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What happiness at work is and how to use it



Purpose – Change management, organizational, team and leadership development is often conducted through frameworks that do not meet expectations. This paper aims to look at how the science of happiness at work delivers strategic outcomes when used in a bottom-up and top-down approach. Design/methodology/approach – While the idea that happiness is an important concept outside work is now prevalent, there is little research or practice to show how it can be used to drive organizational success or deliver return on investment. The case study shows how to deploy the approach in an organization-wide strategic intervention. Findings – The science of happiness at work delivers return on investment and strategic outcomes when properly implemented. Practical implications – This new approach is a powerful methodology which offers traction at individual, team and organizational level: it opens up a different evaluation and development methodology that positively fast-tracks change and growth. Social implications – There is huge potential for making teams and organizations better places to work by using a simple, practical and aligned framework rooted in something that matters intuitively to everyone. Originality/value – This paper provides an understanding of the theory and application of the science of happiness at work. It shows how strategic issues can be addressed within a short space of time and highlights the benefit of an approach which encompasses personal, social and organizational issues simultaneously.
iOpener Institute for People and Performance™
The Old Bakehouse 2 South Parade Oxford OX2 7JL UK
T + 44 (0) 1865 511522 F +44 (0) 1865 552918 E
©iOpener Institute 2014
An iOpener case study
Happiness at Work. That short phrase can sound pretty flaky taken in isolation. But research and
scholarship are showing time and again
just what an important subject this for driving top line growth and
bottom line results. And how deeply underestimated it has been
Why happiness at work matters?
The iOpener Institute based in Oxford UK has run an extensive, rigorous and robust research program since
2005 into what everyone is increasingly called the Science of Happiness at Work. And our empirical data
has found that a happy worker is a high-performing one
. The happiest employees:
Take one tenth the sick-leave of their least happy colleagues
Are six times more energized
Intend to stay twice as long in their organizations
Are twice as productive
Let’s look at this last statistic in more detail.
The data we’ve gathered from 41,000 respondents shows that employees who are happiest at work report
being “on task” 80% of their working week. That’s four days a week. It would be impossible for anyone to
be on task 100% of the time: it would be unrealistic as we need to chat and connect. Water cooler and
coffee moments matter as any leader, manager or employee knows. But we also get stuck when laptops
crash, when others are ill, when minds get changed and stuff suddenly pops up which temporarily derails
us. So 80% time on task is pretty good.
On the other hand employees who are really unhappy at work spend only 40% of their time on task. That’s
two days a week. And it represents a huge cost to any organization. In effect an organization is losing
about 100 days’ work – or about 3.5 months for every really unhappy employee. So the data is presenting
some really interesting metrics-led facts about the cost of unhappiness at work.
What is happiness at work?
So how do we define happiness at work? Our definition is that “it is a mindset which enables action to
maximize performance and achieve potential”, so it’s a simple yet practical definition which applies to an
individual, a team or an organization. But the key focus here is this mindset: everyone knows that
approaching something in a positive manner is more likely to get results than doing the opposite. It’s
common sense. Yet common sense seems not to be so common when it comes to organizations.
Of course the highs that happiness in the traditional lay sense bring are important too and they also fall
within our model. These short bursts of positive emotion which lasts up to 10 seconds, tell us to keep going
because we derive personal enjoyment from the activity. But they this isn’t the objective of the approach.
The objective of what we do is to create sustainable and enduring change through people, because it’s
people who deliver results, not programs or emotions.
iOpener Institute for People and Performance™
The Old Bakehouse 2 South Parade Oxford OX2 7JL UK
T + 44 (0) 1865 511522 F +44 (0) 1865 552918 E
©iOpener Institute 2014
At the iOpener Institute, Headquartered in Oxford, UK and located in the USA, Dubai, Germany, the
Netherlands, USA, Mexico, Israel and South Africa, we help organizations with their people strategy and
implementation, so that business critical employees can be at and contribute their best. That’s what drives
high performing workplaces. Doing this in a metrics-led, outcomes-oriented practice ensures return on
investment of any interventions.
What’s the model we use?
For us happiness at work is based on a researched-based
and practitioner-driven model. The Performance-
Happiness Model is made up of 5 important components, which we know as the 5Cs. They are:
Contribution which is about what you do
Conviction is your short-term motivation
Culture is your feeling of fit
Commitment is your long-term engagement
Confidence is your self-belief
These are all interlocked, working as an ecosystem which means that they have a strong impact on each
other. Trust and Pride in an organization and Recognition back from it help form the context in which the
5Cs are operationalized. And, to be happy at work, an individual must have a sense of achieving their
potential, which is why it lies at the heart of the model.
