Bring­ing cheer to work­place is no fad

7 Days in Dubai - - NEWS - Shoshana@7days.ae

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

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