Live to work or work to live? Why Happiness at Work Week shouldn’t be the whole story.

September 24th, 2021

It’s Happiness at Work week this week – did you know?

Yes, the International Week of Happiness at Work runs from September 20-26. The idea behind it is to encourage all organisations to make happiness in the workplace a priority. The theory is that the happier you are, the more successful you are likely to be. According to the movement’s manifesto, the benefit to organisations is in happier staff who are more likely to be co-operative and productive. 

What is happiness anyway?

The concept of happiness is endlessly fascinating to us human beings. We seek it … but perhaps we are never sure we have really found it. Our good friends the Greek philosophers (looking at you, Aristippus and Aristotle) identified two types of happiness that are, for want of a better phrase, available to humans: 

Hedonic happiness – is experienced through pleasures of the flesh: food, being one obvious example. 

Eudaimonic happiness – is an enriching type of happiness that can be experienced through certain ‘pillars’, such as self-acceptance, mastering skills, living life with purpose and having positive relationships. 

Why work is never the whole story

Here at My Internal World and Calm People we teach people that a whole life is just that: not lived just at the office, or just at home, or just while enjoying our hobbies, but in all of them. While there is much to applaud about Happiness at Work week – it is a great idea to try to get employers to treat their staff well and reduce unhappiness – problems can occur if a person focuses entirely on their happiness in the workplace. Should we, in fact, put so much emphasis on happiness at work?

The fragile working environment 

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us many things, a lot of which have to do with the fragility of our world and the systems by which we all operate. Unfortunately, it has shown us, for example, how easily we can lose our jobs. One minute we think we have a secure career, the next, it is taken away. 

So we can see that a movement such as Happiness at Work Week only covers some of the story. Perhaps too many of us focus on our wellbeing in the office, to the detriment of other areas of our lives that are just as important: our families, our homes, our passions. 

And of course, as the organisers of Happiness at Work week acknowledge, no-one can be happy all the time. 

As specialists in helping work teams collaborate better with each other through emotional training and resilience, we support the efforts of schemes such as Happiness at Work Week. It’s great to see something that is highlighting common issues such as office politics and absenteeism. Hopefully that can go some way towards alerting managers the many ways in which staff’s emotional wellbeing can be improved. 

Let’s just make sure that we give all the areas of our life the same attention.