Alexander Kjerulf: The Science Of Happiness At Work


(cheering and clapping) (laughing) – Yeah, yeah, that does feel pretty good. So awhile back I was in
Turkey, I was in Istanbul to do a workshop for
a group of HR managers from different companies. And one of them had a question, she was like, Alex we do
everything for our employees. A few months back we asked them, you know we give them good salaries, we give them a lot of education, we give them a beautiful office space, and they’re still not happy. You know they complain a lot, there’s not a lot of energy, people don’t seem like they actually care too much about, why are these people not happy at work? We do everything for them. You know a couple months
back we asked them, what do you want since you’re not happy and they said, we want free smoothies. And we gave them free smoothies and they were still not happy. So we asked them, what do you want now? And they say, we want a gym in the office. So we built a gym in the office, nobody went, and they’re still not happy. We asked them again, what do you want? They say, we want a swimming pool, we were like, no, you’re
not getting a swimming pool. And this the situation that a lot of companies right now find themselves in that they really want their employees to be happy, and engaged, and motivated and their doing a lot of, they’re doing a lot of these things. So you know, free fruit,
and fancy office spaces and then whatever. And yet they’re still not happy. People are still not happy at work and there’s not that energy,
there’s not that drive, there’s not that motivation. And my contention, my, my
argument is that you can have a workplace where you do every
single one of these things and it’s still not a happy work place because these are not the things that make us happy at work. There’s nothing wrong with
free fruit in the office. There’s nothing wrong
with offering massages, but if you think that’s how you create a happy workplace you never will because it doesn’t work that way. Those are not the things
that make us happy. In fact, what happens in many work places is that they spend all of their time, money, and energy on these things and then they forget doing the things that actually do work, that actually do make people happy at work. And they do this with
the best of intentions which I think is kinda sad. So what does work? I think a lot of the answers can be found in Positive Psychology. How many of you know about
Positive Psychology already? Oh, the most of you, awesome. Traditional psychology is a study of what can go wrong in our minds, psychoses, neuroses,
depression, phobias, etc. What are they, how can they be fixed? Incredibly important discipline. But in the last 30 years some people have been asking the opposite question. When are we happy? When do we thrive? When do we feel good? And that’s the study of happiness, that’s the study of Positive Psychology. It’s absolutely fascinating
and it’s very evidence-based. This is not guess work. This is based on actual
research done around the world. So what I want to present
here are what I believe are the five most important findings from Positive Psychology
that apply in the work place. And I believe that if
we know about these five and we follow these five, then we can actually make
people happy at work. And this is really good news because if all of this, you know, all of these things, the free fruit, and the fancy office space, and the gym. If those were what makes
people happy at work then happiness at work would be only for a very few work places,
only the work places who could actually afford all of this because all of this is hugely expensive but if we look at Positive Psychology we’ll find that the things
that really make us happy at work can be done in any organization, on any budget, doesn’t take a lot of time, doesn’t cost a lot of money. So here they are, what I believe are the five most important findings from Positive Psychology. First of all that positive emotions have significant positive effects. Your emotional state is not just about how you feel, it’s also
about how you perform, it’s also about your health, it’s also about your ability to relate and work well with other people. So feeling good is not
just a nice thing to have, it’s actually at the, at the cause, it’s the cause of a lot of the things we want in the workplace including, increased motivation,
increased engagement, increased productivity,
increased creativity. And this is news to a lot of companies because a lot of companies don’t focus on positive emotions, they
focus on job satisfaction. And I don’t think we should. Job satisfaction is what
you think about your job. Okay, once a year when you fill out the employee satisfaction survey and you check off 75 questions you know, are you satisfied with your salary, are you satisfied with your commute, are you satisfied with,
I saw this question on a survey once. Are you satisfied with
the light in the office, (laughing) scale of one to five. This is what a lot of companies focus on, job satisfaction, and that’s actually what all of those things we saw before, the gym and the free food, that’s what they create is job satisfaction. It’s what you think about your job. You know irrational evaluation
of your job situation. However happiness at
work, what we really want, is what you feel about your job. What you feel about, how
does your job make you feel? You can’t go around
feeling happy all the time, but does your job mostly
cause positive motions, or mostly negative emotions? And that’s what we need to focus on. Because all of the effects we want come when people are happy right now. When your employees are
