10 Books on Happiness at Work

Unhappy employees spend only 40% of their time on task, according to research from iOpener. This means that unhappy employees are only working two days a week. Besides slowing down production and innovation, unhappy employees are sharing their negative perceptions with the rest of your workforce and consequently spreading discontent. No one enjoys working with a “Debbie Downer.” More importantly, no one enjoys being a “Debbie Downer.”

Building good will, showing genuine care and valuing employees should be a priority at every organization. Employees are responsible for their own happiness, but this does not preclude organizations from providing the tools, resources and culture that will inspire more joy at work. With that in mind, we have compiled a list of 10 books that offer advice, strategies and tips to help managers and employees improve workplace happiness. (Books are listed alphabetically)

    1. Title:Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

      Author: Tony Hsieh (@DHMovement)
      Audience: Managers
      Synopsis: This book shares how corporate culture impacts happiness, and how concentrating on the happiness of those around you can dramatically increase your own happiness.

    2. Title:Employee Engagement for Everyone: 4 Keys to Happiness and Fulfillment at Work

      Author: Kevin Kruse (@Kruse)
      Audience: Managers and Employees
      Synopsis: Through exercises and action items, managers will learn what drives engagement, and employees will discover how to drive their own engagement.

    3. Title: “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

      Author: Shawn Achor (@shawnachor)
      Audience: Employees
      Synopsis: Researcher and Harvard lecturer Shawn Achor shares seven actionable principles that will help employees think more positively and consequently, improve their performance and maximize their potential.

    4. Title: “Happiness at Work: Be Resilient, Motivated, and Successful – No Matter What

      Author: Srikumar Rao (@srikumarsrao)
      Audience: Employees
      Synopsis: Business School Professor and author Srikumar Rao shares how to change your perspective by shifting thought from negativity. The book also offers new ways to look at change and problem-solving.

    5. Title: “Happiness at Work: Maximizing Your Psychological Capital for Success

      Author: Jessica Pryce-Jones (@happy925)
      Audience: Managers and Employees
      Synopsis: Based on four years of research, the author focuses on what happiness means in a work context and shares the five keys—contribution, conviction, culture, commitment and confidence—to achieving happiness at work.

    6. Title: “Happy at Work: 60 Simple Ways to Stay Engaged and Be Successful

      Author: Jim Donovan (@JimDonovan)
      Audience: Employees
      Synopsis: The author offer tips and strategies that will empower you and lead you toward creating a happier experience at work.

    7. Title: “The Joy of Work?: Jobs, Happiness, and You

      Authors: Peter Warr and Guy Clapperton (@GuyClapperton)
      Audience: Managers
      Synopsis: This book brings together research from business and psychology in order to look at happiness and unhappiness from a fresh perspective. The authors share case studies, suggestions and strategies to help increase workplace happiness.

    8. Title: “The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work

      Authors: Teresa Amabile (@TeresaAmabile) and Steven Kramer
      Audience: Managers
      Synopsis: The authors show managers how to remove obstacles to progress and explain how to maximize their employees’ performance. The book also explains how to build a team of employees that consistently express positive emotions and strong motivation.

    9. Title: “Sleeping with Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work

      Author: Leslie A. Perlow (@LesliePerlow)
      Audience: Managers and Employees
      Synopsis: In this step-by-step guide, Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow shares how to devote more time to your personal life and accomplish more at work.

    10. Title: “Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know

      Author: Jill Geisler (@JillGeisler)
      Audience: Managers
      Synopsis: When employees are promoted to management positions, they don’t always have the people skills to be effective bosses. This book shares what managers can do to grow great employees and build great places to work.

When happiness and employee welfare are embedded into organizational culture, employees tend to feel valued and are more motivated. Each year The Ritz-Carlton pinpoints five Key Success Factors (KSF). One of the KSFs is, “Inspire Exceptional Ladies and Gentlemen,” and this KSF comes before customer loyalty and before profits. Even when organizations prioritize happiness, employees still need to do their part to ensure a joyful work environment. If everyone commits to creating a better workplace, then we all have the opportunity to increase our happiness at work. 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.