©iOpener Institute for People and Performance 2011
What leaders need to understand is how to create that context of pride, trust and recognition, then it’s
more likely that their team members will be able to deliver on the 5Cs.
iOpener Institute for People and Performance™
The Old Bakehouse 2 South Parade Oxford OX2 7JL UK
T + 44 (0) 1865 511522 F +44 (0) 1865 552918 E
©iOpener Institute 2014
How is this different from engagement?
While we acknowledge that there is some over-lap between both the Science of Happiness at Work and
engagement (whatever definition you use), we can see from our data that there are some important
differences. For example senior leaders and general managers frequently report that they are highly
engaged at work but they are not happy. We hypothesize that this is because they often also show high
levels of Conscientiousness (NEO-PI-3) and therefore invest heavily in their work regardless of mindset.
Second, we take a fundamentally different philosophical position from practitioners and academics who
focus on engagement. Typically engagement is held to be a manager’s responsibility; we believe that
individuals not managers are responsible for their own happiness at work.
Third, we believe in the power of language to create culture. Happiness is a word that everyone uses: when
would you go home to your partner and talk about an ‘engagement’ issue inside or outside work? You
wouldn’t. If we are to encourage authenticity and transparency we need to adopt a language that reflects
So how is the approach useful to organizations?
How to use the approach? A case study
An organization came to us with a big strategic problem about 18 months ago. They were having trouble
retaining business critical employees and this was having a devastating effect on their ability to grow. They
simply couldn’t take on more client work and were in danger of over-trading. Internally there were
problems scoping projects, meetings milestones and delivering quality outcomes for their clients. The
business was simply unable to expand or grow because they were losing talent fast. That meant that every
team was pretty much in permanent crisis, so our goal was to help them improve this turnover number.
So we:
Assessed the whole organization using our research-driven tool, the iOpener People and
Performance Questionnaire (iPPQ).
Analyzed the data to see what worked and what could work better both at a team and
organizational level.
Ran focus groups to flesh out some of the internal issues which were hampering growth.
Coached the board and senior leaders using our proprietary 360 tool which aligns with individual
iPPQ reports.
Ensured that the people strategy was aligned with the organizational strategy.
Re-aligned some of the HR processes to ensure that they were based on what worked well and
what could work better.
Helped leaders to implement the refreshed and realigned HR processes.
Worked with HR to plan then deliver leadership development aligned with the Science of Happiness
at Work.
Ensured knowledge transfer into the organization so that HR, leaders and managers could be self-
iOpener Institute for People and Performance™
The Old Bakehouse 2 South Parade Oxford OX2 7JL UK
T + 44 (0) 1865 511522 F +44 (0) 1865 552918 E
©iOpener Institute 2014
Found champions for every team so that the approach would remain alive and at top-of-mind.
Re-assessed the organization.
What issues did we face during implementation?
During this time the organization went through significant change in terms of ownership with all the knock-
on consequences in terms of delivering a large-scale intervention. In addition there were, as always, a few
leaders who are not ready for embracing new ways of working or leading others. Senior leaders who aren’t
prepared to get behind an initiative create risk which needs managing and addressing because employees
always take their cue from the top.
What was key to overall project success?
Access to, support from and the attitude of the CEO was a critical success factor. This CEO had an intrinsic
and unshakeable belief that the approach was absolutely the right thing for this knowledge-based
professional services organization. And we see that in our data too: knowledge-workers who unhappy at
work create much more instability and risk because they can so easily jeopardize projects they are involved
A second important key to success was that leaders could very quickly see the immediate difference that
positively-oriented processes and conversations made. This isn’t to say that they shied away from the
tougher conversations: on the contrary. A large part of happiness at work consists of doing difficult things
and this includes giving negative feedback when needed. And a core part of the leadership development
process included helping those leaders coach team members and grow their willingness and skill in offering
development feedback.
A third core factor that helped deliver success was ensuring that we were working bottom-up and top-
down simultaneously. This meant that everyone could quickly see that things were starting to happen and
changes were being implemented.
So what were the outcomes?
When the project started, turnover of business critical employees was running at 25%. Over 15 months, this
halved to 12.5%. Not only has this reduction created much more stability and a platform for growth, but of
course the recruitment costs to the organization have fallen dramatically. What matters more is the
intangible effect on the organization’s social networks. Real-time relationships and therefore trust within
and between teams has increased greatly because there is a much greater sense of stability and progress.
