University of Arizona

Americans spend around 1/3 of their adult lives at work. In fact, people work more than they sleep or engage in any other activity.1 Yet nearly 70% of Americans report being unhappy at work.2 We found these statistics pretty sad.

So, we started looking for the bright spots that can perhaps help us understand how people can find more happiness at work and be happier in life. Should we follow Ikea’s lead and encourage all employees to wear bathrobes one Saturday and engage in friendly pillow fights with customers? Or provide gourmet restaurants and colorful, creative furniture like Google?

According to the experts who study this type of thing, you don’t need to have pillow fights and hip furnishings to be happy at work. You need only two key ingredients: results and relationships.

Sure the fancy perks are nice, but not the biggest influence. People want to do meaningful work that leads to self-improvement and has a positive impact.3 And, they want to do that work with others they like. In short, helping others is what makes people happy—even at work.4

We work out of a collective workspace in downtown Tucson—and we have to say, it’s pretty happy. Similar to co-working, collective workspaces are open, shared, work environments that spur relationships and creativity through interaction. The ping-pong table, Ms. PacMan, and “bring your dog to work day” make it fun and help us build strong friendships and successful businesses.

But what really makes our downtown workplace happy is that we operate on the pay it forward model. From Bits & Bots robotics, to community innovation workshops, to connecting and sharing ideas with someone across the room, every individual and company that works out of the space contributes their time and talent to our community, not just our workplace.

If happiness fuels success as Shawn Achor5 and others say, then the more productive and helpful we are at work, the more successful. This is why the last four weeks we have invited our colleagues and the larger community to jump on the happiness train by incorporating daily habits that Achor identified as leading to increased happiness, such as exercise and random acts of kindness. We hung an oversized corkboard in the front of our office to post our individual actions towards happiness, and many of us publicized our efforts using #happiness29.

We will admit that many of us have fallen off the happiness train a few times over the last month, but we found it’s much more fun and encouraging to take on a challenge when you have others doing it alongside you. Although our Happiness Challenge ends this Wednesday, Nov. 13, with the last happiness lecture, we won’t stop helping our neighbor at the desk next to us or working towards impactful results in our community.

If the average American spends more than 1,790 hours6 each year at work, then why waste so much time each year being unhappy when you can enjoy hundreds of hours of happiness? We think it’s worth the work.

A special blog from LeadLocal co-founders Robin Breault & Brooke McDonald