Hooked on a Feeling

Why happiness is an essential element of strong work cultures. By Lisa Tilley, Coaching Lead at &us

Having worked in culture change and transformation for 10 years within businesses and as a consultant, I’ve seen and experienced warts and all, where cultures can positively and negatively affect people and their performance or motivation in their work. I believe the recurring success factor is people’s happiness and fulfillment at work.

Through all this experience, I notice the themes that come up in relation to happiness are, employee sentiment (which affect productivity, ownership, and brand) and leadership direction and actions (which affects accountability and commitment to the change). These themes tend to underpin a culture.

So, how does this apply to me, and in particular, now? Well, in August 2020, I decided to join an innovation company. Nothing new in that usually. But obviously we’re in the middle of a pandemic with everyone working remotely, and I’d be joining them completely online. I had never met anyone in person, and I would be joining them online. This is a creative company, where brainstorming, collaboration, and room facilitation are key, and for me doing this purely online was a first! My genuine concerns were that I tend to get energy from sharing ideas, in sessions or during random moments in the day. I was taking a risk in joining a creative company in a fully remote setting — how would I facilitate and do my role when much of the magic I perceived in myself was the human connection and my presence in the room? This was daunting, to say the least! Yet, Given my past experience, I knew that I was resilient enough to overcome my fears, but it didn’t mean that it wasn’t going to be hard. And would I be happy?

Fast forward and yes, in the past 5 months I’ve had ups and downs, I’ve experienced loneliness, empowerment, and connection. One thing is true: I remain thankful, grateful, and importantly, happy in my work, and confident enough to be vulnerable to a point where I can thrive.

So what has &us been doing in the past 5 months to integrate me, and make all their people happy at work?

&us seeks to support happier lives, promote creativity and engage through positive psychology. They’ve made an active effort to make work playful, human-centric, and connected. Together we have learned about all things pasta, wine, and cheese at our autumn retreat. We’ve made candles and terrariums together at our Christmas party and we’ve danced, laughed, and opened up to one another. They’ve also given us license to do this with our clients, because it supports the innovation culture we help to create. We give people time to pause and reflect in our sessions so that they can create some freedom in their minds. It means that what I’ve experienced so far is a big difference from cultures I’ve experienced previously.

&us doesn’t take it all on themselves, they recognise that when they create the right environment, people are more empowered to change their own lives, I’ve seen this with colleagues and I’ve also made changes to my day-to-day, I’ve changed my eating habits, moving habits, and communication. I walk to work (a 30 min walk before work), I exercise after work (for 30 mins) and I make time in my diary to reflect.

So it’s not just the Zoom parties and the small thoughtful gestures, it’s the silent undercurrent of care for myself and from the team that radiates gratitude, respect, and kindness throughout the company and into the client work. This is important because as consultants we need to bring our best selves to work, to serve our clients in the best way. We sit in privileged positions, and we need to take care of our clients and how they are. At &us, we genuinely care about our clients’ journey, we enjoy seeing them grow and explore because we grow with them, as we help to make innovation inevitable.

Why is happiness great?

  • Happiness is infectious: It helps to create a positive work environment that encourages ‘good trouble’. This is taking the right rights, with good intent for the right reward.
  • Happiness inspires creativity: Inspired and creative people will help innovation in your business because they will create the solutions the business needs, they will explore, pivot, learn and make, which in turn provide important learning opportunities.
  • Happiness boosts collaboration: Happy people support one another and aren’t afraid to ask for help, they are more likely to feel ok about asking for help because it will be met with the right attitude.

All of this helps create a community of people who support one another, are productive, encouraged, feel safe calling one another out, being bold, and jumping in. Nobody is an island, and working together is far better than working alone.