In pursuit of happiness

By Flora Olcott

"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful."
Albert Schweitzer, 1952

People tend to run their own business for one of two reasons: to make themselves happy, or to get rich. But maybe these are two side of the same coin, because there's an ever-growing body of evidence suggesting success actually depends on happiness.

Governments and scientists alike are starting to latch onto the idea. The science of happiness is now a recognised and widely researched topic. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Warwick and Cardiff University found that earning more money only makes people happier if they feel richer than their friends, neighbours and colleagues.

The economics of happiness - a mixture of economics and psychology - is now a popular way of measuring the quality of life of a country. The government of Bhutan officially uses the Gross National Happiness index to calculate the social and psychological well-being of its population. The recently developed US National Happiness Index uses social networking site Facebook as a source of data for detecting its users' happiness, by using status updates as indicators of contentment.

Following concerns their employees may not look happy enough, a Japanese rail company has installed a revolutionary smile scanner in more than 150 stations. The scanner is able to analyse eye movement, lip curvature and facial wrinkles and marks the smile on a scale of zero to 100. The software is also able to offer instant advice on how to achieve the perfect smile, and employees carry around a personalised photo of their ideal beam.

The connection between personal happiness and work performance is now widely accepted. Concepts such as the four-day week have gained a lot of press, and many companies now include relaxation rooms and crèche facilities to help out their employees.

So what's all the fuss about? Smile scanners and global indexes may seem a little OTT, but happiness really does have an important place in business. The emotional well-being of you and your employees can have a direct and indirect impact on business performance. From dealing with a client or replenishing stock, if someone's not happy, it's more likely to go wrong.

A happy workforce is a productive workforce. So take some time to encourage employees to speak out when they are unhappy, and make sure you have a support system in place for them - and yourself - when things get tough. Keep morale high by rewarding yourself or staff with treats (financial or otherwise) when targets are reached (read advice on how to do that). Go out on social evenings.

And give yourself a break from time to time. This Easter weekend might just be your perfect opportunity to put a smile back on your face.

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