The Importance of Happiness in the Workplace

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Scrum" by Jeff Sutherland. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

Does happiness in the workplace matter? How can you measure the happiness levels of your employees?

Management expert Jeff Sutherland argues in his book Scrum that happiness in the workplace is essential. He explains that happy employees are more productive and creative, therefore managers and team leaders should be making sure their teams are happy.

Continue reading to learn how to measure and increase workplace happiness.

Why Happiness Matters

Sutherland stresses the importance of happiness in the workplace. Not only is it morally preferable, he says, it actually increases productivity. 

Sutherland states that happy people are more successful in virtually every aspect of life. Happy people live longer, healthier lives, and are more likely to have a higher income and be more creative. He argues, though, that happiness does not necessarily come from success. Instead, it leads to success. In other words, if a team is happy, they’ll be more productive. If a team is unhappy, their productivity will decline. Therefore, Sutherland advises that you should take steps to make sure your team is happy

(Shortform note: Research confirms Sutherland’s assertion that happiness leads to success rather than the reverse. Psychologists have found that happy attitudes and mentalities not only correspond with but in fact precede successful outcomes, indicating that a happy outlook brings about success, instead of success bringing about happiness.)

Happiness, he argues, comes from the pursuit of a goal rather than the attainment of it. Businesses, and society in general, often work counter to this idea. They reward the end-product over the journey. In contrast, the Scrum method seeks to make customers, workers, and managers happy by focusing on the joy of the process and implementing small changes in the work culture.

The Happiness Equation

In The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha agrees that Western culture’s relationship to work is problematic and leads to unhappiness. We see work as something we have to do to fund our free time, something that we must endure so we can find happiness outside of our jobs. Assuming you work around forty hours a week, this means you spend around a third of your time feeling unsatisfied and discontented. He argues that it can then be difficult to keep this feeling of discontentment from creeping into other parts of your life. Instead, he encourages you to, if possible, try to find work you’re passionate about, even if it means taking a pay cut—choose happiness over money.

We’ll look at how to quantify happiness, what makes people happy, and how to achieve it in the workplace using Scrum.

Measuring Happiness

Happiness can be tricky to quantify. Sutherland proposes measuring happiness in a relatively simple way. At the end of each Sprint, ask every team member how they feel about the company, their role in it, why they feel that way, and what changes might make them happier moving forward.

These questions can provoke some meaningful discussions and expose what’s most important to each person. The team should then focus on making changes in the next Sprint that will make them happier. By doing so, you will make the team happier and more productive. A win-win.

Measuring Happiness: Alternative Methods

Since happiness is a subjective state, the most common method to measure happiness is the one Sutherland uses: self-reporting. However, experts note that self-reported happiness is often unreliable—people often rate themselves as happier than other people think they are. 

To counter this problem, researchers often use other methods to measure happiness:Biological: Some scientists attempt to measure happiness through biological markers such as hormones and neurotransmitters. Behavioral: The frequency of certain behaviors, such as smiling and laughing, can be used to determine a person’s happiness.Implicit measures: An implicit measure test measures feelings or attitudes that people are unwilling or unable to openly admit. Reports from others: Asking a family member or friend about a person’s happiness levels can be effective.

What Makes Us Happy

Sutherland claims there are three things that make people happy:

  1. Autonomy: Freedom to make choices and act upon them.
  2. Mastery: The feeling that you’re improving at something.
  3. Purpose: The feeling that what you’re doing is important and making a positive impact.

These are terms that are used to indicate what makes individuals happy, but they also apply to a group’s happiness. 

A team that has the ability to decide for themselves how to go about their work will do so in more innovative and creative ways. They will also teach themselves how to improve the process, mastering their jobs as they learn and adapt. By checking in with the team members weekly, management also makes sure that the team feels they are working toward something worthwhile.

Happiness as an Element of Motivation

Sutherland takes the terms autonomy, mastery, and purpose straight from Daniel Pink’s Drive. Pink describes these terms as the three components of intrinsic motivation: the drive to do something for internal fulfillment rather than external rewards. Someone who is intrinsically motivated is much more likely to perform better and is much less likely to suffer from burnout. 

Pink gives some ideas for increasing intrinsic motivation in the workplace. One thing Pink recommends is to allow employees a say in their assignments and goals. If people have time to work on something of their choosing, they’ll have a sense of agency and fulfillment in their jobs. Another tip is to conduct anonymous surveys. Getting anonymous feedback can help you see if your employees are happy or if they feel they are just a cog in the machine.
The Importance of Happiness in the Workplace

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Jeff Sutherland's "Scrum" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Scrum summary:

  • Why the "Waterfall Method" leads to inefficiency and wasted money
  • An explanation of the Scrum method and details on how to implement it
  • How to use Sprints to get more work done

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.