having a good day, today, they do a better job in every single one of these areas. We collect studies that
show what happiness does to our job performance and these are all the studies we’ve found so far. So happy people are more productive, get more work done. They’re more creative,
have more better ideas. They sell more, they’re more motivated, they have more energy,
they’re more resilient, and so on and so on and so on. So what’s becoming increasingly clear, if you want your company
to be more successful is that you shouldn’t
focus on satisfaction, you should focus on happiness. Because happy companies make more money. Let me go back here, let me go back here, there we go. Happy companies make more money, satisfied companies don’t. There is a very, very poor correlation between satisfaction at
work and job performance and company results. And there’s a very strong correlation between positive emotions
and great results. What causes positive emotions? There is a lot of theories on this. Our theory is that it’s
results in relationships. Arlett mentioned this earlier. When people do great work and
I’m proud of what they do, and create meaningful results, and they create those results together with great people. Those are the two most reliable sources of positive emotions in the work place. Nobody experiences positive emotions because there’s free fruit in the office, except one guy. I did a workshop at Lego and one guy said, no actually Alex the fruit
can make me really happy because every week when
my team gets, you know, a fresh supply of fruit,
there’s only one banana and if I get the banana I am so happy. (laughing) Yeah, so my tip, based on this finding, is that we need to focus
less on job satisfaction, you know, compensation, perks, and titles and more on the things that actually make
people feel good at work, experience positive emotions. And those are results in relationships. Let me show you an example. This is from, this is from Lego. Now last year Lego had, once again, best result ever. They’re now the most valuable toy brand in the world. And a, you know when you present, when you’re the CEO and
you’re presenting this you can do it a dry and boring way or you can actually use this to create the feeling of
results and relationships by celebrating it with your employees. So here is what the CEO of Lego did when he announced the result. – It is another record breaking year. The best year ever for the Lego group. So just like at the Oscars, or just like in the movie theaters this last year, we are also dancing
and singing and saying, ♪ Everything is awesome ♪ ♪ Everything is cool when
you’re part of the team ♪ ♪ Everything is awesome ♪ ♪ When you’re living in a dream ♪ So it has been a great year. – Isn’t that amazing, that is so cool. So let’s focus on job satisfaction, more focus on positive emotions and those come from
results and relationships. I think that’s what he creates when he celebrates with
his employees like that. Second important finding
from Positive Psychology is that if you wanna be happy one of the best ways to
do that is to appreciate the good things you
already have in your life. And that is really, really interesting. And why is this so important? It’s because otherwise we fall, we fall prey to something
called negativity bias. Negativity bias is one of
the most well-understood and studied psychological phenomena and it basically means
that we’re much better at remembering bad experiences and we are, we experience
negative emotions much more strongly. So the negative in the workplace we will sort of focus on automatically. We don’t need to work to
bring out the negative because we just remember
that automatically. But the positive, we need
to consciously create space to talk about the positive
experiences at work. Have a simple conversation, so tell me what you like about your job? Tell me about the best coworker you have? Tell me about the best boss you ever had and why that was an awesome boss? Because those conversations
don’t come automatically. So one of my tips, based on this finding, would be maybe less focus on identifying and fixing problems in the workplace and more focus on
helping people appreciate the things that are already good. If you don’t appreciate the good things in your work life, it doesn’t matter how many good things you have. You’ll never be happy
because you don’t think, appreciate the good
things you already have and you will always be out there trying to get more and more and more, but it won’t work because
you don’t appreciate the things you already have. Here’s a ridiculously
simple way to do that. This is from one of
our clients in Denmark, a company called Skandia where they put out these cards for just a two week period, they put out these cards in the office. In Danish it says, my good
experiences from today. So the idea is that just
before you go home from work you take one of these
cards, you fill it out with two or three good
experiences from the day, and then you hang it on this clothesline going all through the offices,
all through the office. So you get a chance to
think about and reflect, you know, what makes me happy at work? What do I like about my job? What is good in this workplace, and that’s incredibly important. I wanna show you my absolute
favorite example of this and this comes from an
IT company in New York called Next Jump. And they really want people to appreciate the good coworkers they
have so once a year they have an award called
the, Next Jump Avenger. They have five, five people are named as Avengers and one is sort of the, wins the grand prize. And you don’t win this award by being good at your job. You win this award by making other people good at their jobs. By being the kind of person
