Acoustics
Indoor climate and well-being

Happiness at Work: Why Does It Matter?

1 January 1

Did you know that happy employees are 20% more productive? Our Global Acoustics Ambassador, Pascal van Dort shares some interesting insights on how a healthy and comfortable workspace influences emotional well-being, work mood, and productivity.

office-work

How happy are you at work? According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, people who are happy at work are more collaborative, productive, and have better relationships with their colleagues. But how do you make your workplace happier?  

What is Happiness?  

Creating a happy workplace starts with the meaning of the word: “happiness”. The first to investigate “happiness” was the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) and Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi (369 - 286 BC).  

Aristotle said, ‘Happiness depends upon ourselves,’ meaning that how people enjoy what they have and how much they appreciate the essence of life, define happiness. So, it’s up to the individuals to value happiness and even figure out what immense happiness means to them.  

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ‘happiness is the feeling of being happy.’ Reflecting that happiness is an emotional state characterised by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfilment. While happiness has many different definitions, it’s often described as involving positive emotions and life satisfaction. And because happiness tends to be such a broadly defined term, psychologists and other social scientists typically use the term “subjective well-being" when they talk about this emotional state.  

Taking It Down to Everyday Life, What Makes Us Happy?  

It leads us to the next question: how do we become happy workers?  
Both Aristotle and Zhuangzi concluded that the role of the human mind is critical in the quest for happiness. Both draw a clear distinction between two kinds of happiness explained by the Greek, hedonia (pleasure) and eudaimonia (a life well lived).  

More recently it was psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908 - 1970) who investigated what makes us happy. In 1943, he formulated Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs[3], also known as the “Pyramid of Happiness”. In the pyramid of happiness, health, and well-being is in “Safety” and they’re one of the basic needs for humans to achieve happiness.   

When the global pandemic struck, it influenced mental health in many countries. Our well-being was negatively influenced by the fact that we couldn’t go to work as well as the concern for our health was on high risk. The economic insecurity is associated with a 12% decline in life satisfaction[5]. And looking at the report Worlds Happiness Report 2021: Life under the global pandemic, the mental health problems was reported to be 47% higher. This reflects that more than 42 countries shows a significantly higher frequency of negative emotions, giving that the lives of the citizens have been disrupted. But on the positive side, the pandemic has shone a light on mental health with more public awareness of human well-being than ever before.  

Aspects as company culture, colleague relations, and the space to ease different work modes were standing as some of the things we value. They are also what makes us happy at work. We saw the impact the office gave us and how the small coffee runs, the lunch conversation, and the short distance searching for help.  

The purpose of our lives is to be happy

Dalai Lama

What European Country is the Happiest?  

Top 10 happiest countries in Europe [4] [5] 

World Database of Happiness (2010- 2019) 

  

World Happiness Report (2021) 

1. Denmark 

8.2 

  

1. Finland 

7.84 

2. Switzerland 

8.1 

  

2. Denmark 

7.62 

3. Finland 

8.0 

  

3. Switzerland 

7.57 

4. Iceland 

8.0 

  

4. Iceland 

7.55 

5. Norway 

7.9 

  

5. The Netherlands 

7.46 

6. Austria 

7.7 

  

6. Norway 

7.39 

7. The Netherlands 

7.6 

  

7. Sweden 

7.36 

8. Belgium 

7.5 

  

8. Luxembourg 

7.32 

9. Bosnia Herzegovina 

7.5 

  

9. Austria 

7.26 

10. The United Kingdom 

7.4 

  

10. Germany 

7.15 

With the World Happiness Report 2021, we see how some countries are changing positions. The survey was conducted in 27 European countries, asking a question about how happy they are referring to job satisfaction and subjective well-being.   

On a scale from 1-10, where low scores reflect unhappiness and high scores are associated with high levels of happiness, we overall score ourselves to be 6.99 happy at our work[6]. Not bad, but I would say there is room for improvement.  

The Impact of Being a Happy Camper  

Why do being happy matter? Well, first of all, it has a huge positive influence on our overall health. Being happy improves sleep habits and sleep practices, as well as being related to better concentration, productivity, exercise performance, and keeping a healthy weight [7].  

Additionally, being happy helps to keep your immune system strong [8]People who report having a positive state of well-being are more likely to engage in healthy behaviours — such as eating fruits and vegetables as well as engaging in regular physical exercise [9]. Positive feelings increase resilience that helps people to better manage stress and bounce back better when faced with setbacks. For example, one study found that happy people tend to have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and that these benefits tend to persist over time [10].  

The UN Secretary-General — Ban Ki-moon — spoke about the importance of paying attention to peoples’ well-being and happiness. On the first International Day of Happiness, he showed that ‘The creation of an enabling environment for improving people’s well-being is a development goal in itself.’ It goes without saying that we all want to work in environments that foster health and happiness, and therefore, turning our office into a happy place has many great advantages:  

  • Happier people are 25% more satisfied in their jobs [11]  
  • A happy workspace makes people 12% more productive [12]  
  • Happiness at the workspace boosts sales by 37% [13]  
  • Happy employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees [14]  
Everyone is the architect of their own happiness

Joseph Pilates

How Can You Design for Happiness?  

