Meik Wiking: Employee Satisfaction and Happiness Can Be a Competitive Advantage
Date: November 22nd 2019
Income is not among the main factors of happiness and satisfaction at the workplace, stressed Meik Wiking, the CEO of Denmark’s Happiness Research Institute and the author of global best-sellers on happiness, who spoke on the subject at Thursday’s En.ekonomika & Industrija 019 conference, organised by Montel Energetika.NET and the Slovenian Association for Energy Economics (SAEE). The event was also a closing conference of the IMEAS projekt.
Companies should strive for employee satisfaction, as happy employees are also more productive and loyal, said the New York Times bestselling author. An employee must a have sense of purpose and meaning at their workplace. These are the two main factors of job satisfaction. Of course their satisfaction also depends on the stress level and the relationships with the management and co-workers, said Wiking, whose Happiness Research Institute aims to bridge the gap between the academic community and the public in order to make happiness research more accessible. To do this, the researchers use data that shapes science as well as stories to spread the science. They wish to determine how to measure something as intangible as happiness. “We are trying to find out what makes some people happier and use the results of different studies to gather advice to help boost satisfaction.” Read also: Happiness at Work Can Lead to Higher GDP for Nations.
Job satisfaction and happiness can be a company’s competitive advantage, and more and more companies are realising this, said Wiking, adding that Google even hired its first executive director for happiness some years ago. He believes that our work should be a source of happiness. If we increase job satisfaction by one point, we increase the satisfaction by more than half a point for the individual, one of the institute’s studies has shown.
At the same time, Wikind notes that income is not the main source of happiness. Although humans are very good at always coming up with new preconditions for happiness, it turns out that there is a limit. Wiking explains that job satisfaction can be increased with different workshops (to help increase attentiveness, for example) or by introducing things like “quiet Thursday mornings”, while it is also important that the employee has the possibility to talk to someone if they are in distress, explained Wiking. “Every company is unique and so are its challenges. The first step to raising the level of satisfaction is to actually address the subject of job satisfaction.”
Happiness is the ultimate goal of human development
Wiking mentioned the country of Bhutan, which measures Gross National Happiness with which it determines whether there had been an increase in the people’s quality of life. Bhutan was the first to introduce a Happiness Index, and also announced this to the United Nations, which adopted the Resolution on Happiness in 2012. The UK is making the most progress in this regard, carrying out annual research on the subject, with the aim of improving the lives of its inhabitants in relation to the quality of life. However, we are seeing great change on a global scale, noted Wiking. “More and more countries are wondering how a higher GDP will affect the people and whether it will improve their well-being. New Zealand, for example, adopted the first National Well-being Budget.”
Happiness and the GDP are connected in different ways, added Wiking. For instance, research shows that richer countries and richer inhabitants are happier, while the happier countries also have a slightly higher suicide rate. Even Denmark, which now ranks second of the 156 countries ranked in the World Happiness Report – it was overtaken by Finland – was known as a country with a high suicide rate in the 1980s. However, this has changed, noted Wiking. According to this year’s report, Slovenia ranks 42nd, and also has a high suicide rate, he stressed. “Nevertheless, Slovenia is doing very well in global terms and according to indicators, its level of satisfaction is increasing.” He added, however, that the country is facing the problem of how to redirect the GDP so that it would focus on the quality of life. “Incidentally, wealthy people are also unhappy. So wealth is not a precondition for happiness and happiness does not come from possessions,” he added.
In addition to the GDP, happiness also depends on health, the level of freedom, generosity, and social support. Happiness is the ultimate goal of human development and it is achieved through purpose, said Aristotle, the first happiness researcher, to which Wiking added that today, we are realising that we had been looking for happiness in the wrong places: “Yes, money is important, but it is not everything.” He believes that happiness is mainly in the details, such as a candlelit family dinner, which is something he discusses in his book “Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well”.
Happiness is a meal with different ingredients
Wiking noted that social media now enables a completely new level of insight into other people’s lives. Compared to the posts featuring other people’s beautiful trips and weddings, our life seems truly boring. The important thing in terms of social media is how we use them. “If we use them to stay in touch with people, they have a positive effect. However, if we only want to make a good impression, their effect is negative.”
Wiking explained that we make social comparisons, in which we never compare ourselves to people who had lived a hundred years ago, for example, but only with our contemporaries. One of the reasons why volunteers or people involved in charitable organisations are happier is because they see people that are less fortunate than them, he added.
“Looking from the economic point of view, happy and satisfied staff is also the most productive,” added Sarah Jezernik, the President of the Slovenian Association for Energy Economics (SAEE) and the Deputy General Manager of Slovenia’s gas TSO Plinovodi.
Wiking further noted that happiness is a very complex and subjective concept. “It is a meal with different ingredients.” However, the things that make us happy are similar all over the world. The wish to have a purpose in life, to feel connected, loved, acknowledged, to have sufficient financial means to survive, to be healthy – these desires are the same for everyone in the world, no matter what kind of country one lives in, and these are the factors that affect the level of happiness, he explained.
After publishing ‘The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living’ and ‘The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World’s Happiest People’, Wiking recently published another book – ‘The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments’. As he explains, while writing the book, he thought of memories as something random, but soon realised that this was not the case, and that memories are something we can influence – which, as he stressed, requires focus. The book includes 1,000 happy memories of people from all over the world.
This article is available also in Slovene.