Promoting Workplace Happiness

In the last decade, there has been a greater focus and more scientific research on happiness. Happiness may seem like an intangible variable, but recent studies reveal why it’s important to cultivate joy—especially at work. It may seem challenging for organizations to create an environment where every employee is delighted and content. However, encouraging and fostering workplace happiness offers significant benefits:

  1. Happiness increases productivity. According to research from the University of Warwick, happiness made people around 12% more productive. Benefit for work: a more productive workforce
  2. Happiness leads to better health. Studies—such as this research from Laura Kubzansky, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health—show that happiness can reduce stress and consequently reduce the risk of disease. Benefit for work: fewer sick days
  3. Happy people are good team players. Research from GoodThink, Inc. shows that happy people experience 34% more positive social interactions. Benefit for work: more effective collaboration
  4. Happiness leads to retention. – iOpener Institute has been studying happiness since 2005, and its findings show that the happiest employees stay in their roles 4x longer. Benefit for work: higher retention
  5. Happiness improves the work atmosphere. A study conducted at Harvard University and the University of California shows that happiness is contagious. Therefore, happy employees are spreading joy at your workplace just by being happy. Benefit for work: increased employee engagement

How to Encourage Workplace Happiness

Creating workplace happiness is not a simple task. As any leader knows, what makes one employee happy often displeases another. Also, there is a difference between generating short-term happiness and long-term happiness. An event or party at work may produce some good will—but will the good will last beyond the festivities?

Scientists have pinpointed three ways that organizations can stimulate lasting happiness.

1. Providing Employees with a Sense of Purpose.
Employees who feel they are part of a larger purpose have greater satisfaction. Researchers from UCLA and University of North Carolina have found that a sense of purpose makes you happy and healthy, and the Delivering Happiness organization states that “Companies with a higher sense of purpose outperform others by 400%.” The employees of The Ritz-Carlton understand that no matter their role—housekeeper, sales, front desk agent, chef—their higher purpose is to offer unique, memorable and personal experiences to our guests. The Ritz-Carlton has created a company culture that emphasizes and reinforces the organization’s collective purpose every day.

2. Giving Employees the Opportunity to Help Others
When people have the chance to help out others, it increases their happiness. According to research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “altruists in the workplace are more likely to help fellow employees, be more committed to their work and be less likely to quit.” At The Ritz-Carlton, the spirit of giving is supported through lateral service. Service Value 7 is: “I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.” Lateral service creates camaraderie and unity, and it allows employees to step away from their posts to help colleagues when needed.

Many organizations are creating Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs to present occasions for employees to give back. Community Footprints®, the social and environmental responsibility program at The Ritz-Carlton, offers opportunities each month for the employees to help others. Hervé Humler, President and COO, notes: “At The Ritz-Carlton, our global company is aligned around the issues that are important to the communities where we operate. By mobilizing our resources and skill-based volunteer efforts, we strive to make a difference through child well-being; hunger and poverty relief; and environmental responsibility.”

3. Instilling Gratitude in the Workplace
Gratitude enriches your life in numerous ways from improved health to better relationships. According to research by Emmons and McCullough, practicing gratitude can also increase your happiness by 25%. The Ritz-Carlton nurtures an attitude of gratitude among employees by distributing First Class cards. “First Class” cards are handwritten “thank you” notes that employees give each other to express gratitude and recognize extra effort. Employees collect these cards throughout their careers and often display them in their workspace. Not only are the cards a visual reminder of feeling appreciated, but they help proliferate an atmosphere of gratitude and kindness. Many employees have a scrapbook containing every First Class card they have every received. Looking at it on difficult days is an instant “psychological pick me up.”

Workplace happiness relies on many variables but is achievable. When organizations make a commitment to happiness, then employees are at least given the resources—such as purpose, helping others and gratitude—to cultivate on-the-job enjoyment. 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.