Silvia Garcia is the CEO and Founder of Feel Logic and HappiestPlacestoWork.org, and former Director of the Coca-Cola Happiness Insitute. Her work focuses on helping organizations get a competitive advantage by helping employees thrive. Through Silvia's expertise, we gain a better understanding not only of what true happiness is, but what employers can to do support employee happiness in the workplace.
Interview with Silvia Garcia
Mari Ryan: Welcome to the Workplace Wellbeing Essentials Series. I’m Mari Ryan, and I’m the CEO and founder of Advancing Wellness. It’s my pleasure to welcome you today to this conversation, this expert interview where we will discuss topics related to employee wellbeing. My guest today is Silvia Garcia. Sylvia is the founder of Feel Logic and The Happiest Places to Work Institute. Sylvia helps people to lead happier and more successful lives and she helps organizations to use the latest science of happiness to create conditions for employees and citizens to flourish. Sylvia was the Global Director of The Happiness Institute at Coca-Cola, where she worked to help Coca-Cola become a reliable partner for world leaders with the vision to transform lives through the science of happiness applied to the economy, workplace, health, politics, and education. Sylvia helped Coca-Cola use the science of emotions in marketing, communications, and human resources. Sylvia, I’m delighted to have you as my guest today.
Silvia Garcia: Thank you, Mari, it’s a real pleasure for me to be here with you today.
Mari Ryan: Great, thanks. Happiness is such an interesting topic when we think about it in the context of work life and organizational life. Why don’t we start by having you define for our audience what happiness is, so we level set about what it is, what does it mean, to be happy at work?
Silvia Garcia: What a great question to start with! It’s a huge question; what we can say is that for many people happiness is something bad, and seems deceiving, because their perception of happiness is wrong. If you think about happiness as permanent joy, as a fulfillment all the time, it’s unattainable and deceiving. By the way, research has proved that is not happiness, the pursuit of constant joy and positive experiences. What research tells us is that true happiness is something very close to striving to realize all your potential as a human being for a greater purpose than yourself. That gathers many of the components of a happy life; a purpose, a sense of agency, a sense of self-value, connections with others, and so on. So, that would be a good definition.
Mari Ryan: That is so interesting to hear that purpose aspect of it. Purpose is at the core of wellbeing, it’s one of the five dimensions that we talk about, and research from organizations, such as Gallup, talks about purpose. It makes good sense that purpose would be at the core of the elements for happiness as well.
Silvia Garcia: There are two ways that happiness has been thought about in the past before science came into it; one was more the philosophical way, I [indecipherable - 0:03:56.7], he called it, living a well-lived life. The other one was about pursuing satisfaction and positive emotions. We now know, thanks to all the research, that it is about both. You need the satisfaction and the emotion that is more about the purpose and the meaning in life, and the rest.
Mari Ryan: I’m curious, when we think about happiness how much of happiness is about the individual, so me as the person, and not so much about the circumstances that I am in? Think about if I am in a job and I have a boss I really don’t like, or I’ve got a long commute, the work that I do is boring and repetitive, those kinds of things … How much do we weigh the individual approach as opposed to the circumstantial approach?
Silvia Garcia: It’s a great question and very interesting to know what the research says about it. The question is more or less about nature or nurture; it comes with us in our genes and despite a bad boss, despite this or that, we’re always happy, or is it about the circumstances, or is it about something else that we can do. To answer this question, I think the best thing is to go back to the research, the first research that tried to find the answer to your question, which was done in Minnesota. It was called the Minnesota Twins study. The researchers, Blancher and others, decided to follow and research identical twins that had 100% the same genetic makeup. The twins that they found were very specific; they had been separated at three weeks of age and given up in adoption to different families. So, despite having 100% the same genetic makeup, the circumstances of their lives the nurturing, the way they had been brought up, were completely different. Some of the twins lived on different continents, some of them had been given to families of different backgrounds, religions, since you could now make different circumstances. They found sixty pairs of twins who did not know the existence of the other brother or sister, and they invited them to come together to find the other one and answer the questions of the researchers and do all the tests.
