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The Secret to Workplace Happiness: Surprising Facts and Practical Advice

It's no secret that happy employees tend to be more effective in their roles. Positive emotions boost confidence, make situations feel manageable, and foster a proactive attitude toward problem-solving.

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It's no secret that happy employees tend to be more effective in their roles. Positive emotions boost confidence, make situations feel manageable, and foster a proactive attitude toward problem-solving. 

However, humans are not inclined to sustain happiness for long periods of time.  According to studies, lottery winners return to their happiness baseline about a year after they receive their windfall. Accident victims show a similar pattern. It means that no matter how badly you mess up your next project, your disappointment will wear off, and you’ll return to your happiness set point. Our brains are programmed to adapt to our circumstances, and for good reason. Too happy and we’d lack ambition; too sad and we’d never leave our bed. So, how can we delay this adaptation and create a happier work environment that leads to long-term satisfaction and productivity? Here are a few things to consider:

Frequency Trumps Size

Rather than relying on occasional grand gestures, it's the small and frequent pleasures that have a lasting impact on happiness. For companies, this means shifting from annual events to quarterly ones, offering more regular incentives, and recognizing accomplishments more frequently. Bonuses are often offered at the end of the year, but quarterly bonuses may enhance employee happiness more effectively.

In this context, office perks are not just another benefit listed in a job advertisement. They communicate more on an emotional level and send an implicit message that an organization cares about employees.  By spreading out positive experiences throughout the year, employees stay engaged and motivated.

Variety Prevents Adaptation

Earlier, we discussed how we adapt to happiness and why it is important to delay adaptation.

Our brains thrive on novelty and variety. When things are predictable, we go into autopilot mode, losing focus and enthusiasm. We pay less attention to the things we love the more we do them. 

That's why traveling is so rewarding- you get a break from your daily routine. In the same way that travel breaks the monotony, introducing variety to the workplace can stimulate employees. This can be as simple as rotating tasks, organizing team-building activities, or creating a flexible workspace that encourages different working styles.

Unexpected Pleasure Delivers More Thrill

Surprise is a powerful emotion that captures our attention and generates a greater emotional impact. Unexpected moments of joy or appreciation can have a profound impact on employee happiness. Consider surprising your team with spontaneous celebrations, unexpected rewards, or random acts of kindness. In addition to creating a positive work environment, these moments foster employee appreciation.

Invest in Experiences

I guess you remember and appreciate that trip to the seaside last year, more than the fancy shirt you bought the year before? Experiences such as traveling or attending events involve other people and other people boost our mood. That's why we remember experiences more than material possessions. A trip to a conference, a retreat, or a weekend getaway can increase employee engagement more than upgraded equipment or furniture. These shared experiences also strengthen team bonds.

A Grateful Mind is a Happy Mind

Gratitude is a powerful tool for enhancing happiness and well-being. Fostering a culture of gratitude at work can have a profound impact on employee satisfaction. Instead of focusing solely on tasks and future deadlines that train our minds on the negative, create a time during meetings for employees to share their recent accomplishments. Shifting the focus from what's missing to what's been achieved cultivates a sense of progress and fosters a more positive work environment.

Acknowledge the Importance of Negative Emotions

While happiness is desirable, negative emotions have their place. When we constantly try to be happy we overlook the negative emotions that focus us on areas in life that need our response.

They alert us to areas in life that need attention and can drive us to improve performance. Studies show the more pressure we place on ourselves to be happy the less likely we are to succeed. Embracing a healthy balance of positive and negative emotions allows for personal growth and a deeper understanding of ourselves.


Finding workplace happiness requires a holistic approach that goes beyond surface-level efforts. By adopting strategies inspired by psychology, we can create a work environment that fosters long-term happiness and engagement. Remember, it's the small, frequent pleasures, variety, unexpected delights, shared experiences, gratitude, and the acceptance of both positive and negative emotions that contribute to a happier and more fulfilling work-life. For more information on why employee happiness is important, read our blog The Power of Employee Happiness: Why Companies Should Prioritize It.

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