Is Happiness a Luxury Small Businesses Can’t Afford?

As I am preparing for next week’s “Leveraging the Science of Happiness at Work” presentation to the Rogue Valley Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), I’m reflecting on a comment a Facebook friend made the other day when I shared results from a Wall Street Journal survey on happiness in the workplace.

She wrote, “As a small business-owner, no matter the type of business, my primary concern is to make a living, to pay my staff, my taxes and my vendors. Since 2008 when the recession slammed all of us, it’s been a very, very hard slog. Like many other businesses, we’ve laid off employees and we’ve cut costs to the bone. I’m concerned about survival – of my business and of my family. Frankly, ‘happiness’ on the job is merely a luxury, an afterthought that I cannot afford.”

I expect that many people are feeling the same way. What business owners don’t understand is that happiness at work – defined as “a mindset that enables action to maximize performance and achieve potential” – actually saves them money.  In fact, research has proven it can enhance revenue.

Empirical research by iOpeners Institute for People and Performance, involving 9,000 people from around the world, reveals some astonishing findings. Employees who report being happiest at work:

  • Stay twice as long in their jobs as their least happy colleagues
  • Spend double their time at work focused on what they are paid to do
  • Take ten times less sick leave
  • Believe they are achieving their potential twice as much

This means greater outcomes and profits for employers.

And the “science of happiness at work” has big benefits for individuals too. If you’re really happy at work, you’ll solve problems faster, be more creative, adapt fastest to change, receive better feedback, get promoted quicker and earn more over the long-term.

So the next time start to feel that happiness at work is a luxury you can’t afford, think again. Give me a holler if you’d like to see how you can be happier at work. I’ll provide a free individual or team happiness assessment to the first person that contacts me.





  1. My most joy and pain in the workplace has come from owning my own business. I am so fortunate to have control over the things that make work meaningful…hiring outstanding employees, maintaining a sense of true community in the workplace, and knowing that even through tough times we are all in it together. Despite the feeling of a little less to go around, I am so fortunate to be surrounded by the people I chose to go on this journey with rather than stuck at a job where the decisions and vibe is not my own making. Just today I talked withy husband about negativism in the workplace and felt so happy to have created and through sheer luck become part of a positive and uplifting place to be…even in the face of really difficult financial challenges. I am grateful for my practice, my partner, and my perserverance….and I hope that is enough to be considered happiness in these economic times…

  2. Happiness can also be infectious. A friend wrote a short story (SF) about a woman who came to a troubled space station to run a the lowest market bar and through her actions helped turn the whole operation around. I can only remember the author’s name is Tanya Huff. I think the story was titled, “I Knew A Man” and I can’t remember the anthology’s name. But you are quite right, happiness is very important, especially these days.

  3. Susan, this is eloquently written and inspiring. During times like these, we need to remember what matters most and continue to do those things that uplift us as best as we can so we can inspire those around us. Also it’s important to remember that we have a choice about how we feel and how we go about our day to day lives. Thank you for the reminder and for putting a smile on my face this day!

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