community kindness. Why? In a “bad news” world, a little dose of joy goes a long way. Gretchen Rubin certainly believes this.
From outside perspectives, Rubin lived a marvelously successful life. She had a good marriage, a thriving writing career (formerly a Yale graduate clerk to Sandra Day O’Connor), a warm relationship with in-laws, and two lovely daughters. But in 2006, Rubin realized something was missing. She had a mild case of “the blues,” a below-the-surface irritableness she couldn’t shake. While she was generally happy, Rubin struggled to enjoy happiness each day.
“Did I have a heart to be contented? No, not particularly. I had a tendency to be discontented: ambitious, dissatisfied, fretful, and tough to please . . . (It was) easier to complain than to laugh, easier to yell than to joke around, easier to be demanding than to be satisfied.”
Driven by curiosity, Rubin threw herself into a soul-searching experiment resulting in the best-seller, “The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.” Rubin chose monthly themes, like “energy,” “love,” “work,” and test-drove happiness theories. In the end, this created an entire cottage industry (blogs, videos, starter kits), driving people to aggressively pursue happiness. Rubin found a commitment to simple daily habits (like making the bed) brought a drastically cheerful increase:
“This is about ordinary happiness,” Rubin said. “I wanted to change my life without making major changes. I wanted to show that you don’t have to do something radical.”
Work is life, and life is work. As hard as you try to separate them, work affects your personal life, and vice-versa.
So, what if you could increase happiness at work? What would increased “ordinary” happiness do for an entire company? Statistics say employees who report being happy at work take 10 times fewer sick days, and 36% of employees say they would give up $5000 a year to be happier at work. Happy salespeople produce 37% greater sales and “happy companies” outperform the competition by 20%!
Your brain works efficiently when you’re in a good mood. Forward-thinking businesses connect these dots, believing a better “company mood” brings a stronger bottom line. Here are three ways to build better workplace morale:
1. Cozier Spaces. The office layout, lighting, and aesthetics are a major part of employee satisfaction. Have discouraging cubicles or ugly paint? Throw a little money at this problem and harvest new energy from your team each day.
2. Parties and Perks. Whether its chair massages, goofy competitions, or summer snowcone festivals, everyone benefits from fun at work. Professional growth opportunities are also significant: in a 2013 poll, 84% of employees claimed the opportunity for advancement was very important. Encourage people to attend conferences, practice peer-to-peer training, or try workshops for growing specific skills.
3. Improved Communication. As you mobilize teams, tap into the foundational reasons people give their best, like self-improvement, societal impact, or ability to reach challenging goals. When Sandra Day O’Connor was asked what she thought made a happy life her response was simple: Work worth doing.
As you lead, give your team regular feedback. Without guidance, people feel deflated or unmotivated. Personal improvement areas should be private and actionable: explain to employees where to improve and give examples of change. Author Scott Halford says positive feedback is vital:
“Positive feedback stimulates the reward centers in the brain, leaving the recipient open to new direction. Meanwhile, negative feedback indicates that an adjustment needs to be made and the threat response turns on and defensiveness sets in. You don't need to avoid corrective feedback altogether. Just make sure you follow it up with a suggested solution or outcome.”