Looking for a competitive edge? Try being happier.

by Melissa Cafiero

How much time do you think you’ll spend at work over the course of your career? If you guessed anywhere near 90,000 hours, you’d be in the ballpark. That stat, coupled with a Gallup poll that showed 85% of full-time workers worldwide are disengaged at work, means that’s a lot of time to spend at the office, disengaged and potentially unhappy.

Besides the personal impact of unhappiness — and being mired in the daily toil of work — it’s also a drain on company resources, costing between $450 and $550 billion in lost productivity annually. By contrast, companies with happy workers see better business results, and those employees tend to take fewer sick days. So, what can you do to boost your happiness and reap the rewards?

Tips like “Work smarter, not harder,” and “Perfect is the enemy of good,” are meant to propel your productivity, but it’s hard to know which aphorism to adopt for maximum benefit. Then there’s the latest advice to align your work to your passions — but even that’s not foolproof. There’s a fine line between pursuing your passion and pursuing it to the point of burnout.

Linking positive brains to performance

According to Shawn Achor, CEO of Good Think Inc., who researches and teaches about positive psychology:

“We need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. Most follow a formula for success which is this: If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier.

The problem is, it’s scientifically broken and backwards. Every time your brain has a success, you just change the goalpost of what success looks like. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there.”

But according to Achor, the brain wants to work in the opposite manner. By raising positivity in the current moment — before you ever meet the goalpost of success — you experience what he calls the happiness advantage. In fact:

“75% of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, social support, and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.”

That means being happy at work can actually contribute to your success, rather than the reverse thinking, which suggests that success will contribute to your happiness. The reason is due to dopamine — that dose of goodness you experience when you’re happy — also “turns on all the learning centers in your brain.” Being happy at work leads to a slew of benefits for you, including increased productivity, resilience, job security, and less burnout.

A stamp lies on a table and says work while the paper below it has stamped imaged of smiley faces

C’mon, get happy

The mood we’re in at work has a big impact on our lives, our teams, and even our organizations. Now that you know all the benefits you can reap, how do you actually get happier at work? Download our newest report, “Want to Supercharge Your Career? Prioritize Happiness.

Take steps today to be happier at work and at home. Not only will you receive a mood boost — so will everyone around you.