Sunday, July 19, 2009

Happy Hour is 9 to 5

Dear Readers,
This book sure caught my attention. Moreso, an online version is available for free reading, even though it is best to download the book. Happy Reading.
Once again, I have reviewed it for the Bombay Chartered Accountants' Society's Journal and it appeared in the September issue.

It was a snippet in Corporate Dossier (Management feature section of The Economic Times) dated July 3, that attracted my attention and drew me to the book: Happy Hour is 9 to 5”. Well, work hours for most of us tend to stretch longer, all the more reason for reading this book. We may be conversant with e-filing of returns, this book is an e-book, available for download in pdf, you can order it or if it makes you happy (even as it may not make the author richer in monetary terms) you can read it online for free @

As soon as you click on the above url, you will come to face to face with quotes from a diverse range of famous personalities, all of whom agree that happiness at work is a necessity. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple even goes on to say: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle."

Alexander Kjerulf, the Danish author who calls himself the Chief Happiness explains: This book is about happiness at work. About loving your job - or finding one you can love. Because today, happiness at work is no longer a luxury - it's essential. People are discovering, that when they love their jobs, they are more productive, creative and motivated. They're also happier in life. Similarly, happy companies find they are more efficient, innovative and make more money than their unhappy competitors. Danes, Alexander Kjerulf explains actually have a word to define the concept of happiness at work. Arbejde means work and glæde means happiness, so arbejdsglæde literally translates into work-happiness. No wonder, he is the perfect author for this book.

That said, let us dive into the book-rather the free online version which I read, even though I realize it is better to download the pdf version and keep it for posterity.

The beginning itself is interesting. Imagine yourself early on a Monday morning. Picture yourself as you turn off the alarm clock, and lie in bed for a moment before getting up. Your bed is comfortable and warm and you really want to enjoy that feeling just a little bit longer, but just thinking about the workweek ahead of you is making you smile and get ready to jump out of bed. Well, if this is not what is happening it is time to read the book!

It is not designations, promotions, money, bonus that can make us happy. These are short term pleasures. There is much more that alone can assure happiness at work.
The book aims to convince you that:
• Each and every one of us can be happy at work.
• Being happy at work will not only make work more fun, it will also improve your quality of life outside of work and make you more successful.
• Happy businesses are much more efficient than unhappy ones—happiness makes great business sense.
• Happiness at work is not rocket science—it is simple to help yourself and your workplace to be happy.

This book explains the theory of happiness at work, based on real-life examples, which you can emulate and also provides you with exercises to undertake. To begin with, it is true that work itself can make you happy – if you have found a career which is a perfect fit.

However, happiness at work is not restricted to those who have found their calling in life. One of the chapters in this book deals with what actions you can take to be happy.

Six actions that make us happy at work

There are six simple, everyday actions that create a good mood and make us happy at work. To be happy at work we must:
• Be positive
• Learn
• Be open
• Participate
• Find meaning
• Love

People who do this at work are happy. A workplace where people can do each of these is a happy one. And it is all so simple to do.

If you want to spread positive vibes (and it all comes back to you), learn how to praise. Just walk across to your junior or even your boss and praise him/her for something you genuinely believe he/she deserves the praise for. Have a whiteboard on which people can scrawl praises of those in their department. Ensure that a stuffed toy /award is passed around to the most praiseworthy person in the office each month. No need to buy another toy – the same one can be passed around. All inexpensive gestures but they go a long way. Learning is also important, and by this I mean not learning tax or accounting standards but learning from each meeting. How could we do the next one better? Take stock and move on. Also try and learn new skills. Even if something as different as ceramic paining, believe me you, it will boost your creativity help you conceptualize tax structures more easily or your submission will flow more easily.

Be open and participate, is something which is easier said than done as it may also depend upon your organization’s framework. Yet, you can contribute to making your organization a more transparent and participative place.

Make a start, be open with your colleagues, your team members. Volunteer to set up groups such as study circles. New transfer pricing regulations? Why not set up a group which will study it and make a presentation for the benefit of all? Have a soft spot for stray dogs? Set up a box to collect money to contribute to the SPCA or any other animal welfare organization. What is stopping you? Sometimes the answer is just YOU!

Find meaning. Now this is a truly useful action point. Filing tax returns may not be the most appealing job on earth. Look at it this way. Your action, helps the client to meet his obligations, it helps the government to raise revenue – in the long run it helps keep the wheels of democracy churning. Yes, it began with the tax return that you helped your client fill in. Always find meaning it whatever you do. As Alexander Kjerulf says: “It’s much easier to be happy if your job has meaning to you, and you keep that meaning in mind. Knowing how your work contributes to the company’s success, to your local community, or even to making a better world makes you proud of what you do. Almost any job has meaning.”

In most workplace surveys, 10% say they hate their jobs and 10-20% love it. The rest, between 70 and 80% of employees, are somewhere in the middle. Various exercises provided in the book will help you ensure that you are a happier person at work. Happiness fortunately is contagious.

Alexander Kjerulf even touches upon the sensitive subject of quitting.
As he says: “Once you’ve decided to be happy at work, here’s the most basic choice you must make: Should you try to become happy in your current job, or is it better to switch to a new job? Can you make things better where you are? Have you tried? How did it go?

There are two possible options:
• Change is realistic. It may not be easy or fast, but things can get better at my current job.
• Change is not realistic. The culture is too fixed or change will simply be too hard.

There is no perfect job. There is no need to change the whole company. A change in your department may be all that you need. Try spreading happiness around. Could be creating a small group of “Happiness leaders” and conjuring up different ways to spread happiness, something as simple as passing around picture post cards saying: Thank you, you did a great job. This could foster team work. Or simple games post work, cutting across the hierarchy. As silly as joining hands and singing songs.
But if things cannot change, it is not worth being stuck in an unhappy situation. “Switching jobs can be a scary proposition, but for many people it’s the only way they will ever be happy at work. If you decide that there is only a small chance that your current job will ever make you happy, I urge you to move on as quickly as possible. This is a decision with serious consequences, including loss of identity, prestige and financial security. Again, only you can make that choice,” sums up Alexandra Kjerulf.

So go on, spread happiness at your workplace.

Photograph courtesy: Wikimedia