A further positive outcome is that the language of the organization has changed. Employees and leaders
are using the terminology of the Science of Happiness at Work. This means that conversations are easier
because there is a framework and language where before there wasn’t. And that means it’s much easier to
have new, deeper and potentially more meaningful interactions. When the shape of language changes you
open up different conversations, cultures and outcomes. And to do that through a positive approach
creates incredible cohesion - which is something that all organizations need in today’s uncertain world.
iOpener Institute for People and Performance™
The Old Bakehouse 2 South Parade Oxford OX2 7JL UK
T + 44 (0) 1865 511522 F +44 (0) 1865 552918 E
©iOpener Institute 2014
For more about the iOpener Institute please visit; if you would like to try the
short report, go to And look out for the next Global Happiness at Work Survey in the
Wall St Journal.
Boehm, J.K. & Lyubomirsky, S., 2008, Journal of Career Assessment; 16; 101 “Does Happiness Promote Career
Fisher C., Happiness At Work, 2010, International Journal of Management Reviews, 12;4
Pryce-Jones, J. & Lutterbie S. 2010, Why leveraging the Science of Happiness at Work Matters: the happy and
productive employee. Assessment & Development Matters, 2;4
Lutterbie S.J. & Pryce-Jones J., 2013, Managing Happiness at Work, Assessment and Development Matters 5;2
... These associated emotions influence various factors related to the ability of the firm to create sustainable financial performance and advancement towards financial goals (de Neve et al. 2013;Ducey, 2016;Hess and Bacigalupo, 2013). That is, the organizational climate and the effect it has on happiness is indeed relevant to the firm's profit (Pryce- Jones and Lindsay, 2014). However, the actual impact of increasing happiness by corporations cannot be addressed without identifying the specific financial variables related to both the costs that the firm must bear to improve happiness and their impact on revenue streams. ...
Happiness is an important global goal, and a central social-economic indicator; legislation, policymaking and reporting procedures have been created for its advancement. The business sector is gradually, if partially, adopting the pursuit of happiness as a value, as stakeholders' awareness of its importance increases. However, the business sector's official responsibility to promote Gross National Happiness (GNH) remains unclear, despite its central role in society. Furthermore, a firm's choice to increase happiness may have a negative impact on its short-term financial profit, thereby decreasing its propensity to invest in happiness. We construct a theoretical model to present the concept of Corporate Happiness Responsibility as a framework for promoting happiness in the business sector. The model illustrates the contradictions between profit maximization and contribution to GNH and proposes using tax benefits as an incentive to close the gap. Our theoretical framework makes a significant contribution to the advancement of happiness by supporting the business sector's increased responsibility for national happiness.
... This is in line with what has been theorized in the broaden-and-build (BnB) theory of positive emotions, which suggests that positive emotions, such as joy and happiness, widen people's novelty and thought-actions through building skills and resources (Fredrickson and Branigan, 2005). On the other hand, lower levels of confidence and motivation and higher levels of pessimism are amongst the attitudinal manifestations of unhappy employees (Pryce-Jones and Lindsay, 2014). ...
Purpose Drawing upon theories of conservation of resources (COR), broaden-and-build (BnB), self-determination, and the job demands- resources (JD-R) model, this study uniquely tries to understand the mechanisms that contribute to happiness at work by proposing a model of the effects of emotional culture of joy on happiness at work, where psychological safety and relational attachments serve as intervening mechanisms among the aforesaid relationship. Design/methodology/approach A three-wave time-lagged study with 340 employees from Pakistani organizations was conducted. Data were analyzed using covariance-based structural equation modelling. Findings The results indicate that emotional culture of joy significantly predicts happiness at work. Furthermore, emotional culture of joy significantly and positively influences both psychological safety and relational attachment. Finally, the relationship between emotional culture of joy and happiness at work is found to be mediated by both relational attachment and psychological safety. Practical implications The results are of utmost importance as they provide insights to policy makers and organizations administrators on the value of emotional culture of joy and its contribution to employees’ wellbeing, and indeed its role in fostering important psychological and emotional resources such as psychological safety and relational attachment. Originality/value This study is unique for the following reasons. First, it addresses and bridges a gap pertaining to the drivers of happiness at work. Second, this is the first study that considers emotional culture of joy as an antecedent to happiness at work. Third, the employment of both psychological safety and relational attachment as intervening mechanisms in the relationship between emotional culture of joy and happiness at work has not been previously addressed in the management and wellbeing literature. Finally, the study shifts direction from studying organizational drivers (i.e. HR, organization support, etc.) of happiness at work to the examination of psychological and emotional resources that may influence happiness at work.
