In Pursuit of Happiness and Well-being at Work

January 21 2020 / by Mari Ryan

The US Declaration of Independence outlines that among our unalienable rights are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” For many, the pursuit of happiness may feel like an endless journey to an unachievable destination.


Happiness, and specifically the science of happiness, has become a hot topic in the past few years. The fact that there is even a science associated with happiness is encouraging.

What is happiness?

To begin to understand happiness, we need to first dig into the science of happiness. Over the past few decades, the field of psychology has evolved from researching what is wrong with us, to studying the things that make our lives worth living. Researchers Martin Seligman, Barbara Fredrickson, Chris Peterson and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi are credited as the founders of the field known as positive psychology. They have extensively researched humanism, emotion, moral psychology, cognitive behavioral therapy and philosophy to uncover the aspects of the human experience that make life worthwhile.

Happiness is more than just a positive feeling. The Authentic Happiness Theory, based on the work of Martin Seligman, suggests happiness is measured by life satisfaction.

At Advancing Wellness, when we develop a workplace well-being strategy for employers, we survey their employees to gather data. A key question we ask measures life satisfaction on a 10-point scale. Individuals with the most positive emotion, the most engagement and the most meaning in life are the happiest.

Happiness and well-being: is there a connection?

Over the years, Seligman’s work has expanded beyond the happiness theories to include well-being constructs. His definition of a well-being construct expands on the theory of happiness to include the additional pillars of accomplishment and positive relationships.

Why should businesses care about employee happiness?

Today’s business environment is more competitive than ever. This is especially true in terms of attracting and retaining top talent. A recent Korn Ferry survey reports that nearly a third of professionals say their top work resolution in 2020 is finding a new job.

Businesses are finally starting to pay attention.

How can the workplace support employee happiness and well-being?

There are steps employers can take to create a culture that supports these desired pursuits.

1.    Foster connections

Positive connections can influence how employees feel about themselves, their workplace and their work.

  • Work to create situations, beyond the standard meeting, where people can come together. Many workplace designs encourage informal, comfortable spaces where people can interact.
  • Create volunteer and service opportunities for teams to do together. Generus is a company who has made it their mission to foster employee engagement through impactful volunteering.
  • Consider employee resource groups (ERGs), as a way to create connections based on shared interests.

2.    Nurture positivity and optimism

Optimism is a potent health tonic and an optimistic outlook is a building block for good health and well-being.

  • Fostering positive emotions – pride, gratitude, pleasure, satisfaction, interest and hope – can help increase engagement and satisfaction. 
  • Introduce gratitude practices into your culture. Offer ways for employees to thank each other for their efforts or a message board where gratitude statements can be written and posted.
  • Create opportunities for employees to experience a shared sense of pride in their organization, such as recognition events and celebrations.

3.    Neutralize stress

Work is often cited as the primary source of stress. Although some stress is inevitable, employees need ways to neutralize and cope with it daily.

  • Consider offering meditation programs. Even a 10-minute meditation break can help employees clear their minds and de-stress.
  • Make information about places at or near work where employees can exercise or relax readily available.
  • Offer flexible work policies so employees can better manage life obligations.

Happiness is not an elusive destination that is always just over the horizon. It is a state of mind that can be cultivated and encouraged. Even at work.

Topics: Worksite Wellness, Wellbeing, worksite wellbeing, workplace wellbeing, happiness at work, employee experience, employee happiness, hr, talent management, authentic happiness, science of happiness, employee well-being, human resources, workplace wellness

Mari Ryan

Written by Mari Ryan

Mari Ryan is the CEO/founder of AdvancingWellness and is a recognized expert in the field of workplace well-being strategy.