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The Australian - The Deal - - Firts up - Story by: Ver­ity Ed­wards Ver­ity Ed­wards is edi­tor of The Week­end Aus­tralian’s Week­end Pro­fes­sional

Hap­pi­ness is not all Your em­ploy­ees don’t have to love their work but you can help them feel bet­ter about it

TO be happy at work, or not; there is noth­ing wrong with ei­ther, although no-one wants to work with a sad sack. Forc­ing peo­ple to be happy at work through un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions has been shown to con­trib­ute to men­tal ill­ness. A Gallup study of sites in 142 coun­tries in 2013 – tak­ing in roughly 230,000 work­ers – found 63 per cent were not en­gaged or were un­happy at work. A fur­ther 24 per cent hated their jobs, were emo­tion­ally dis­con­nected and frus­trated with their po­si­tion. The con­verse is that only 13 per cent were happy and liked their jobs. The hap­pi­est were in Panama, of all places.

Gallup found those who rated them­selves as happy were 36 per cent more mo­ti­vated, six times more en­er­gised, and twice as pro­duc­tive as un­happy work­ers.

In Australia it may be dif­fi­cult to sus­tain the hap­pi­ness ideal de­spite the grow­ing in­ci­dence of em­ployee-well­be­ing pro­grams be­ing im­ple­mented to en­sure staff are en­gaged, less likely to leave and are more pro­duc­tive.

We can't force peo­ple to be happy. For many, work is a means to an end; they would rather be at home with their fam­ily or friends, trav­el­ling, or sun­ning them­selves on a beach.

Uni­ver­sity of New South Wales psy­chol­o­gist Brock Bas­tian says ex­pect­ing work­ers to feel happy places pres­sure on peo­ple not to feel neg­a­tive emo­tions, or to hide emo­tions in­con­sis­tent with a cheer­ful ex­te­rior. When peo­ple try to hide neg­a­tive emo­tions their mood tends to de­te­ri­o­rate and they can be­come stuck in a rut, or strug­gle with how they are ex­pected to feel. Bas­tian says those who feel neg­a­tive emo­tions suf­fer the worst at work be­cause they feel their un­der­ly­ing needs are not ac­cepted by col­leagues.

The an­swer is to not im­pose hap­pi­ness at work. It is OK not to love your job – not ev­ery­one does. Talk to col­leagues about how they feel and what they think could be im­proved. Ask if they un­der­stand the com­pany’s ex­pec­ta­tions, whether they have the best con­di­tions to do their best, whether they get along with their work­mates, and if they feel good about the work they are do­ing. Al­low some flex­i­ble work hours or lo­ca­tions.

Let them be, en­sure they are cop­ing. They are more likely to stay if they are happy.

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