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5 Steps for Cultivating Happiness at Work

Everyone wants to be happy, but whether or not we are successful at achieving it each day is the true challenge. Science is now pointing towards the fact that happiness is not only a goal, but it can actually be beneficial in a work environment. In a study conducted at the University of Warwick, happy employees were found to be 12% more productive than their less positive counterparts. This evidence is supported across the industry in numerous studies, including one that showed happy sales teams had a 37% increase in sales. Many companies are taking unique steps to increase their employees’ happiness in order to help their bottom lines. Google, for instance, offers free lunch to employees and analyzes their lunch line wait times so that employees are waiting an optimal time (just long enough to catch up with their colleagues). Meanwhile, Philips North America established a peer-to-peer recognition program to provide employees with more apparent praise in the workplace. And at Underground Elephant, we have our own Culture Team dedicated to making a positive workplace filled with fun events that increases happiness and collaboration throughout the office.

Happiness, however, is not always an inherent trait in employees. Waking up with a negative mindset can easily set the day on a negative path, making it difficult to realign with a positive attitude. If employees are already unhappy before coming to work, companies can face an uphill battle for both productivity and an engaging work environment. To think about some ways to help both employees and companies cultivate happiness, we sat down with Rachel Primacio, one of the bubbliest members of the UE Customer Service team. Her bright ideas and effervescent personality led us to these five key ways to boost positivity (and hopefully productivity) in the workplace.

1.Make a List

According to Shawn Anchor in the Harvard Business Review, making a list of the stressors in your life can actually lead to increased happiness. “Place [the stresses] into two groups – the ones you can control and those you can’t. Choose one stress that you can control and come up with a small, concrete step you can take to reduce it.” He goes on to share that facing this area of stress in your life and figuring out how to minimize it can help to reset your brain’s positivity. As a member of UE’s Customer Service team, Rachel knows first hand how easy it is to feel out of control and surrounded by stress, since a major portion of her job is taking care of customer issues. “By taking a step back and looking at what we can and can’t control,” Rachel says, “I have found that we all have the power to change our outlook on the day.” When you’ve successfully reduced small stresses in your day, don’t forget to celebrate that small win – little victories can improve your day immensely.

2. Personal Affirmations

In the workplace, we aren’t necessarily applauded for every single task we accomplish or small goal that we meet. However, this doesn’t mean we don’t possess the power to reaffirm ourselves and give ourselves confidence to take on the day. One simple idea Rachel has to achieve happiness is to “say one affirmative thing to yourself, whether it’s recalling an accomplishment from the previous day, or thinking about something great that’s going to happen.” These positive thoughts trigger a mental state that helps you think more optimistically and positively throughout the day, which can then in turn affect how you work with others. Rachel says, “Although I deal with difficult calls in customer service daily, my positive mindset reminds me to be empathetic towards the callers, which in turn makes the calls more successful. At the end of each day, don’t forget to compliment yourself on all that you’ve achieved. These positive affirmations give you an encouraging reminder that you are doing great and to keep at it!”

3. Make Friends

It’s a pretty well known fact that having friends is a key to overall happiness. As humans, we all innately want to feel connected and to have companionship, so where better to encourage relationships than in the workplace? In a Gallup poll, employee satisfaction was 50% higher in those who have close friendships at work, and those who work with their best friend have seven times higher work engagement levels. At Underground Elephant, the Culture Team places a huge emphasis on cultivating friendships, whether at our Friday Watering Hole happy hours or our annual Forum Team Scavenger Hunt. Rachel met her “work bff” three months ago on the day she started at UE, and she says the company’s activities have helped to continually nurture and strengthen their friendship.

4. Play Music

While listening to music in the car can help to relieve the stress induced by sitting in traffic, plugging in and finding a station at work can have an equally uplifting effect. When the office gets loud or she wants to focus on a particular task, Rachel puts on a Pandora Yoga station which calms her down and makes her happy amidst the chaos. “Music speaks a language that you don’t have words for, and the emotion of the music you listen to can uplift your spirits,” says Rachel. Listening to music at work has also been linked biologically to increased happiness levels: pleasant melodies trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, which gives you feelings of happiness. In a study conducted at the University of Miami, employees who listened to music were even more productive and finished their tasks faster than those who didn’t have music playing.

5. Meditate

At work, we are constantly multi-tasking and facing various challenges. These tasks can easily stack up and feel overwhelming, so in order to restore balance to the day, consider adding meditation to your routine. Gwen Schlefer of the Huffington Post states, “A regular meditation practice helps to improve overall happiness, self-awareness and patience.” Now, this doesn’t mean you need to take a break from work and attend a yoga class; even the smallest form of mediation can make a huge difference to your day. You can start by simply focusing on your breath for a minute, which enables your body to reset and calm down. According to studies by the University of Washington, pausing for mediation can lead to higher productivity through increased focus. Many companies already understand the effectiveness of meditation and have started incorporating it into their work cultures. Nike, for instance, has an in-house meditation room, while Apple sets aside 30 minutes a day for employees to relax and reflect.

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