Ombuds' Corner: Happiness at work - Yes it counts!

Some people call it “motivation”, others “recognition” or “success”. For all, feeling happy at work is an important contributing factor to feeling good about life. How much of it is in our own hands and how much depends on the Organization’s ways of working?


Some time ago, someone came into my office and remarked on some of the books I have on my shelf: “ Two books related to ‘Happiness at Work’ – how come? Why read about that?”- the person asked.  Why indeed? Is being happy even a relevant question in the work context?

Recent literature on the subject seems to suggest that happiness at work has a direct impact on motivation and ultimately on overall performance and productivity. Organisations that recognise this also understand the need to look after the well being of their staff and to focus equally on taking into account the interests of individual members as well as the collective whole.

Feeling happy at work depends a lot on the mindset with which we come into the office every morning. If we feel that we are able to find our place in a team, to contribute meaningfully and to continually work towards achieving our own potential, we generally feel happy at work. Conversely, if our work does not interest us or we do not have a pleasant and supportive network of colleagues among whom we feel accepted, we are very likely to feel dissatisfaction.

When dissatisfaction lasts over a prolonged period, it can have serious consequences for the person and for the work environment. This is why, as members of the personnel, it is important to know that we can always turn to the Organization for support. Indeed, CERN has established various channels of support for assuring the wellbeing of its staff, and, depending on the situation, we can choose to talk to our hierarchy, or turn to other partners as appropriate for the informal or, if necessary, more formal resolution of our problems.

However, whatever means the Organization may have put in place to help us to overcome our difficulties, we remain the principal actors concerned and it is by taking situations into our own hands and proactively looking for solutions that we can have a significant influence on their outcome.

Practically speaking, this implies taking responsibility for what happens to us when we come to the office, questioning our own response to certain situations and understanding that by changing our approach to things we are sometimes also able to have a positive influence on our environment. Taking responsibility does not always mean that we have to cope with difficult situations alone, however, and recognising that there may be times in our working lives when we need support is sometimes the most responsible approach we can take.

Feeling happy at work really does count as it affects not only what you do but also more generally who you are – as a colleague, a supervisor or a member of the larger CERN team - and of course this also has an important impact on everyone around you. As colleagues, we all play our part in creating a positive environment - so do not hesitate to take your happiness at work into your own hands – and yes, you are welcome to browse through the books on my shelf or better still, order them through the library, if you like!

Happiness is not something ready made.
It comes from your own actions.”

Dalai Lama


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by Sudeshna Datta-Cockerill