The big question is how can you create a happy, nurturing, and comfortable workspace? Your first step should be to design a welcoming atmosphere that is influenced by the interior design. According the Leesman Review (Issue 31, April 2021), almost 85% of the participants say that the design of the workplace is important to them. More research by the University of Exeter’s School of Psychology showed that to have happy, healthy and productive employees, it’s important to let them design their own workspace. 

It’s found that the more control people had over their office space, the happier and more motivated they became. Not only in terms of decoration but also in terms of their layout depending on the activity, the freedom to work in a space where you feel best really does make a difference.  

How the Indoor Environment can Boost Happiness at Work  

According to Dutch research; personal control in office buildings matters [15]. The results implied that people were more comfortable and healthier in buildings where they felt they’ve had a higher degree of control over — for example, temperature, ventilation, and noise. Unsurprisingly, the combination of cold temperatures, noise, and the lack of window views as well as natural light causes distress the most. When employees are in uncomfortable conditions, they feel unhappy and less energetic [16].   

In a global survey by the Leesman Index[17], they asked the respondents, ‘Thinking about the work that you do, which of the following physical features are important and how satisfied are you with them’? 

From the Top 5 (desk 84%, chair 83%, small meeting rooms 77%, temperature control 76% and noise levels 71%), noise levels had the lowest satisfaction score of just 32.3%! 


If you want to turn your office into a happy place, you might consider focussing on designing workplaces that sound right.  

Laughter is the Best Medicine  

It goes without saying that you can control your own happiness in a very simple way, just smile! Smiling lowers your stress as it releases dopamine and serotonin — and that’s what makes you feel happy. Smiling is the beginning of laughter. It’s something everyone should experience every day because laughter improves your immune system, it relieves pain and undoubtedly, it makes you feel good[18].  

Choosing to smile is a super easy, quick and effective way to boost your mood. And of course, it’s contagious. Choose to smile more and spread happiness.  

We recommend some of our article for you to start making the office or workspace: “a happy place”.  

  • Offices should promote well-being and productivity. If you want to improve the acoustics in your office, you can read more about what difference acoustics can make to your office here.  
  • Creating healthy, safe and comfortable spaces are what we focus on. Want to know why our products are made from natural stone wool and what influence it has on your well-being. 
  • We spend 90 % of our time indoors only making sense to focus on brightening the indoor environment. The amount of natural daylight influences the well-being and contributes positively to multiple health issue. If you’re looking for how to make your space lighter, read about the benefits here. 
  • The open-plan office landscapes should support the employees' work activities and enhance their well-being. If you want to start thinking acoustically and remove the harmful noisy disturbances: This guide will reveal the acoustic measures you should consider making an office sound quiet.   

References:  

[1] source: Gemma Curtis, Dreams Ltd, Your Life In Numbers  

[2] source: Allas T, Schaninger B (2020), “The boss factor: Making the world a better place through workplace relationships”, article McKinsey Quarterly, McKinsey & Company  

[3] Maslow A (1943), “A Theory of Human Motivation”, published in Psychological Review, Vol. 50, pp. 370-396.  

[4] https://worlddatabaseofhappiness-archive.eur.nl/hap_nat/nat_fp.php?mode=8  

[5] Helliwell, John F., Richard Layard, Jeffrey Sachs, and Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, eds. 2021. World Happiness Report 2021, Sustainable Development Solutions Network, ISBN 978-1-7348080-1-8  

[6] Cannas M et al (2019),  “Job satisfaction and subjective well-being in Europe.”, Economics and Sociology, 12(4), 183-196. doi:10.14254/2071-789X.2019/12-4/11  

[7] Sin L et al (2015), “Positive Affect and Health Behaviors Across 5 Years in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease: The Heart and Soul Study”, Psychosom Med. Nov-Dec 2015;77(9):1058-66.  

[8] Costanzo E et al (2004), “Mood and cytokine response to influenza virus in older adults”, J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2004 Dec;59(12):1328-33. doi: 10.1093/gerona/59.12.1328.  

[9] Sapranaviciute-Zabazlajeva L et al (2017), “.Link between healthy lifestyle and psychological well-being in Lithuanian adults aged 45-72”, BMJ Open. 2017;7(4):e014240. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-014240  

[10] Steptoe A, Wardle J (2005), “Positive affect and biological function in everyday life”, Neurobiol Aging. 2005;26 Suppl 1:108‐112. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2005.08.016  

[11] Bowling N, Eschleman K, Wang Q (2010), “A meta-analytic examination of the relationship between job satisfaction and subjective well-being”, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 83. 915-934  

[12] Oswald A J, Proto E and Sgroi D (2015), “Happiness and productivity: Understanding the happy-productive worker”, Journal of Labor Economics, 33 (4). pp. 789-822  

[13] Book (2011), “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work”, author Shawn Achor, EAN 9780753539477   

[14] Sgroi D. (2015), “Happiness and productivity: Understanding the happy-­productive worker Global Perspectives Series”  

[15] Boerstra A, Beukers T (2011), “Impact of perceived personal control over indoor climate on health and comfort in Dutch offices”  

[16] Well Living Lab study (2028),”The effects of sound, light and temperature on employees in an open office environment”[17] Leesman Review (Issue 31, April 2021)  

[18] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456  

[19] Greene C et al (2016), “Evaluation of a Laughter-based Exercise Program on Health and Self-efficacy for Exercise”, The Gerontologist, Volume 57, Issue 6, Pages 1051–1061