Happiness for knowledge workers

BrainYesterday I spoke at a half-day conference about stress for knowledge workers. And I kicked ass, if I do say so myself :o) That new presentation format I designed back in November is really working well!

Knowledge workers are architects, designers, writers, programmers, etc… People whose input and output of work is immaterial, rather than physical. In recent years, these people have turned out to be very prone to stress and the mini-conference examined this phenomenon.

Christine Ipsen presented the results of her phd study, which examines the source of this stress. Two friends of mine, Lene Thomsen and Nina Tange spoke about meaning at work and how this can reduce stress.

The main point of my presentation was of course that we can’t be focusing on fighting stress. That only makes people more stressed. We need to focus on promoting happiness at work – when people are happy at work, they’re not stressed. I also talked about some myths about stress.

I’ve previously blogged about the fact that happiness at work is important to all kinds of employees. It’s not limited to people in creative, high-paying or high-status jobs. But that being said, I think happiness at work is even more important for knowledge workers.

Here’s why:
Happy knowledge workers are more motivated
If you’re a welder, you can probably weld even if you’re not very motivated that day. If you’re a trash man, you can still take out the trash. But what if you’re an architect trying to come up with a new design, a programmer trying to solve a tricky problem or a journalist writing a tricky article?

When most of the work you do goes on inside your head, motivation is critical! And of course happy people are waaay more motivated.

Happy knowledge workers learn better
For all knowledge workers, the knowledge you have is almost never enough. That stuff tends to go obsolete real fast. You need to constantly learn new things. And all studies show, that people learn much better when they’re happy.

Happy knowledge workers form better relations at work
Relationships and teamwork are crucial to most knowledge workers. And you form much better relationships at work and participate much more efficiently in teams when you’re happy.

Happy knowledge workers share knowledge
Most companies that deal in knowledge also want employees to share that knowledge. As I wrote about previously, people only share knowledge, when they’re passionate about what they work with. People who don’t care, don’t share. Which is why so many corporate knowledge management systems fail miserably. The systems are fine – they’re simply asking people to share information they couldn’t care less about.

As you probably know from reading this blog, I believe that everyone should be happy at work. It’s just that happiness has an even bigger impact on the productivity of knowledge workers than it does on others.

So if you work mainly with knowledge, increase your happiness at work. If you lead knowledge workers, do everything you can to make them love their jobs.

So how do you make knowledge workers happy? Same way as everybody else. Read all about it.

3 thoughts on “Happiness for knowledge workers”

  1. Italians have a useful phrase: “provare sulla propria pelle” – try it out on your own skin (maybe this came from the Italian equivalent of the Avon lady?).

    I have provato sulla pelle both sides of the coin you describe: being both a happy and an unhappy knowledge worker. When happy, I work 14 extremely productive hours a day, e.g., getting through 400 client emails, creating new web pages, participating (loudly) in meetings, etc. etc. When unhappy… well, there’s always something on the Internet to take my mind off my misery – anything but work!

  2. Thanks for the interesting angle on the impact of Happiness at Work. As a knowledge worker, it seems like not only does my happiness at work have a greater impact on my ability to work, but the non-material nature of the work makes me more vulnerable to feelings of futility and UNhappiness. So all the ways we know to improve happiness at work become even more important.

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