How to Cultivate Happiness at Work

It’s no secret that I love my work as a podcast co-host and an organizational change consultant. As a co-host of The HumanCurrent, there are two questions that I am frequently asked: how do we (my co-host and I) practice what we talk about in our podcast and how do we live out our Twitter handle @Letsworkhappy. I love these questions so much that I’ve written this blog to share some of our practices.

Find the balance. Finding balance can be thought of in so many different ways; for example, balancing work and personal life, family and professional relationships, fun and being serious, diet and fitness, etc. Although Haley and I’s relationship feels easy and balanced, it’s still like any other healthy relationship—it takes work. We’ve had to find the balance in what we both bring to the podcast, which was especially true with finding the balance of Haley’s seriousness and my silliness.

We often use nature to find balance and cultivate happiness. Going out to nature helps us re-energize and get grounded. Nature also provides us with opportunities to learn, recognize patterns and boundaries, and apply transference since other ecosystems, like organizations and communities, often mimic nature.

Once we realize that our energy is interconnected, we see that the more you create across your ecosystem, the more potential you will unlock.
— Shawn Achor

Allow for emergence. While our podcast’s success is a result of collaboration and hard work, we have also trusted the process and allowed for emergence. We practice this by reflecting on our experiences, challenges, opportunities, and the direction we are headed, along with recognizing the complexities present in these various situations. Allowing for emergence also means that we stay present and open, ready to adapt.

Human beings, viewed as behaving systems, are quite simple. The apparent complexity of our behavior over time is largely a reflection of the complexity of the environment in which we find ourselves.
— Herbert A. Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial

Understand and discuss values. Haley and I understand our own values, each others’ values, and The HumanCurrent’s values. We have discussions about our values that are similar, different, and competing. We expect and appreciate that we bring our whole selves to work, which includes our values. We recognize that similar values can be played out differently for different people and that values shift and change over time; therefore, ongoing discussions are essential—it is not a one time conversation. Additionally, discussing values reduces judgment and increases empathy.

Cultures are groups of people who come together around a common set of values and beliefs. When we share values and beliefs with others, we form trust.
— Simon Sinek

Be honest and vulnerable. I know, that’s easier said than done. Over the years, Haley and I have developed a trusting relationship, which has allowed us to be honest and vulnerable with each other. We ask questions, of ourselves and each other, and hold space for courageous conversations. We may not always agree with each other, but we trust each other and have a deep level of respect each other.

Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work, attention, and full engagement.
— Brene Brown

Give cheers. On those late afternoons—into the evening—work days we pour some wine, give a cheers to something we are grateful for, roll up our sleeves, and dive into our collaborative projects or recording a podcast episode. Giving cheers is also about celebrating. We celebrate our big and small achievements, milestones, and even ah-ha’s and painful learning. Giving cheers is one of the ways we work happy.

Foster an open system. When thinking of organizations and society as an ecosystem, it easy to understand the benefits of a living open system. Haley and I foster The HumanCurrent as a living system by exchanging information and using cognition to adapt, learn and grow.

A living system has permeable boundaries and sense making capacities. It is an open system, capable of exchanging energy with its environment rather than using up a finite amount.
— Meg Wheatley

Be generous. While generosity is often associated with giving money, we practice generosity with words, spirit/energy, attention, and sharing stories and knowledge. The best generosity is the kind that doesn’t come with ego or an IOU. Your generosity can be contagious and spread throughout a complex system.

The study of complexity science investigates how relationships between parts of a complex system (such as an ecosystem or an economy) give rise to the collective behaviours of that system, and how the whole system in turn influences the parts.
— Jurgen Appelo

My hope is that everyone can experience happiness at work and perhaps by me sharing these favorite practices, you can apply at least one of them at your work. Cheers to working happy!


You can listen to the HumanCurrent podcast here and don't forget to subscribe in iTunes. Check out our latest interview with co-author of Embracing ComplexityJean Boulton. Let's work happy!