Happy Office, Happy Life?

Happy young employee standing by workplace in office

You know what they say about “happy wife, happy life.” Well, as I see it, the same goes when it comes to coworkers at the office.

In an era of viral negativity where clashing political candidates and nameless cyber bullies rule the web, conversations about positivity and happiness seem few and far between. Americans are working harder than ever and continually finding themselves more and more stressed out. A 2015 study from the American Psychological Association found that money and work are the top two causes of significant stress and 34% of adults reported an increase in stress over the last year.

Let’s face it, we are one of the hardest working countries on the planet where the typical American worker spends most of their waking hours working. For most of us work really does define our lives, which is why it is so important that we strive to make work a positive experience.

So, to get some insight on both the art and science of tackling this challenge of reducing negative stress and enhancing our work lives I attended the second annual Workhuman conference, where such notable optimists as actor Michael J. Fox and TED Talk star Amy Cuddy shared their ideas. Here is their advice.

Michael J. Fox on Optimism

During a moving conversation about his life trajectory actor Michael J. Fox explained that “happiness grows in direct proportion to acceptance, and in inverse proportion to expectation… life is about circumstance and choice.” We all have an incredible ability to adapt to our circumstances. The challenge is in accepting those circumstances so as to ground our expectations in that new reality. Fox notes that “there are no rules in life.” It’s up to you to decide how to approach what life throws at you. Accept your situation, embrace what you bring to it, own your attitude, and enjoy the ride.

Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan on Spreading Happiness

Happiness researcher Shawn Achor opened the conference by remarking that “while happiness is an individual choice, it’s an interconnected one as well… happiness spreads.” When it comes to spreading happiness former CBS news anchor turned happiness researcher Michelle Gielan pointed out that when you “start a conversation with something positive and meaningful it will be matched in kind.” Happiness is both a personal choice and can also manifest as a byproduct of the positivity that we surround ourselves with. The next time you start up a conversation with a coworker or kick-off a meeting, show your human side by opening with a simple positive story that will lift everyone up.

Amy Cuddy on the Power of Posture

Widely known for her TED talk on the power of posture, social psychologist Amy Cuddy reminds us that “your body and your mind are constantly in conversation with each other and your body is leading that conversation.” The way we carry ourselves physically signals our state of mind and can even dictate how we actually feel. By simply changing your posture or using what she refers to as a “power pose” you can boost your confidence. Cuddy recommends standing in a power pose position (preferably in private) for two minutes before walking into a meeting. The idea is to allow your body to tell your mind that you are confident and ready. Your confidence will also send positive signals to those around you.    

Eric Mosley on Gratitude

Eric Mosley, author of The Power of Thanks, reminded us that the simple act of saying thanks has tremendous power. He noted that companies typically only allocate 1% of their payroll budgets to rewarding and recognizing the contributions of their people. The unfortunate reality is that companies spend far more money on administrative functions and internal bureaucracy than on rewarding good work. Mosley notes that to work human is to show gratitude and we need to show more of it. Find the time to catch someone doing something right and say thanks.