Workplaces should give employees a purpose to increase happiness

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Speaking at the Intellispace BCO half day conference, Paul Dolan identified two types of happiness

Workplaces should focus on providing roles with purpose in order to increase happiness levels, according to Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Speaking at the Intellispace BCO half-day conference, Dolan said that happiness is made up of two parts: pleasure and purpose. “Anyone who has children will know they aren’t a great deal of pleasure,” he explained. “But they give you a different sort of happiness; a sense of purpose. That is what is important in the workplace. A lack of purpose has a really negative effect on employees.”

He also added that a very cost-effective way to show staff they are valued is to thank them for their efforts, even if projects have to be scrapped. “What’s really important is timely and salient feedback,” he said.

Carol Black, principal of Newnham College at Cambridge University, expert advisor on health and work to the Department of Health, and chair of the Nuffield Trust, warned that despite the fact that people are living and working longer they are not necessarily healthier. “Mental health is increasing in importance,” she said. “Stress, anxiety and depression are rising, but we ought to be able to deal with these conditions efficiently rather than choosing to sweep them under the carpet.”

Ray Hammond, futurologist and author, warned that the future can creep up very suddenly for businesses. “You identify things that you think are going to change, and they don’t change, and 20 years later they still haven’t changed. Then all of a sudden they do change, to a larger degree than anyone ever expected, in a far more profound way.

“One of the most important lessons I have learned is that we have no words for when we discuss the future,” he added. “When the Victorians invented projectors they had no words for them, so called them magic lanterns. When the automobile was invented it was the 'horseless carriage'. We don’t have words for the technological future.”

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