Bringing cheer to workplace is no fad
ention the job title happiness officer and you’re likely to conjure up images of Silicon Valley workers on beanbags, ‘blue sky thinking’ and corporate jargon.
But ensuring a happy workforce is no fad - and the science behind it is becoming a priority for some of the world’s top companies.
The UAE’s Ministry of Happiness is also hiring about 60 Chief Happiness Officers and Positivity Officers, tasked with “spreading positivity, a staple of the government and the community”, it said last month.
The cheerful chosen will undergo training at University of California, Berkeley, one of the top institutes in the United States and a pioneer in workplace development.
Ensuring firms get the best from their employees has become top of the agenda for major corporations in recent years.
Google famously employed a ‘Jolly Good Fellow’ named Chade-Meng Tan to motivate staff and greet celebrity visitors, while Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad (pictured far right) was known to stroll the halls of the world’s furniture retailer.
Alex Kjerulf (inset) runs the Danish workplace happiness consultancy Woohoo and has advised Ikea, Microsoft and Lego about how to bring a smile to their workers’ faces. “What more and more companies are realising is that employee happiness is incredibly important and that’s why their hiring someone to be put in charge of this area,” Kjerulf told 7DAYS. “There’s a lot of reasons for this. Happy employees are more productive and get more work done,” he said, adding that this has overtaken decades of management theory that bosses should be firm and regimented with their employees. “In happy workplaces you have lower absenteeism and lower employee turnover, and lower recruitment training, which saves you a lot of money.” A happiness officer’s main goal, Kjerulf said, “is to ensure people go home happy and enjoy their job”. And a happy workplace is also a profitable one. “Happy workplaces make more money,” Kjerulf said. At Berkeley, the Greater Good Science Centre teaches fiveday intensive training courses, which the UAE team will be attending. It teaches the understanding behind the ‘science of happiness’, along with how to deliver talks and how to involve colleagues in interactive discussions designed to get the best out of them. The happiness officers will also receive training at the UK’s Oxford Mindfulness Centre at Oxford University, about how to employ mindfulness, which is designed to reduce stress and improve mental and physical health.
Although they will be working in the public sector, the private sector faces its own challenges.
A 2016 survey of 20,000 GCC employees by recruitment firm Bloovo.com found almost half felt demotivated.
Ahmed Khamis, CEO of Bloovo, said job mis- match, low pay, too few advancement opportunities and a “poor working culture” are among the most common complaints. He said every boss effectively needs to be a happiness officer, spreading a positive culture in their company.
Khamis added: “They need to create an open culture, encourage people not to be afraid of failure, and this all needs to come from the top.
“And if you want happy employees, management need to be leaders, not bosses.”
IN IT TOGETHER: Happiness consultant Alex Kjerulf (pictured left) said CEOs meeting with junior employees and encouraging staff to discuss bad news helps to spread a positive culture