The happy at work book – Introduction

Happy at work.

Happy? At work?

Happy… at work?

Is it possible to be happy at work? Can we go to work and be energized, have fun, do great work, enjoy the people we work with, have fun with our customers, be proud of what we do and look forward to our monday mornings? Can we create workplaces where happiness is the norm?

Or must we simply accept that work is unpleasant and tough and that is why we get paid to do it?

This book is here to tell you that not only can we be happy at work, but when we are, it’s great for us and great for business. When we are happy at work, we have:

  • More drive and motivation
  • Better relations with co-workers and employees
  • More success
  • More creativity and good ideas
  • More energy
  • Less stress
  • Much more fun

Even our lives outside of work get better, leaving us with more energy and raising our entire quality of life.

Likewise, more and more businesses are finding that things go better with happiness. That when employees are happy at work, a company gets:

  • Higher productivity – happy people achieve better results
  • Higher quality – because happy employees care about quality
  • Lower absenteeism – people actually want to go to work
  • Less stress and burnout – happy people are less prone to stress
  • The best people – people want to work for you
  • Higher sales – happy people are the best sales people
  • Higher customer satisfaction – happy employees are the best basis for good service
  • More creativity and innovation – happy people are more creative
  • More adaptibility – happy people are much more adaptive and open to change
  • Better stock performance – for all of the above reasons
  • Higher profits – for all of the above reasons

Simply put: Happy companies are more efficient and make more money. And they make people happy, which is of course a goal in itself.

This book aims to leave you with:

  1. Knowledge – The basic theory of happiness at work based on real-life experiences
  2. Tools – Simple, practical tools and methods that’ll get you results quickly
  3. Energy – This book will try to make you excited about the concept of happiness at work and all fired up to do something about it

I short, everything you need to make yourself and others happy at work.

Being unhappy at work

Most of us have probably also tried the flip side, and have been unhappy at work. I certainly have, and I hated every second of it.

After graduating with a masters in computer science in 1994, I worked as a developer and consultant and then co-founded a software company called Enterprise Systems together with some fellow geeks in 1997.

When we started the company we had one huge advantage: We didn’t know how. The three founders (myself, Patrik Helenius and Martin Broch Pedersen) were all happy geeks with absolutely no idea of how to run a business. We did have some pretty good notions of how NOT to do it from previous jobs, but mostly we had a passion for doing things RIGHT. This mostly kept us from doing “business as usual?, and freed us to try untraditional approaches.

And we succeeded. In our company:

  • People did excellent work
  • All employees took responsibility and action when needed
  • We made good money (not obscene, just good :o)
  • We had fun
  • People didn’t work too much – 40 hrs a week or less

But nice as it was, after about three years I began to feel constrained and locked in. I wanted to do something new, and there was no room to do this inside our company. I thought long about leaving the company, but didn’t get around to actually quitting. That was a mistake.

During my last year at the company, I was desperately unhappy. Most mornings when I woke up, I looked for some reason to stay home. I did feel a little tired today, didn’t I? Wasn’t my throat a little sore?

At work I got very little done, and mostly counted the hours untill I could leave.

And here’s the worst part: I could barely recognize myself. I used to be energetic, positive and fun. Now I became tired, negative and abrasive. This affected me not only at work but also outside of it.

Finally in june 2002 I quit. I also decided not to look for a new job straight away and to just take some time to decompress. The relief was enormous and those summer months with uncharacteristically (for Denmark) great weather slowly brought me back to my old self. I still spent zero time thinking about my next job, reading job postings or starting a new company.

Then one day at the beach, an idea came to me: Arbejdsglæde. Happiness at work. That’s it. That’s what I’m passionate about. That’s what I wanted to work with. This idea became the Happy At Work Project, and we have been making people happy at work since early 2003. Leaders and employees at companies like IBM, Lego, DaimlerChrysler, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Pfizer and many others are happier at work after trying our methods.

Happiness at work is inevitable

The great news is this: Happiness at work is coming to our workplaces. It is inevitable.

There is a massive tendency in the business world to focus more and more on making work a good experience, and while it is not yet felt in every country or in every workplace it soon will be.

We don’t need to lift a finger, happiness at work is coming no matter what we do, and no matter how hard we resist it.

However, if we choose to do something constructive about it, we can become happy at work sooner rather than later. Our workplaces can reap the benefits, human and financial, this fiscal year rather than the next.

That thought certainly gets me excited!

7 thoughts on “The happy at work book – Introduction”

  1. I’ve been enjoying the site, especially because right now the story you told about yourself in the “unhappy at work” section describes me quite well, up until the a-ha moment, which hasn’t happened for me yet.

    One question though: could you provide a pronounciation guide (or maybe an audio file?) for “Arbejdsglæde”? That’s a great word.

  2. Alexander,
    I really like this collabotative process of writing a book.
    I’ll try to read each chapter and give you feedback as appropriate.
    For Ch.one I like the clarity on why you are writing the book and how it could help its readers.
    I also like the reference to “Arbejdsglæde”;it gives you some special credibilty .
    I also like the piece on how happy employees can impact a business
    and the piece on your experiece in building a business where the happiness at work was apart of the culture.
    Keep writing flowing and I’ll try to catch up with you.

  3. Thanks for the kind words Roosey!! I’m taking a ine week break from writing while a take a vacation with my family, so there should be time to catch up.

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