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Why Happiness at Work Matters

Successful leaders know happy employees contribute to better profitability. Here are two easy steps to a happier corporate culture.


It’s been a sad month, with the death of three American icons: Elaine Stritch, Lauren Bacall, and of course, Robin Williams. I grew up a little late to follow Lauren Bacall, but I’ve loved Elaine Stritch for years, and Robin Williams has always ranked in my top three funny men (along with Billy Crystal and Steve Martin). There’s a version of Robin that lives in my head–a sweet, sensitive, funny man I feel like I know from so many movies–and I think he (the Robin in my head) would want our focus now to be on happiness and laughter. I’m dedicating this article to him in gratitude for all the ways he’s made me laugh over the years. Rest in peace, Robin.

Barbara Corcoran spoke at the National Association of Professional Women’s annual networking conference this year and said the No. 1 reason her employees are loyal to her is because “fun” is office policy.

Alexander Kjerulf, chief happiness officer and founder of Woohoo inc (based in Denmark) says that happiness is the “ultimate productivity booster,” because happy people:

  • work better with others;
  • fix problems instead of complaining about them;
  • have more energy,
  • are more creative, optimistic, motivated, and healthy (i.e., they take fewer sick days);
  • worry less about making mistakes (and then actually make fewer mistakes);
  • learn faster; and
  • make better decisions.

Teresa Amabile, researcher and professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, has found that creativity is vital to business success and (as anyone who’s ever tried to be creative on a bad day knows), creativity cannot thrive in a negative environment.

The research shows that small daily events (habits, routines, interactions) directly influence your feelings, which has a profound effect on your job performance.

The “Small Stuff”–>Your Feelings About Your Job –>Job Performance

So when Gallup tells you that “only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work worldwide” (29 percent in the U.S. and Canada), and that in order to grow your business you must “win the hearts and minds of [your] employees,” it makes you wonder why happiness isn’t a higher priority.

If a culture of happy, healthy employees isn’t the norm in your world, ask yourself why.

Is it because you don’t know how to keep your employees happy, or because you’re overwhelmed and it’s too low on your priority list? Is it because your company policies and values are not aligned with happiness-promoting behaviors? Or is it simply because no one ever told you how much your employees’ happiness really matters?

If the issue is on the side of your priorities, check out the studies linked to this article. Gone are the days when you can say it doesn’t pay to invest in your employees’ happiness. The research is clear that happier employees are more productive, which improves your bottom line. Don’t want to read the research? Check out what Richard Branson has to say about it. It’s really a simple formula:

Happiness –>Productivity –>Profitability

On the other hand, if the issue is that you don’t know how to make your employees happier, two supereasy ways to begin came out of a 2014 UK study at the University of Warwick. (Read the full research report here.)
  1. Watch a comedy clip.
  2. Get free fruit, chocolate, or drinks from your employer.

Does this mean you have to always bring snacks to work? No, of course not. But why not start one of those boring Monday meetings with a humorous (and work-appropriate) video from YouTube or encourage people to bring in and share jokes (again, make sure they’re appropriate for work). Maybe you can play short comedy videos to lighten the mood when your team gets stressed . The idea is not to repress negative feelings or ignore problems, but to keep people from getting mired in them.

Success does not come before happiness; happiness comes before success.

Helping your employees find joy and meaning in what they’re doing definitely benefits your profit margin. To do this, you need to support them, appreciate them, listen to them, and empower them to use their innate strengths.

Robin Williams’ most obvious strength was making us all laugh, so let’s all bring some happiness into our workplaces this week, shall we?

I say we gather around some funny clips of Robin at his best and brightest, and feel grateful for all the laughs he gave us. It’s a great tribute to his memory, and as we’ve been told, laughter is the best medicine. Thanks for all the laughs, Robin.

This article was originally published on in August 2014.
Ariana Ayu is the author of the Business Mojo column on (a website and magazine geared toward entrepreneurs) which was published between 2014-2016. Ariana is the CEO and founder of several companies, including Ayutopia International, LLC, which develops profitable collaborative corporate cultures, personal celebrity brands, and custom branded websites. Her press and media appearances include USA Today, International Business Times, ABC, CBS, CBS Money Watch, the CW, Eyewitness News, FOX, NBC, Newsday,Virtual-Strategy Magazine, World’s Luxury Guide,, Miami Herald, BlogTalkRadio, and Hollywood Industry, among others.

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