Best Practices From One of the Happiest Countries in the World

In: BlogDate: Aug 13, 2020By: Billy Burgess

Try locating the word ‘workhappiness’ in the English dictionary. You won’t find it. In Danish, however, there is a word for this condition – arbejdsglaede. Woohoo inc claim to be the happiness-at-work experts. Arlette Bentzen is the Danish company’s Chief Happiness Officer, meaning there’s no one better positioned to give tips on attaining arbejdsglaede.

Watch Arlette's full presentation at the 2018 Happy Workplaces Conference, in which she offers three work-happiness tips derived from some of Denmark’s most progressive workplaces.

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Best Practices From One of the Happiest Countries in the World

Hi everyone! Good afternoon! (Audience responds ‘good afternoon!’) That was good, and that's so correct, often I hear our name pronounced ‘wu hu’ or ‘woe hoe’ but it’s WOOHOO! and it's amazing. I brought, from Denmark, some tips from some of the happiest and most successful companies that we have. Thank you so much -applause-yeah!

I brought you three tips; but before I move onto the onto the tips I want you to learn a little bit of Danish. How many of you here can say a word in Danish? Tak! Wonderful. Which means thank you. Was that the same word? Ok, I want you to learn to pronounce this word: (Slide reading: Arbejdsglaede Ah-bites-gleh-the Workhappiness) this word actually means, translated directly into English, it will be ‘work happiness’. And this is a real word in Denmark. This is a word that we use everyday, employees use it, employers use it, it's a word that everybody knows. So, ‘workhappiness’, or ‘work joy’, in Danish is pronounced ah-bites-gleh-the. ‘Workhappiness’; I don't know, is that a word that you use ever in your workplace? ‘Workhappiness’? Yeah? And have you tried to look it up in the dictionary? It's not there, you can't find it, but in Denmark we have this word. I want you to say after me, I'll just try to make it easier for you: Ah bites gleh the. Try to say after me: Ah bites gleh the (audience joins in). Fantastic! Now you can understand the most important word in Danish, maybe after tak, but Arbejdsglaede is really, really important as well.

What I brought is three tips, and with the tips some cases from some of the coolest workplaces we have in Denmark. We have a lot of cool workplaces so it was hard for me to actually just find three.

Tip number one is: why not, in every single company, have ‘Happiness at Work Ambassadors’ or  ‘Chief Happiness Officers’? I think every company should have a Chief Happiness Officer, or a group of Chief Happiness Officers. A company called SEB Pensions, four years ago, they created this group of ambassadors, of Chief Happiness Officers; and what they have done ever since, for four years now, is that every single year they create a ‘Happiness Plan’. They are very structured and I guess, I actually think, that's one of the main reasons why it's working so well for them is this: they sit down in this group and they create a project plan for the year ahead. Every single year they do this, and they come up with a lot of ideas. Some will be one day, some will be just for one hour, some of them will run for weeks, or maybe even for a month, and they decide all the things for a full year. That's the things you can see on the left, and then they decide who is responsible for each of these projects, and then they make the plan happen. And I brought one of the tips where I really like what they did: they would like people to move, because they know when people move they have more energy, they got more work done, and we all want our people to get more work done. And employees as well, they go to work not to be happy but to do a great job, so they actually also want to do a great job. They want to be energized. So what they did at SEB Pensions, they created this folder with walking tours, they wanted their employees to have ‘walk and talks’. So it should be easy for the employees to know that it's ok within this company to do a ‘walk and talk’. It's not a social walk, it could be, that would be ok too, but they wanted to also have it for business meetings: that they create these ‘walk and talks’. So they created these tours for thirty minutes, for forty-five minutes, or even for sixty minute walks; and what made it even crazier, and more amazing in my opinion, is that they created these posters, that you see on the right side, and after finishing a meeting, a walk and talk meeting, you put up stickers for sixty, forty-five or thirty minutes walk. Each month they could count and find out ‘how many miles of meetings did we have this month?’, and they could have competitions, from team to team, how many miles they'll have of meetings. Do you guys have a lot of meetings? Yes? Sometimes too many meetings? And sometimes they are too long, and often they found out that the meetings actually got shorter when they did this, because people also wanted to go back after the meetings and get things done. ‘Walk and talk’ meetings; why not measure those in miles and not in hours and minutes?

Tip number two: we all know that it's important to share the good stories. Share what's working well, even to learn from what's working. And we try and teach all our clients to share the good. Not only the good things that they can measure, but also progress within a project or within some things that people are working on. To share: ‘We just decided to do this! This is a brand new idea!’ They don't know even if it works, but it's still great because they found out something new. So that's actually what I would like you guys to do, to share something cool with each other. I have a small exercise for you. Before I give you the task, I know it's at the end of the day, I'm the last speaker, but I would like you all to stand up please. Put the chairs under the tables. Find yourself a partner, partner up: two and two. I would suggest a person that you have not been talking to today. Find a person that you have not been talking to you today, introduce yourself…(general chatter in the room).

