The Science of Happiness at Work - Jenna Kutcher

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The Science of Happiness at Work

Jenna Kutcher 

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Workplace culture is critical to the happiness and success of your employees, and by extension, the happiness and success of your business. Current research shows that 74% of employees feel company culture is important to their job satisfaction… From the same survey, only 65% of employees have that job satisfaction they want.

Jenn Lim is the CEO of Delivering Happiness, a company she co-founded with the late CEO of Zappos.com to create happier company cultures for a more profitable and sustainable approach to business. Jenn’s mission is both simple and profound: to teach businesses how to cultivate cultures that generate profit, sustain all people at every level of the organization, and support the health of the planet.

If you have a team, want to have a team, or if you just want to create a culture of happiness while your business is at the stage of “me, myself, and I”, this conversation is for you. Let’s talk about happiness at work, how it’s changed in the last two years, and what it means to tend to our greenhouses… This is going to be good.

Happiness at Work

Jenn Lim did not grow up with happiness as a default. She self-identifies as a cynic and changes in her personal and professional life impacted her happiness on every level as she got further into her career. Jenn first became interested in the science of happiness when she was working with Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos. 

The workplace culture at Zappos is one that’s often referenced when it comes to creating a culture of happiness. I even researched Zappos as a case study in college! Tony and Jenn had a curiosity about happiness at work and decided to test some of the ideas at Zappos. 

For companies, profits are given — you need to make a profit before you can even talk about developing a culture of happiness. But on the culture side, Jenn wondered how to make sure people wake up and want to get to work and spend time with their co-workers. They started to apply some things they learned from academic research about increasing personal happiness at an organizational level. 

These elements of happiness include sense of control or autonomy, progress, connectedness and belonging, and sense of purpose.

Paid to Quit

Jenn’s time at Zappos included implementing some really interesting workplace culture changes that completely challenged how things were always done. For example, Zappos started paying people to quit. The idea was that if new hires were willing to take the money, then they weren’t the right fit for the company. 

The whole concept surrounding the company ethos and higher purpose — if you value the money at that time more than being part of the higher purpose of Zappos, then you might not fit in the company or the role. The amount offered increased over time because not enough people were taking the option to quit. 

Zappos saw this concept as a cost savings, because instead of investing into a new hire that ended up not fitting into the company anyway, they gave those new hires a way out. 

What Not to Do

“The fact that millions of people are quitting in a recession right now, that’s astounding to me,” Jenn began. This mass exodus from the workforce is indicative of people standing up for themselves after spending the last 18 months reflecting on what’s most important to them and what actually contributes to their happiness. 

Jenn’s career took off during the Dot Com boom, and those companies were notorious for ping pong tables in the office, sleeping rooms, and other off-the-wall elements that were believed to make an employee happier at work. Jenn said, “We all know now that that’s just superficial. It’s fun, but it’s very extrinsic. It’s nothing that really adds to our own personal meaning.”

The intrinsic things are more important for workplace happiness. Cultivating a sense of control or autonomy, progress, connectedness and belonging, and a sense of purpose will go further than a free snack room and happy hours.

More from Jenn Lim

What does happiness in the workplace look like when working from home? How do you cultivate a company culture with remote employees? What does it mean to tend your own greenhouse? And how can you improve workplace culture and happiness if you’re not in a leadership role? Jenn Lim covers all this and more, so hit play on the full episode. 

Connect with Jenn Lim and buy her book ‘Beyond Happiness’ at jennlim.com and at deliveringhappiness.com.


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Before you get any further... Hi! I'm Jenna Kutcher!

A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

I’m an expert at online marketing, a nerd when it comes to the numbers, and my obsession is teaching others how to make a living doing what they love (without it taking over their life). 

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