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Why is it so important for business leaders to recognize what makes people happy?

“Organizational leaders are increasingly recognizing that employee happiness is an important goal,” says Elizabeth Dunn, Ph.D., leading happiness and well-being researcher and professor in the department of psychology at the University of British Columbia (UBC). “If you have happy employees, you’re going to have less turnover and you’re going to have more productive, committed workers.”

In addition to ensuring employees are content, Dunn shows that businesses spanning a wide variety of sectors can take an active role in boosting customer happiness as well: financial advisors, banks and credit unions can give customers guidance on practical ways to invest and spend their money that will bring the most joy. Housing developers and construction businesses can create living spaces that support happiness. And of course, marketers can spread uplifting messages.   

Dunn’s investigations at UBC’s Social Cognition and Emotion Lab, affectionately called “The Happy Lab,” focus on how to optimize scarce resources – such as time, money and technology – to enhance happiness in life and at work.

An Enduring Organizational Resource: Social Connections at Work

According to Dunn, one of the main keys to unlocking employee happiness is to build a sense of connection with colleagues. With the changing structure of workplaces over the last few years, including teams being spread across geographies, she provides organizations with science-backed strategies for creating bonds within workplaces.

“We know that feeling a sense of connection with the people that you see every day is critically important for happiness,” explains Dunn. “Building strong personal connections creates this enduring resource that continues to be helpful in more difficult times.”

Through enlightening, highly interactive workshops, Dunn leads teams through practical exercises that allow participants to let down their guard, learn about each other and strengthen their interpersonal connections in the process.

Happiness ROI: Giving Money vs. Receiving It

The common saying is that money can’t buy happiness. But what if, spent well, it could? Dunn’s research at The Happy Lab has shown there is a scientifically proven way for money to impact personal joy – by giving it away. Dunn is co-author of “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending” (2014), which was named a top book for financial leaders by The Washington Post. She outlines five principles — from choosing experiences over stuff to spending money on others—to help individuals get more happiness from their money, and to help companies create happier employees and provide “happier products” to their customers.

Dunn’s insightful TED Talk on how helping others can make us happier has been viewed more than four million times. In it, she urges audiences to reconsider giving, thinking of it not simply as a moral obligation but as a source of pleasure.

Dunn - Happy Money

“People tend to think that getting money for themselves would be really great,” explains Dunn, whose research shows that giving away as little as $5 can spark satisfaction. “Instead, what we see in our research is that often, when people use money to benefit others, they actually get the biggest return on investment in terms of the happiness gained.”

Boost Happiness by Helping to Slow Climate Change

In an innovative marriage of two of today’s most important topics – happiness and climate change – Dunn encourages organizations to create an ecosystem where employees are able to live more sustainable and happier lives. Her highly interactive “Happy Climate” workshop introduces strategies that empower individuals to adopt sustainable behaviors.

“Many people are anxious about climate change,” she explains. “Our Happy Climate workshop highlights how re-thinking the way we approach food, work and travel can enhance well-being by identifying the most feasible, impactful and emotionally rewarding changes we can make as individuals to support sustainability.”

In a time when complex global issues impact our daily moods and decisions, Dunn provides leaders with simple, practical ways to be a source of happy living for both the people in their organizations as well as customers. By structuring everyday life to support ongoing employee happiness, businesses become appealing places to work and can create lasting customer loyalty in the process.

When organizations invest in happiness, the effort pays off as an enduring commitment that increases worker productivity and inspires ongoing customer loyalty. Stern Strategy Group connects you with renowned thought leaders whose insights, strategies and management frameworks help organizations fuel growth and disruptive innovation to better compete in a constantly changing world. Let us arrange for these esteemed experts to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting sessions, workshops and keynotes.

Joyful Workplaces: The Surprising Edge Happiness Gives to Your Business was last modified: November 28th, 2023 by Justin Louis