Thank you so much. Please find your seats. Amazing. Wonderful. That was fantastic. One quick question: how did it feel to share that story? Good or bad? (Audience reply ‘Great!)  Great! Exactly. So did some of you actually have that feeling again, that great experience of doing something great? Experienced that feeling one more time? Yeah, that’s what happens when we are sharing the good stories. And why not do that in the workplace on a regular basis?

The case story that I bought for you guys, it's a Danish company, I don't know if you've heard of it? They're called LEGO. At LEGO we did both workshops and keynotes with LEGO, and some of the teams really took the idea of sharing the good into the teams, and they have continued doing it year after year, after year, for many years now. And they tell us that it's still successful. What they do when they have meetings is that they start every single meeting with something positive. They have actually an item zero on the agenda. Even though they have a lot of things they want to discuss they always start with item zero on the agenda which is: ‘share something positive’. It can be one person sharing something he or she has been working on, a new idea, it can be praise that they got in, it could be a team sharing something, a great thing they experienced in the project, it could be the manager coming in sharing stuff, or it could be exactly the same exercises you just did: they can ask ‘Now before we start the meeting, please buddy up, two and two, and share a story’. What's also good about buddying up is that every single person is sharing one of their stories, and then also hearing one from their colleague; so that's two good stories, from themselves or one of the team members. So that's actually helping them to remember the good things happening. In Denmark we often talk about things that are not going right, problems we have. Do you do that in here as well, in Britain? Yeah? ‘The first thing we have to discuss is this problem and we have to solve it!’ If you look into the science we actually saw that meetings that start with something positive will be better meetings. We actually could see that, firstly, meetings that start with something positive will, for the rest of the meeting, be in a more positive atmosphere. Secondly, meetings that start with something positive: it will be easier to agree on something. And so often at meetings we want to agree on something. And last but not least, meetings that start with something positive will be shorter. How many of you go to a lot of meetings? How many people take too many meetings? Too long meetings? Yeah, right, so maybe you should start trying to do this: starting the agenda with an item zero, something positive. It really, really works. So share the good stuff. It's so important both to share the good stories, but also to learn from them; to see how can we use that in other situations within the company. Maybe one team can share with another team and they can learn from that? So not only sharing within one team, but within the whole company. Does that make sense? Yes or no? Good. Start meetings with something, share a story, let people partner up it's really, really important.

Tip number three: you all know about random acts of workplace kindness right? Do something nice for one of your colleagues and that person will become happier. And, as we heard before, it was actually Sarah I think who said that ‘the things that actually matter are things that are for free’, right? Things that we do for each other, it's for free: bring a colleague a cup of coffee, you're getting one for yourself why not bring one for your colleague? Bring flowers to the office from your garden, they are there anyway. Things you can do easily but will make a difference, make a situation where you show a colleague that you care. Random acts of workplace kindness can be from person to person. This is one of the small things that we've seen in Denmark, one of our clients (called Orsted): where people surprise each other with small Post It notes on each other's computer screens or decorating the rooms and this is just to show a colleague that you care. But be careful it could be too much (shows a picture of a room FULL of balloons and laughter erupts). Never too much! Hahaha, I like that. But just showing one of your colleagues or maybe even your manager that you care, that you've taken your time to do something that you know that will make that person happy. But it can also be from team to team, we have several clients that have done this well: one team is surprising another team, and then it goes in turns and you never know which team is the next team to be surprised. You don't know if you're going to be the next team to be surprised, you only know who is starting the next random act of workplace kindness. So when it goes from team to team you can invite your colleagues to coffee, to a meeting, you can make them pancakes, you can invite them and share what you're working on. So you can actually have knowledge sharing while surprising them with coffees, or smoothies, or pancakes, or whatever. It's not only for the relationships, but it's also for creating better results and knowledge sharing within the company. What I also like, when it's not from person to person, not from team to team; I know that we have a lot of managers in the room, how many in here has a management role? I knew it. So I had to bring this, of course it can be random acts of kindness from a manager to his or hers team. These two guys, Karsten and Karsten, (and yes, both their names are Karsten. It's not that everyone in Denmark is called Karsten, but they're both Karsten) they love to surprise their teams. They are the head of two different teams but often they do things together; because sometimes it's easier not to do it by yourself, but to buddy up with a colleague and do it together. They love to surprise their employees. This is a Danish Christmas tradition. For Christmas we have this dessert, it's a rice pudding, is called risalamande; and these two guys, Karsten and Karsten, they decided that at Christmas time they would walk around, without notice, and hand out risalamande for every single person in the company. So there they are, walking around, saying ‘Merry Christmas’. They were even wearing these silly Christmas hats. They loved it, and people loved it, and people loved that they saw their managers taking time to actually go out there and serve them. And they could have a small chat, they could see their colleagues and say ‘how's it going?’ They could give them appreciation, praise them, whatever; they had the time to see them, and talk to them in a different way. And I brought a video that I would love to share with you guys, it's the two same guys, it's Karsten and Karsten, and the company's name is Solar; one morning they decided that they wanted to surprise the whole company by standing in the door in the morning, this is before 7 o'clock in the morning. They would meet every single person coming in, they would greet them, say ‘Good morning!’ It's what we call a ‘level five good morning’, where you say good morning, you have eye contact, you add something extra, you maybe even have a handshake or whatever. So this is really, really interesting, they have this good morning session and a random act of kindness: they actually have breakfast for every single person. So watch this short video... (video of colleagues being surprised with breakfast and a hearty good morning)

