Be sure to check out Part 1 if you’ve missed it!
4) Experiences are more rewarding than objects (Friedman 89-90)
Psychological research has shown that experiences provide a greater happiness boost than material objects.
Why is this the case?
1) “Because experiences tend to involve other people, and being in the company of others increases our happiness.”
2) “Experiences expose us to new ideas and surroundings, growing our intellectual curiosity and expanding our horizons.” Material objects, on the other hand, are often used in private, when we’re away from friends and family, and rarely entail novel adventures.
3) Unlike material objects, experiences tend to improve with age. Research shows we remember events more positively the further they are in the past. Conversely, the opposite is true for material objects, since they tend to physically degrade over time.
So next time you want to do something nice for your employees, try in investing in experiences. Examples include:
- Sending staff members to conferences
- Sponsoring exciting group outings
- Giving away a weekend getaway instead of a small bonus
Photo by Cara Fuller on Unsplash
5) We don’t always know why we’re happy (Friedman 90-92)
In the last post, we saw how our built-in ‘happiness baseline’ prevents us from staying happy (and sad) for prolonged periods of time.
As it turns out, we are also bad at understanding what contributes to our happiness, especially when the things that contribute to our happiness occur outside our conscious awareness.
Our environment is a good example; whether we realize it or not, our surroundings have a powerful effect on our behavior.
For example, we rarely pay attention to scent.
“Research shows that when we’re exposed to positive scents—as we are standing outside a café, a candle shop, or a bakery, for example—we tend to become happier and we don’t know why. Interestingly, the change in mood often affects our behavior. We become more helpful, less competitive, and show greater generosity.”
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Music can also lift our mood unconsciously.
“Our heart rates tend to synchronize to the sounds we hear, which is why techno elevates our pulse whereas slower smooth jazz can help us relax.”
We tend to act in accordance with the ‘mood’ the music suggests to us: studies show that customers linger in stores and restaurants that play relaxing music, which often leads them to purchase more. It’s a bit different in bars though; the faster the music, the more quickly people drink, and the larger their tab.
- For your workplace, think about what mood you want to produce, and choose music and/or scents in accordance with the mood you want to create.
- Lavender in the break rooms, flowers in the entrance, jazz music in the hallway, a medley of employee favorites in the bathroom?
6) A grateful mind is a happy one (Friedman 92-94)
In the modern workplace, it’s hard to be grateful.
Often, our days at work are filled with deadlines and constant thinking about work that must get done in the future.
What we may not realize is that this mode of thinking can take a toll on us. Over time, a continuous focus on what’s missing trains our minds to center on the negative.
When was the last time you took some time to savor what you’ve achieved?
Often, the moment we finish a task or project, we almost immediately start focusing on the next one.
By taking a moment to be grateful for what we just accomplished, we delay the process of adaptation; in other words, we spend more time being happy.
So, in a sense, gratitude extends the enjoyment we get from positive events. It also prevents negative emotions like resentment, envy, and regret from creeping in.
In my experience, I’ve noticed that gratitude also buffers me from the pain of negative events. In other words, when negative events happen in my life, I react less negatively to them.
So, how do we become more grateful?
“Psychologists have found that simply asking people to identify specific aspects of their lives for which they are thankful alters their perspectives in powerful ways. When we build appreciation for our current circumstances, we feel happier about the present and more optimistic about the future, which improves the quality of our work. Grateful people also recover from stress more quickly and behave more generously toward those around them.”
On an organizational level, asking every single one of your employees to keep a daily ‘journal’ of positive events might not be the best solution.
But there are other ways to encourage gratitude in the workplace.
One solution involves setting aside time every few weeks for employees to share their recent accomplishments as a group. This is very different than the ‘traditional’ staff meeting, but it works.
Think about your average staff meeting: you’re in a room with a small number of colleagues, sharing (sometimes not so useful) information, discussing tasks that have not been completed and planning for the days/weeks/months ahead.
While these meetings certainly have their place, their focus on what’s missing does little to promote a sense of gratitude.
An alternative to this approach is to include a broader group, inviting employees from a range of departments to meet. Instead of asking everyone to talk about what they haven’t done, use the meeting as an opportunity for staff members to share what they have done and are most proud of since the group last met.
By subtly shifting the focus from what’s missing to what’s been achieved, progress-focused meetings allow employees to reflect on what’s gone well as opposed to what has gone wrong.
Interestingly, this insight is directly related to a core principle explained in the book The Progress Principle, written by Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile and researcher Steven Kramer. Their research showed that the experience of progress is the single most important component of a satisfying workday.
Think about that for a second…
Do you feel like you ‘progress’ at work?
Do you feel like the work you put in every day is contributing to your goals?
Are your goal(s) meaningful to you? And are they reachable?
You don’t need to give us the answers to those questions, but do yourself a favor and answer them when you can (and, you’ll thank me later).
Friedman, Ron. The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace. Perigee, 2015.