who’s always there for others. And I wanna show you a brief clip from the award ceremony. You’re gonna see them talk
about a guy called, Joe. He goes on to win the whole thing. And Joe is the left-most guy of the three young guys on the stage. He’s up there with two
of his best friends, they got invited along to the ceremony. And here they are talking about Joe. And listen, listen to what
they are saying about him. – Joe cares deeply for
everyone he works with. When you ask people to describe him the word you’ll hear
most often is, patient. When you have a problem
Joe will listen patiently. He’ll ask questions, and really try to understand what’s happening. (audience member makes a noise) You don’t feel rushed–
(laughing) Even if he has 101 other
things on right then he has all the time in the world for you. And then when you finish venting he’ll set about helping you. Olivia, a fellow engineer,
described it best. He’s always there for you. Whether that means patiently
sitting for four hours while you go over and over
an upcoming presentation, fixing some code that you screwed up so that you can make a train home, creating longterm technical growth plans to help you become a better developer, or just being there for you, guiding you, so that you can figure
things out for yourself. Joe’s patience and
understanding make him someone that you can always go to for help with no judgment or time limit. Because of all of this
Joe’s care for his team, his desire to be there to help others tackle demons that he’s faced and his patience in coaching
people time and again is what makes Joe an amazing colleague, friend, and Avenger. I am very proud to ask Joe Raduri to step forward and accept
this Avenger’s badge. (clapping and cheering) – Is that beautiful? If you wanna create better teamwork instead of pointing out all the examples of bad teamwork and saying don’t do this you can talk about the
things that already do work and all the things we have
that we’re happy about and that we want more of. And that is one of the
fundamentals of happiness. Finding number three that I wanna share is one of my favorites. It’s small actions can have large effects and very often when we think
about happiness at work and how do we create a happy workplace we think in terms of
really big projects, right? You know we have this
massive summer party, it’s gonna cost a huge amount of money, gonna invite everybody along and that’s a huge project. But, but what we know
from Positive Psychology is that what’s actually
more effective maybe, is doing many small things
and quite small things can have a very, very large effect on people’s happiness. So I would urge you to think less in terms of, of a few big activities and maybe more in terms
of many small activities. Let me show you again an example, ’cause I love to get practical. This is from IKEA, one
of our favorite clients and a company that focuses a lot on making their employees happy. So this is a praise wall where coworkers can praise each other. This hangs in one of their warehouses on the way to the cafeteria so everybody passes by here at least once a day. And the idea is very simple, if you wanna praise one of your coworkers you take a card, you write on it why you wanna praise them,
and you put it on the wall. And they, you know, they
had that up for two weeks and that was it. And then they moved on to the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing. This takes no time, it cost no money, and it actually creates
a lot of happiness. Maybe just as much happiness
as a massive summer party with a huge budget. So many of these small things, instead of thinking in
terms of a few big events, think in terms of many small events. Next, finding number four, is that unexpected activities can
have very, very large effects. And Arlett showed Carson
and Carson earlier who showed up in the, you know, in the morning and made this
with their employees, right? Greeted everybody like
this with a free breakfast. I think that’s a fantastic example of creating happiness at work. Nobody knew they were gonna do this, they just did it. So, what’s kinda interesting is that many of the initiatives that we make in our organizations to
make people happy at work, are scheduled way in advance. Everybody knows there’s
a summer party coming. Everybody knows there’s
free breakfast every Monday. Everybody knows there’s a Christmas party. Everybody knows there’s
a Christmas present. And so these things work, but they don’t work as well as the unexpected thing, things. It turns out that our brain
likes positive surprises and that’s the finding
from Positive Psychology that when something nice
happens to you that you expect it makes you a little happier,
but when something nice happens to you that surprises you, it makes you a lot happier. And we can use that at work to do more surprising, unplanned, new activities. Now Carson and Carson know this. They did this one Monday and
then they didn’t do this again because they know that if you do it again it won’t have the same effect. If you, what if they,
just out of curiosity, what if they did this every Monday? Then the effect would
be smaller, and smaller, and smaller until one day
they don’t do it anymore, and then what happens,
people become really angry. Where is my free breakfast? Because once it’s expected it doesn’t make you happy any more, it’s just something, it’s an entitlement, I’m entitled to this. So think more in terms
of surprising activities. So a couple months later
when it was Christmas they loaded up this cart with dessert and went around to every desk, and into every meeting, and served up, you know, this free dessert that we eat in Denmark
