News on Sunday

Daniella Bastien : “Being happy at work creates engagement”

Anthropologist, artist and ‘Happiness Manager’, Daniella Bastien is someone who wears many hats. The woman professional, who is a former lecturer as well, shares with News on Sunday her role in this particular job, the importance of employees’ emotional well-being at work, how companies should provide supportive environment to their employees and why she believes that ‘Happiness Manager’ will become one of the most demanding jobs of the 21st century. 

You are the first ‘Happiness Manager’ in Mauritius. Can you tell us what is a ‘Happiness Manager’?
I’m the first one having the title, but there are many persons actually that have the duty to bring happiness at work in a lot of companies in Mauritius. My core responsibility is to create the right environment for people to thrive at work

Is the ‘Happiness Manager’ also called upon sometimes to act as a psychologist? 
No. Psychology is a particular discipline. Although the Science of Happiness has its source in Positive Psychology, the person in charge of happiness in a company does not need to have studied Psychology. But empathy is something that the person should have and as well as a well-developed emotional intelligence. 

Create meaning. Give recognition. These two things are the very foundation of having happy employees. People are responsible for their own happiness and the workplace should have the right environment for it to blossom."

Safety and Health are two important factors for the employee’s well-being. Should happiness (emotional well-being) also form part of this and why?
You are right! I work closely with our Occupational Health and Safety Officer. Research has shown that people are happy at work when they know how to do their job and also when they feel secure while performing their tasks. 

Happiness in the workplace has become a valid concern for both employees and managers nowadays. Why? 
We live in a VUCA world. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. Today, management has evolved and the human being, in creating wealth, is constantly in demand of defining the meaning of their work. We do what we do and we need to know why we are doing it! 

Since one decade now, lots of books concerning wellness, meditation, personal development, among others, are being edited. This uncertain world brought people to ponder on the purpose of their life and how to strive in economic, political, environmental and social contexts that are detrimental to all living species. 

In this context, how can the workplace become a haven? It’s there that people are for eight hours a day; one-third of their daily time! All CEOs should be concerned that these facts certainly affect productivity.

Happiness at work is not the subliminal cake for employees to follow all decisions blindly. Happiness at work begins when management understands that people are leaving their homes everyday and they are here to share their knowledge and courage."

Do you agree with the statement that ‘Employee Happiness is a business strategy’? 
When we talk about business strategy, we usually see numbers, performance indicators, and so on. We seldom see the people who are actually doing the work. If the business strategy finds its anchor in the recognition of all these hands and minds that create wealth and keeping the joy of doing the work, yes, happiness can be a business strategy. 

Being happy at work creates engagement, boosts performance, reduces absenteeism. It’s not me who is saying it, it’s not ‘pop psychology self-help bologna’ neither. It is based on peer-reviewed research at places like Harvard, University of Oregon and University of California. 

Stress is known for being the number one killer nowadays, especially with the hectic life and work pressure. How should companies go about to provide supportive environment to their employees where they will feel proud and happy about their job?
Create meaning. Give recognition. These two things are the very foundation of having happy employees. People are responsible for their own happiness and the workplace should have the right environment for it to blossom. It defeats the purpose of putting a ping pong table in the mess or having happy hours at the office and on the other side, you don’t have recognition for the work done. Happiness at work is not the subliminal cake for employees to follow all decisions blindly. Happiness at work begins when management understands that people are leaving their homes everyday and they are here to share their knowledge and courage. 

Businesses worldwide including Mauritius face declining productivity. Do you believe that ‘Happiness Manager’ will become one of the most demanding jobs of the 21st century? What developments in the workplace are driving this?
It is not only businesses that need happiness managers, we also need it in schools, in the political arena, in our hospitals, in the public sector… Declining productivity is linked to so many things and definitely, being unhappy at work contribute to it. 

I would like to talk about the retention of millennials. The digital natives are eager to work in an environment where they feel free, where they feel trusted and also where they are given challenges and immediate recognition. Worldwide, businesses are paining at retaining them. So, it’s high time to implement the paradigm shift to have a workplace that matches the dynamism of these thousands of young people that constitute now the working force. 

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