They had taken the average, the happiness average results and concluded the average twin couples had the same happiness average, but when they looked at those who were not average, they realized that despite being twins, having one-hundred percent of the same DNA, they had very different results in happiness. There was something that was not genetic. Thanks to all the research and the other specialties that have been researching – there is a woman called Sonja Lyubomirsky, who is a specialist in this, we can now say that fifty percent of happiness is on your genes. Ten percent only depends on your circumstances. All these things we give a lot of importance to will only account for ten percent of our happiness.
Looking back, when something good or bad happened at that moment, it takes a lot of importance, but when time passes, whether it’s good or bad, you tend to go to your normal level of happiness. It only accounts for ten percent.
Forty percent is really up to us. Forty percent that we can really decide, work for it, and once we know what makes us happy, true happiness, as we said at the beginning, not joy, not happy-go-lucky, it’s really about striving for our self-realization, pursuing something greater than ourselves, etcetera, where we know those things, forty percent depends on them. Because all of this may vary from one person to another, on average that’s how the influence of happiness is divided between our genes, our circumstances, and all the space that we have to do something about it. Now it becomes about how we change happiness, more than can we change happiness.
Mari Ryan: I’m curious, from your perspective – you’ve done this work in a corporate setting as well, which is interesting to hear about your background, having done this in a major corporation; what can employers do to support employee happiness in the workplace?
Silvia Garcia: It’s a fantastic play to support employees’ workplace happiness and it also pays back to the company. It’s an investment that has a positive return of investment. Companies should start by measuring because now we can measure all those components of happiness, so they should take it seriously and start measuring because things we can measure are things we can change and improve. Measure and then introduce into the culture things that support those eight components. There are cultures that can find even more if they are more open to different perspectives and increase the diversity that [indecipherable - 0:22:21.2] components. Other cultures could give more agency to people and ask, make people feel more listened to and they have a voice. Measuring where you are as a company in each of the components and seeing each of your strengths and using those strengths to bring up the rest of the components is something that is easy for every company to start doing and because of all these and the work I did in my job with Coca-Cola, we know that this is possible in any country.
Mari Ryan: That’s great. It’s good to know that there are many different approaches that employers can use. I’m curious; you’ve had some experience with this in corporate, you're working with corporations now through your institute, what results are companies seeing that are addressing happiness – the measurement is obviously very important, but what is the impact they are seeing as they are measuring this?
Silvia Garcia: It’s very interesting to see and read about companies doing this; London Business School has published a lot about there being a close relationship between improving one point of happiness on your employees and seeing the impact on your business results -- increasing sales thirty-seven percent, increasing creativity three hundred percent, and innovation, so important in today’s world, seeing the forty percent reduction of absenteeism and all the costs related to employees not being at work. There is a lot of positivity related to interventions and employees’ emotional wellbeing that can be affected and can be measured in the economic output of the company.
Mari Ryan: Excellent, that’s great because I think that’s one of the things that anybody is going to ask is how can we measure this, what’s the impact, is this worth our time and energy to be able to do this, so knowing there is certainly going to be some benefit, and significant benefit it sounds, is important. Good stuff. I’m curious, is there anything we haven’t talked about that you would like to add to our conversation today?
Silvia Garcia: I think we covered so many important things, and it’s such a friendly and easy way to … I’ve very happy that we’ve had this conversation today.
Mari Ryan: Thank you, it really is fun and it makes me happy to be able to spend time with you, as always. If our audience wants to learn a little bit more about the work that you are doing, and about you, how can they find you?
Silvia Garcia: They can go to either feellogic.com where they will see different services we give to individuals and companies, or if they are specifically interested in making their organization a happier place to work, they can go to happiestplacestowork.org.
Mari Ryan: Thank you so much for sharing that information. As always, it’s a pleasure to spend time with you. Thanks for being here, Silvia.
Silvia Garcia: Thanks, Mari, your questions were amazing. Thank you so much, it’s always a pleasure to be with you.
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