around Christmas time, called le-sa-day-mon, yeah. So think in terms of small
unexpected, random activities. And the fifth and final tip I wanna share is that if you really wanna be happy the best thing you can do
is make someone else happy. Now this is a finding they’ve found again, and again, and again,
in Positive Psychology. Is that when we do nice
things for ourselves it makes us a little happier, but when we do nice
things for somebody else it makes us a lot happier and, by the way, it also makes that person happy. Just to mention one experiment they did, they took a group of
American college students, a lot of the research
in Positive Psychology is done on American college students because American college students will do anything for $20, okay? (laughing) So they took half the
people and gave them $20 and said spend this $20 on yourself. And then they took the other group and say, spend this $20 on someone else. You know, take a friend out for coffee, take a friend to the movies, but spend it on somebody else. And then they measure their
happiness before and after. And it turns out that the people who spent the money on somebody else became much happier, had
a much larger effect. So, so this idea that we wanna be happy, but we also want the people
around us to be happy, is one of the fundamentals
of Positive Psychology and I think it says
something incredibly positive about us human beings as a species. There are a ton of experiments on this. I wanna show you my favorite. In this experiment they
take a young child, a toddler, and put the toddler in a room with the parent. The parent does nothing. The parent is just there to make sure that the child feels safe and comfortable. And then there’s an adult in the room who needs help in some
way and then you see what the child does completely unprompted, without telling the child to do anything. And here’s an example. (laughing) Isn’t that amazing? This is our true nature,
this is who we are. We want to be happy and we want those around us to be happy and if we can help them become happier we become even happier too. So one of the, one thing
you can think in terms of is less doing things for employees. Many of these programs that we normally do are about doing things for employees. Here’s a gym you can go to. Here’s a massage, here’s free coffee, here’s free smoothies. And less of that and more helping people do things for others because that has a much larger effect. One of my favorite examples of this comes from Zappos. Zappos is a company based
in Vegas in the U.S. They sell clothes and shoes online. Annual turnover is around, annual revenue is about three billion dollars, so it’s a pretty big deal. Really happy staff, incredibly
high customer satisfaction. And they really think in terms of this. So for instance they want
to help their employees do nice things for the coworkers and they do that in a million ways. But one of my favorites
is a program called, Zappos Wishez. This is a screenshot from
their internal internet page and if you’re an employee at Zappos you can go on there and
you can make a wish. So for instance, you know, this country and western star is playing in Vegas next week, it’s sold out, I really wanna get tickets. Can somebody help me? Of it can be something more serious like, I just moved to Vegas
with my, well you know, I’m an alone parent with a child. I got an apartment, but
I have no furniture, can somebody maybe, you
know, lend me a bed maybe, maybe it’s a table and some chairs, and then you can make a wish. And then as an employee at Zappos you can go on there and you can say, grant a wish. And you can say, yeah I know the guy who arranges that concert,
I can get you tickets. What happened with a parent
who had moved to Vegas, was actually somebody
said, you know I have some extra furniture, I’ll give it to you. And she got, you know, her
entire apartment furnished just by people granting that wish. I love that program and it really makes deep connections between
Zappos’ employees. They have another one in a similar vein. Let’s say you work at Zappos
and some of you discover that somebody has a birthday today and you’re like, oh my god,
I wanna do something nice for that person. You can actually go to the HR department, they will sell you balloons, or you know, banners or whatever you want. And I kid you not, they put, the program is called, Balloons & Shit. (laughing) Package #1, one Mylar
balloon, four latex balloons, yada yada, and you can buy a package and then you can celebrate your coworker. They also help their
employees do nice things for the customers, this is
not just about the employees, the coworkers, it’s also
about the customers. For instance they
encourage their employees to write nice handwritten
letters to customers. Here’s a letter saying, we’re so happy you’re one of our customers. And they do this all the time. They can send a customer
flowers if they want. And again, making the customer
happy makes you happy. And, on top of that, so for employees, for customers, but also for the community. There are a lot of
homeless people in Vegas. It’s a huge problem. And they do a lot of
work with homeless people and with other people in
need and here’s a brief clip from a thing they did in Vegas where they invited all the homeless in the city to come in and they would get a Thanksgiving dinner
and a free pair of shoes. And here’s some images from that. (upbeat music) – We got a great, great
day planned for you. We’re gonna be able to provide you a brand new pair of shoes, be able to provide you a