-Laughter-look at that guy's face! So do they do this every single morning? No, they don't. He's really surprised! But what they told us was all the employees talked about this morning for weeks and weeks, and even months after: ‘Do you remember that morning when they greeted us on the door? It was amazing!’ And it's not because of the breakfast, and I know: because the receptionist actually told me that that bakery that they're using are actually giving the company a Christmas gift because they are really good clients, right? So what they did is handing out breakfast but what were the people noticing? Why were they becoming happier? The surprise. That they took the time to be there and show the employees that they care. That they actually show their employees that they matter to them and they took the time to do it.

So random acts of workplace kindness, share the good stories, and why not have a group of ambassadors creating a lot of great ideas that you can do during the year, to create a happier workplace. And it's not the things that you can pay for. It's not the big things. It's not that one big Christmas party that would make people happy at work, it's the small things in the every single workday you have. It's the small things that make the big difference. What matters? How you can actually become happier at work yourself is, of course, to do more of what makes you happy, and to do something about the things that make you unhappy at work. But what you can do is to make other people happy, because science shows that when you make other people happy, and you see that they become happier, you too will become happier. So make other people happy and you'll feel happier yourself.

I will end by asking you a question that I will ask you to discuss around the table. And first I have one question for you guys, and then I want you to share around the table: How many of you have a group of ambassadors, of Chief Happiness Officers in your company? One...two...three... that was not a lot. How many of you have a project plan for happiness at work? Only a few. How many of you think it would matter to have a strategy for happiness at work? Wonderful. How many of you think that you're actually already doing stuff that is making yourself and your colleagues happier? Exactly. Sometimes we just do it naturally. And I think a lot of us in this room today, it just comes naturally. We do it, we make other people happy, we want to be happy ourselves. And no, we cannot be happy every single day but most days at work we should go to work happy and we should go home happy too. So share around the table things that you already do, or have done, in your company to create a happier workplace, a happy organisation. I'll give you a few minutes, two minutes.

My last and I would think best advice is to have an intake when you start doing something. And what we found out is doing something that shows people that they're creating results but they didn't know they were doing right away, and also do the stuff that helps people create even better relationships. Both are equally important, so thank you very much for joining me for this session.

Arlette recommends every workplace install some Happiness at Work Ambassadors or Chief Happiness Officers. Once in place, happiness leaders can create a happiness plan for the year ahead. Arlette refers to the example of SEB Pensions to illustrate the sort of workplace innovations a team of CHOs can instigate.

SEB’s happiness ambassadors made a plan to get people moving. They knew this would create more energy and in turn boost productivity. The team mapped out some walking tours and encouraged employees to conduct business meetings while walking and talking. The tours would last for 30, 45 or 60 minutes. Employees kept a log of their walking tours and at the end of the month could determine how many meeting miles they’d completed.

Arlette’s second tip is to share the good stories. If you put the focus on things that are going well, you and your colleagues can learn from it. It doesn’t have to be quantifiable success, either. It could just be small signs of progress within a project, or even the decision to try something new. It’s all worth sharing. Arlette believes that sharing the good stories allows us to “have that feeling again, that great experience of doing something great,” and she’s witnessed the positive outcomes of this method in the workplace of one of Woohoo’s major clients, LEGO.

Arlette’s final tip is to commit yourself to random acts of workplace kindness. The foundation of this principle is simple: doing something nice for co-workers brings them happiness. Acts of kindness let your colleagues know you care. Make someone a coffee, offer to bring them back some food from the supermarket, or just leave them a note letting them know their work is appreciated. All of these things are easily achieved and will contribute to a happier workplace.

What You Will Learn in This Video

  • How to say the Danish word, arbejdsglaede, which literally translates as ‘work happiness’
  • The value of appointing Happiness at Work Ambassadors or Chief Happiness Officers
  • Why SEB Pensions made a plan to get people walking and talking
  • Why it’s so important to share the good stories
  • How the offices of LEGO have been brightened by starting meetings positively
  • By committing yourself to random acts of workplace kindness, you’ll let your colleagues know you care

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