... 2.1 | "Be happy not perfect" and positive mindset of employees As people remain happy at work, it brings in them few unpleasant feelings and reinforces the quality of their emotional health (Seligman, 2002). It leads to a deeper interaction at work that stimulates a sense of achieving their potential where the five Cs come into operation-contribution, confidence, conviction, commitment, and culture (Pryce- Jones & Lindsay, 2014). Under such crucial circumstances, forcing toward perfectionism would make employees vulnerable to emotional distress (Dunkley et al., 2016) where they would measure their self-worth in terms of unattainable goals at work. ...
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With one of the greatest turmoil in the world of work that has wreaked havoc on companies small and large, the global pandemic COVID‐19 is penning a new normative. Amidst such disruptions, employees are found to be floundering with tears, boredom, annoyance, and helplessness. With unparalleled challenges and uncertain prognosis, employees are unable to rebuild their power and thrive in alternative circumstances. This calls for an active effort on the part of organizations to embrace openness and discuss vividly what needs to be preserved, created, eliminated, or accepted. Deeper ties and inclusive approach of firms can amp up an employee's self‐worth. The current study reflected the essence of connectedness and oneness at times of crisis. Organizations can play a pivotal role in helping employees rise above the feeling of despair. Connecting with heart can sweep off the feeling of instability, bringing in a stream of positive emotions and experiences. The study draws a cross‐sectional data (n = 418) from employees working in various manufacturing and service companies of India to test the hypothesized framework. We have carried out SEM analysis through AMOS to understand the combined measurement model with mediation effects. The analytical results demonstrate that positive mindset fully and partially mediates between the drivers of heart work and resilience. The study reveals that the contributing factors of heart work significantly influences positive mindset of employees, which in turn has a positive association with resilience at work. One of the triggers of heart work—“Face the fear, fix fast” is found to be a strong and consistent predictor of positive mindset. Again, “Generate energy moments” another element of heart work stands to be a sharp predictor of resilience at work. The study also discusses varied implications that can enrich managerial effectuality in this crisis condition.
... 1 More recently, the construct of HAW has been on the receiving end of researchers' attention. According to Jessica Pryce-Jones and John Lindsay (2014), happy people at work are twice as productive, six times more energized and intend to stay twice as long in the profession when compared to unhappy individuals. As an organizing conceptual construct, I prefer to use the term HAW, in accordance with an extensive body of psychological literature, over e.g. ...
The translator’s happiness at work has been gaining academic attention with new transdisciplinary stimuli from psychology and identity studies in the wake of a sociological paradigm shift and translator studies. The overarching aim of this follow-up study is to compare perceptions of happiness at work in Slovak sworn and institutional (i.e. EU) translators from a cognitive–affective standpoint. The article also strives to determine and compare the subjects’ affective feelings when translating through the IWP Affect Questionnaire. The research reveals that the majority of the legal translators show positive “happiness styles”, but there are some pronounced between-cohort differences which are discussed in detail. The prevalence of positive over negative affective feelings has been confirmed via happiness metrics. The results of the cognitive–affective research in the Slovak social space enhance the investigations into translators’ happiness at work by an analysis of their socio-psychological identities through a lens of affective translation studies.
The current chapter focuses on the scope of employee happiness and resilience which will be examined in detail, and the importance of happiness and resilience for organizational sustainability in the post-COVID-19 pandemic period are discussed through research and reports. Then recommendations are provided based on the results of scientific studies to protect and increase employee happiness and resilience. This chapter aims at revealing the importance of wellbeing and resilience in the workplace highlighting the aftereffects of COVID-19 in the organizational ecosystem.
Creative performance (CP) has become an indispensable need for survival and competitiveness in today's business world. In response to this exigent situation, the current research is focused on investigating the role of employee attitudes, namely mindfulness and happiness, in their CP. This research also highlights the mediating role of creative processes engagement (CPE) between mindfulness, happiness, and CP pathways. CP comprises individual creativity (IC) and innovative work behaviors (IWB). The target population of the current study was manufacturing and service firms in Pakistan, and structural equation modeling was used to test the theoretical model and proposed hypotheses. The results indicated that mindfulness and happiness positively and significantly influence employee CP. Furthermore, mindfulness and happiness indicated a significant positive impact on IWB and IC. CPE partially mediated the relationships between mindfulness and CP and happiness and CP. The results propose imperative directives for the leadership of manufacturing and service organizations by suggesting different ways to promote CP among employees through their attitudes.
