Should Happiness be a National Priority? Action for Happiness – Part 6

Hello PPMA members and friends.

Here’s the last installement of the Action for Happiness programme from Lisa Sibley, our Lead Officer for Wellbeing, Job Ceation and Worklessness and Employee Engagement Manager at Essex County Council. We hope that you’ve enjoyed the series and we’d like to thank Lisa for sharing her experiences with us all.

Wellbeing, Job Creation and Worklessness
Wellbeing, Job Creation and Worklessness

“My apologies for the extended break since my last blog, I’ve been away on an escape to the sun for the last couple of weeks and ran out of time during that last week before ‘leaving on a jet plane’ to disengage.  I’m sitting writing this on a rather bleak Sunday morning, the rain is pelting down with the wind howling and given the choice of venturing out to do the weekly supermarket trip versus writing about happiness, it was an easy choice to make! So, I’ve retrieved my notes from sadly what was my ‘last’ Action for Happiness session and it’s quickly flooding back to me, and that week’s theme – happiness as a national priority – sure is something close to my heart and totally relates to the PPMA’s Changing the World of Work.

This session followed hot on the heels of the launch of the  World Happiness Report 2013 with Dr Mark Williamson the Director of Action for Happiness and our course lead sharing some really interesting insights from the report’s findings which evidences compelling reasons to prioritise wellbeing.  For example, the report tells us that happier people tend to be:-

  • healthier, recover from illness more quickly and live longer;
  • at work, they perform better, exhibit more creativity, are absent less often and are better at cooperation and collaboration;
  • in wider society, they have better relationships, exhibit more pro-social behaviour, have greater self-control, engage in less risk-taking behaviour and are more likely to have a positive impact on others.

So, happier people are not lazy, naïve, inward-looking or selfish, as some sceptics suggest; they are actually more economically productive, healthy, socially-minded and generous.    Mark has written his own  blog about the report and its implications which is a really good read and summary so do take a look.

Who tops the bill in terms of happiest countries according to this report? Interestingly, Denmark tops the chart and in fact the top five are all Northern European nations – and the common themes are these countries have the highest levels of interpersonal trust and the lowest levels of inequality.  And where does the UK come in at on the chart – sadly, number 22.   If we compare levels of trust between the UK and Denmark, 89% of Danes express a high level of trust in others, compared to 69% of us Brits.  The least happy countries tend unsurprisingly to be those where people’s basic human needs such as food, shelter and freedom are unmet or at risk.  Nine of the ten least happy countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa.  That said, having recently watched a tv documentary about Britain’s ‘hidden hungry’ and an increasing reliance on food banks, I was totally shocked and upset at the extent  of this so let’s not kid ourselves that here in the UK everyone’s basic human needs are being met.

The topic for this session’s group work was ‘what should our national priorities be?’ and led to really passionate debate.  In my group we felt very strongly that:-

  • the wellbeing of our people should be a national priority
  • change the current model of working, share the love of work to all, share the load
  • we need to educate the nation to be compassionate and caring for others, it really is time to put care back into the community
  • we need to build resilience and that schools and workplaces are the ideal ‘shapers’/ ‘educators’ of this
  • more investment is required to support mental health

Our discussion sparked thinking around the experience of the London Olympics last year and what a remarkable happiness factor was felt at that time especially in terms of human connection and pride, stemming greatly from the highly engaged and caring approach exuding from the fabulous Olympic Ambassadors and indeed, much helped by the marked positive coverage from the media.  How can we keep that flame alight or maybe reignite it?

This quote by Thomas Jefferson truly resonates:-  ‘The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and legitimate object of good government’

How lucky we are those of us who work in public services – yes, I did use the word lucky.  We in the public sector are in a privileged position to make a difference to happiness and wellbeing here in the UK.  And those of us who work in the world of HR or OD are even more fortunate because – if we want to be – we can be right at the forefront of changing the world of work across the country to create a happier and healthier nation.  As quoted in the PPMA’s Changing the World of Work paper, are we up for it?   My answer is yes, I am as I want to live in and do what I can to create a country where we all have a chance to thrive and not one where people just survive and exist.

Yes, yes, we are in unprecedented changing, tough economic times – blah, blah – I’m kind of bored of hearing that, aren’t we simply in changing times that provide an opportunity to do things differently and make things better.  If we truly unite and shout from the rooftops, yes we can, quite simply, we will – through taking actions which will make a difference.  In the wise words of Benjamin Disraeli:   ‘Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action’

It was a privilege to attend this first Action for Happiness, gratitude and respect to Mark and the team there, I have learnt so much, made new friends, felt connected and happy, obviously!  I have been inspired to take action in spreading the word which I kicked off via this blog.  I will now take this a step further and will be rolling out the learning through a mini course in Essex in the new year so if you are interested in joining me for the happiness ride, please do contact me at [email protected] Meanwhile, thank you for reading, be happy and take care.”

Engaging wishes, Lisa

Lisa Sibley, Employee Engagement Manager, Essex County Council and PPMA Policy Lead for Well Being, Job Creation and Worklessness

By | 2017-07-30T12:23:18+00:00 October 19th, 2013|Categories: Guest Blogger, Lisa Sibley|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Richard crouch 27th October 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Lisa’s blogs on happiness have been warmly received by many Members who have spoken to me about them and quite rightly so. All of them have hit the wider spot of ‘community’ and not just ‘organisational’ and it is this ground that we in public service HR and OD now need to tread. Happiness isn’t a soft fluffy emotional sop but something that hits the heart of healthy communities. For me a happy community is very much a healthy community and this is something I think we must all strive for….it has to be our morale purpose in a civilised place. This is why I think the sentiments of this last happiness blog are so well placed. Linking to changing the world of work, it helps us in the cause of helping to do great things. There is still so much for us to do.

    Thank you Lisa and such is the importance of your message that we will leave this blog on for one more week. Richard

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