Did you know that Singaporeans rank amongst the top in work intensity in the world? Taking into account vacation days, leave and the share of employees who work more than 48 hours per week, we are second in the world, according to this 2019 study. Since the start of the pandemic, Singaporeans have had to shift from their work desks to their home, causing most of us to spend longer hours on our desktops than usual, especially with online meetings that could go longer than expected.
Given Singaporeans spend so much time at work, this made me wonder about how work actually affects our happiness and how we can design for a better working life to achieve greater levels of happiness?
Having those questions bug my mind, I reached out to my friends over at the Happiness Initiative to ask about their opinions on what happiness really is all about.
In the dictionary, happiness is defined as the state of being happy, but to measure this, the Happiness Initiative referred me to the World Happiness Report, which uses 6 different factors to measure happiness: GDP Per Capita, Healthy Life Expectancy, Perception of Integrity in Society, Freedom to Make Life’s Choices, Social Support and lastly, Generosity. I also found out that both in 2020 and 2021, Singapore ranks low especially on Social Support and Generosity.
Truly, happiness is about creating a meaning greater than ourselves, and comes about through a combination of what drives us, the relationships we have, and the community we serve. The folks over at the Happiness Initiative like to quote Viktor Frankl, who sums it up best: “Happiness, like success, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself.”.
I wondered: Since happiness comes about as a result of doing something of meaning, could work be something of virtue, and if so, how can we move forward to creating happiness at work? Specifically, what role does and can our work play in our happiness?
Whether we like it or not, work is where we spend most of our time, especially so for us here in Singapore! As such, finding meaning out of what we do, is a backbone of happiness. When we find meaning in what we do, it increases our motivation and engagement levels at work, resulting in more positive emotions and outcomes creating a greater resilience towards stress.
With this realisation, it makes sense why self-discovery is an important starting point in our career exploration journey! Here at Bold, we advocate for the importance of activating our personal assets as a first step. We believe that our capacity to find meaning at work increases with our ability to tap on our personal assets, be they our driving values, strengths or interests. I discovered that over at the Happiness Initiative, they similarly employ the Life Craft tool to help promote greater purpose at work and for ourselves through our version of the Best Possible Self.
How about those for whom work is an unhappy affair, you might ask? Here is where reframing how we think of the situation, and adopting a growth mindset can help us better manage better at work.
We can build a more resilient mindset by responding more constructively towards challenging situations at work. This could be through the most basic: thinking before we act, or being very clear in our speech or text messages, taking into account what the other person needs and wants and how we could also get what we need and want in return. The way we interact is crucial in cultivating a culture of well-being at work, by taking care to take the perspective of others and in responding empathetically. Getting feedback on how our progress is at work is a starter to being a giver and receiver at the same time, which is a main way of creating interaction points, says the Happiness Initiative.
I would say what I gathered from the work of Bold at Work and Happiness Initiative, is that you are the root of a better career and life journey! Work is a big part of life and hence a significant contributor to our happiness, or lack thereof! But this means there is also great potential to create greater happiness for ourselves through and at work. By learning how to design our careers for greater engagement and actively managing the stresses and challenges that come with work, we gain important skills for not just better work, but happier lives.