Are you happy at work? Believe it or not, work can be fun. It doesn’t have to be “work.” But if you aren’t happy, it means you’re going to have to be deliberate about what you create. You can’t just let things go along on autopilot—because autopilot usually brings things like gossip, pre-judgments, and cliques. Complaining as sport. Team members automatically protecting themselves when they feel attacked. Hunkering down.

All of this takes a toll. And it makes people a lot less happy at work.

The average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. Is it so unreasonable to expect that the majority of those should be happy ones?

You can make the difference. My challenge to you: Decide to take on the role of being the “Chief Happiness Officer” at your workplace.

To give you a little more incentive, let’s take a look at how happy (and unhappy) employees affect the business. Economists at the University of Warwick carried out a number of experiments to test the idea that happy employees work harder. In the laboratory, they found that happiness made people about 12 percent more productive. Positive emotions invigorate people.

On the flipside, unhappiness at work can be expensive. The American Psychological Association estimates that 550 million workdays are lost each year due to stress on the job. Sixty to eighty percent of workplace accidents are attributed to stress. And workplace stress has been linked to health problems ranging from metabolic syndrome to cardiovascular disease and mortality.

3 Steps to Happier Workplace

As the “Chief Happiness Officer”, what do you need to do to create a happy work environment? Let’s start with three simple steps:

  • Create Positivity

To do this, start by getting people to focus on the good. For example, I recently heard about a team that engages in “Cheers for Peers.” It’s a weekly meeting where peers share about the good things they have seen in one another during the week. They offer their appreciation and recognition for each other. This is a deceptively simple but invigorating practice.

  • Create Environments for People to be Together

Don’t discount the importance of the environment in nurturing relationships. In a recent New York Times article, Communal Breaks — A Chance to Bond, Ben Waber notes, “In general when we look at what makes people happy and effective at work, it’s being able to spend time with a close group of people. You need to structure work in such a way that people have those opportunities.” In other words, create spaces and places where people can gather.

You might start by thinking about how you could you be more strategic about your placement of coffee and break rooms. Take a page from Silicon Valley design firm IDEO, which built a kitchen off the main open work station space in their San Francisco office. Employees can smell the soup cooking away in the hours leading up to lunch, when they’re encouraged to dish up and dig in together.

As the Chief Happiness Officer, consider how could you turn your break areas into gathering spots that are welcoming, easily accessible, and jumping-off points to great relationships. Use as your model the consummate happy hour host. After all, your goal here is to build more happy hours at work every day.

  • Do Something Good for Others in Need

One way to connect and create a happy team is to be in service together. Choose a service project in your local community, like a food bank or a shelter that could use your hearts and hands. Then rally a team of people to go together and do good. By joining together out in the community and outside the workplace environment, your team will build a broader sense of pride. It will also remind them that others have far more to complain about than you do. It brings perspective and maybe even gratitude.

Don’t wait for someone else to create happiness at work. The title is yours for the taking, and that means a happier workplace is just around the corner. Make it your job and see what magic you’ll cook up!


  • Dede Henley


    Henley Leadership Group

    I founded Henley Leadership Group 22 years ago to help leaders and organizations create more equitable and productive workplaces and ignite the nascent leadership potential of employees at all levels. Through individual coaching and programs designed to generate positive business results, Henley Leadership Group has served thousands of corporate leaders in a variety of industries, including healthcare, technology, energy and finance. Away from work, I live with my husband, and try not to meddle too much in the lives of my half-dozen kids.