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This study examines the state of happiness of Indian employees, identifies the antecedents of their happiness, and explores the correlates of their workplace happiness. It is based on a sample of 400 public sector employees belonging to the education, health, banking and manufacturing sectors in northern India. SPSS version 23 was used to analyse the collected data using descriptive and inferential statistical tests. Results indicate that most employees are contented with their happiness at work, but their overall happiness level is not very high. The studies findings reinforce that flow, intrinsic motivation and supportive organisational experiences are important contributors to employee happiness. The study results indicate that the type of family, income and years of experience significantly affect employee happiness. The study highlights the organisational interventions which can contribute to employee workplace happiness. This endeavour would also have important implications for the interpretation of the predictors of employee happiness.
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Tujuan penelitian ini adalah untuk menjelaskan peran kebahagiaan kerja dan komitmen karyawan memediasi pengaruh kebahagiaan kerja terhadap kinerja karyawan. Populasi penelitian ini adalah karyawan perusahaan swasta di Bali. Besarnya sampel yang digunakan sebanyak 200 orang dengan metode purposive sampling. Teknik analisis yang digunakan adalah Path Analysis dengan menggunakan pendekatan SEM-PLS. Hasil penelitian menunjukkan bahwa kebahagaan kerja berpengaruh positif dan signifikan terhadap kinerja karyawan. Kebahagiaan kerja berpengaruh positif dan signifikan terhadap perilaku inovatif dan kebahagian kerja juga berpengaruh positif dan signifikan terhadap komitmen organisasional. Selanjutnya, perilaku inovatif berpengaruh positif dan signifikan terhadap kinerja karyawan dan komitmen organisasional berpengaruh positif dan signifikan terhadap kinerja karyawan. Perilaku inovatif mampu memediasi parsial secara signifikan pengaruh kebahagiaan kerja terhadap kinerja karyawan dan komitmen organisasional mampu memediasi secara signifikan pengaruh kebahagiaan kerja terhadap kinerja karyawan. Oleh karena itu penting bagi pimpinan di perusahaan untuk memperhatikan mengembangkan perilaku inovatif dan komitmen organisasional sehingga kebahagiaan kerja mampu meningkatkan kinerja karyawannya.
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Happiness in the form of pleasant moods and emotions, well-being, and positive attitudes has been attracting increasing attention throughout psychology research. The interest in happiness has also extended to workplace experiences. This paper reviews what is known about the definition, causes and consequences of happiness at work, drawing also on insights from the expanding positive psychology literature on happiness in general. Many discrete organizational behavior constructs arguably belong to a larger family of happiness-related constructs, and share some common causes and consequences. Happiness at work includes, but is far more than, job satisfaction. A comprehensive measure of individual-level happiness might include work engagement, job satisfaction, and affective organizational commitment. Aspects of happiness have been (and should be) conceptualized and measured at multiple levels, including transient experiences, stable person-level attitudes, and collective attitudes, and with respect to multiple foci, such as discrete events, the job, and the organization. At all levels, there is evidence that happiness has important consequences for both individuals and organizations. Past research has tended to underestimate the importance of happiness at work.
Past research has demonstrated a relationship between happiness and workplace success. For example, compared with their less happy peers, happy people earn more money, display superior performance, and perform more helpful acts. Researchers have often assumed that an employee is happy and satisfied because he or she is successful. In this article, the authors review evidence in support of an alternative hypothesis—namely, that happiness is a source of why particular employees are more successful than others. To this end, the authors consider evidence from three types of studies—cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental—that relate happiness to various work outcomes. Taken together, the evidence suggests that happiness is not only correlated with workplace success but that happiness often precedes measures of success and that induction of positive affect leads to improved workplace outcomes.
The five-factor model of personality is a hierarchical organization of personality traits in terms of five basic dimensions: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience. Research using both natural language adjectives and theoretically based personality questionnaires supports the comprehensiveness of the model and its applicability across observers and cultures. This article summarizes the history of the model and its supporting evidence; discusses conceptions of the nature of the factors; and outlines an agenda for theorizing about the origins and operation of the factors. We argue that the model should prove useful both for individual assessment and for the elucidation of a number of topics of interest to personality psychologists.
Why leveraging the science of happiness at work matters: the happy and productive employee”
  • J Lutterbie
Managing happiness at work”, Assessment and Development Matters
  • S J Lutterbie