Is the pursuit of workplace happiness worth it?

Is the pursuit of workplace happiness worth it?

Employers are constantly searching for the best methods to keep staff engaged, motivated and happy at work.

Some organisations have even gone so far as to hire ‘Chief Happiness Officers', and have fixed slides, football tables and even bars in the office.

However, the place where we feel most miserable is work, according to a recent study by the London School of Economics. The only place and circumstance that makes us feel worse is being sick in bed.

The prolonged myth that being happy at work equals being more productive has been long studied, but the results are inconclusive.

Writing in The Guardian is André Spicer, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the Cass Business School at City University London. He cites two conflicting pieces of research; one study found that if you show students a standup comedy routine and then get them to spot errors in a piece of writing, they will do better than students who have not seen the comedy routine. However, another study of a UK supermarket chain, found that the stores with the least satisfied employees were the most productive and profitable.

The cult of ‘compulsory happiness’ - forcing individuals to be happy at work - can have an adverse effect. A number of recent studies show that being able to express a range of positive and negative emotions is important for the whole organisation.

Spicer advises that removing some of the endemic uncertainty that is built into many workplaces would be an excellent step towards making employees happier at work. “In my own work with Mats Alvesson, we found that many organisational restructuring and change initiatives achieve very little apart from making employees miserable, building the reputations of a few managers, and fattening the coffers of consultants,” he explains.

“One way organisations really could make their employees happier, aside from slides and vodka shots? Think long and hard before pointless restructuring.”

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