brand new pair of socks, and be able to provide you a wonderful Thanksgiving feast. Yes, yes. (cheering) – And the line was long,
but I knew it would be because everybody wanted to go. – Well one of things is we need shoes. Of course I have one leg so I need a shoe, but I like it keeps me
stylin’ anyway you know. ♪ Growth that goes down to the wire ♪ – [Woman] I got these and
they’re designer, of course. – [Man] Yeah nice. – And they’re getting awfully dirty. What are ya gonna do, I
live in a shelter, right? (chuckling) – So, so all of the employees at Zappos were invited to come work
at that event, you know, helping people pick shoes,
helping serve the food, helping people in the line and so on. So this idea that instead of doing things for people you help them
do things for others will make them much, much happier, it’s also much more meaningful. So this is sort of the slide, and you could look at, what are you doing for your coworkers, for your employees. What is your company doing for its people? And if it’s mostly over
on the left-hand side I don’t think it’s gonna work very well. I’m not saying you have
to scrap everything on the left-hand side, but
try to maybe think more in terms of the things
on the right-hand side because according to the
science of happiness, those are the things that actually work. Thank you. (clapping and cheering) – Why don’t you turn back to that slide. – [Alex] Sure. – Because that’s a nice introduction to Positive Psychology I think. Thank you for that. – [Alex] Nice, yeah. – It is, it is. There’s more to it, but if
you only have 20 minutes that might be it. – [Alex] Yes. – Yeah, you talked about the benefits of Positive Psychology, of applying that in their workplace. – [Alex] Yeah. – But Positive Psychology is also very often misunderstood. So tell us, like I said, your view on what is Positive Psychology, not. – Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I keep thinking, I keep
hearing people say, well Positive Psychology you’re supposed to be happy all the time. – [Male Presenter] Yeah. – And nobody’s happy all the time okay? If somebody’s happy all the time there’s something wrong with them. (laughing) So I would say it’s about being authentic in your emotions. And if you’re having a bad day at work, that’s okay, having a bad
day at work is a human right and everybody should be
allowed to have that. Now if you’re having a
bad week, or a bad month, or a bad year, maybe you should
do something about it okay. But Positive Psychology is not about saying everybody must
be happy all the time. That’s positive thinking, which is a horrible, horrible thing and nobody should believe
in positive thinking. This idea that you can
always think positively no matter what. That’s a terrible idea. It puts a lot of pressure on people who are actually depressed
or in a bad mood. – Yeah, and that’s a very important note. – Yes, (mumbles) yeah. – You do a lot of
speeches and conferences, I also do it sometimes and I think that the most recent question, you get after a speech
at the conference is, oh, I wish my boss had been here. (laughing) Because my boss is not into this. He does not even know about it and he’s not even interested. Actually he’s quite unhappy–
– Yeah. – And he is contagious. He’s spreading his bad behaviors, his negative attitudes. Hey, when I look at you I can see that you know what I’m talking about. (laughing) Hey, yeah, so when these people come home and want to implement all of this–
– Yeah. – And their boss is not into it.
– Yeah. – How would you handle that? – I would say there are
two arguments you can use. And one is that happy
companies make more money. The science is very clear on this for all the reasons that I showed earlier. And what you can do that’s very effective is find out what is
your bosses pain points? What’s keeping them up at night? Maybe employee turnover
is very high, you know, we’re losing all of our best employees to the competition and you can say well, if we make people happier
they will stay longer. Maybe absenteeism is very high and we know that when
people are happy at work they become sick less often. Maybe, you know, customer
satisfaction is down, you know customers are leaving, and you can show well
if employees are happy the customers will be happy and they will stay with us longer. So find out what their pain points are and show how happiness
at work can address this. That’s sort of one argument that is, you know, happy companies make more money. The other argument is more ethical in that, you know, unhappy companies ruin people’s lives. If we run a company where
people are miserable most of the times, spend a lot of time experiencing negative emotions, that affects their health,
it affects their careers, it affects their private
lives, their relationships, every aspect of their lives
is negatively impacted by hating people’s jobs. And you can look your
boss in the eye and says, is that kind of company you wanna run? Is that the affect that you want to have on your employees? And if your boss says, yes, that’s exactly what I want, then it’s time to quit
and look for a new job. And if the boss says,
no, I don’t want that, then, well let’s do something about it. Here are some really simple
cheap things we can do that don’t take a lot of time and don’t cost a lot of money. – So that’s, number one, you can try to convince your boss.
– Yes. – But one thing nobody should forget, you are the chief happiness officer in your own life–
– Oh yeah. – It’s your responsibility to take care of your happiness, only yours. Thank you.
(clapping) – [Alex] Thank you. – [Male Presenter] Thank you Alexander.

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