International Day of Happiness 2021 – why workplace happiness is good for everyone

International Day of Happiness in the middle of a pandemic seems a bit odd, but the line between work and home has never been more blurred. That’s why happiness at work is important to your happiness at home.

March 19, 2021 4 mins read

It feels odd to celebrate International Day of Happiness in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, in many respects, the ongoing pandemic has made happiness at work evermore important – particularly as the boundaries between work and home have become increasingly blurred over recent months due to lockdowns and the associated shift to remote work. 

The United Nations (UN) founded the International Day of Happiness to recognize wellbeing and happiness as universal goals. It’s a goal I wish the international community would take more seriously. If we were to take our happiness at work a little more seriously, regardless of the home or office setting, I firmly believe the world would be a better place. 

Unhappiness at work is an opportunity for change

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel prize-winning psychologist whose work I find fascinating, released a paper in 2004 introducing a new way of assessing people’s daily happiness. He called it ‘day reconstruction methodology’. 

This paper changed my life. 

He asked a group of people what they did during a typical day and to list the amount of time they spent doing it. The responses were about what you would expect — they worked, socialized, ate, watched TV, commuted, exercised, took care of the kids etc. 

He then asked how much they enjoyed each activity. Again, the results were unsurprising. Relationships, socializing, relaxing and eating were high on the list. Most significantly, bottom on the list were work and commuting. 

In that context, life feels grim. We spend most of our waking hours at work but for millions of people, it’s the least enjoyable thing in their lives. According to a recent Robert Half employer survey, 20% of the 1,500 executives interviewed across Europe and Latin America feel ‘depressed with low morale’ and 19% are ‘overworked and on the brink of burnout’.  

Similarly, with a focus on virtual workplace connection, The HOW Institute for Society interviewed a cross section of the U.S workforce and found, since the pandemic started:

  • 44% of workers reported feeling less connected to co-workers
  • 100% of women interviewed felt disconnected to their organizations
  • 57% of younger workers, under the age of 30, are more likely to experience a decrease in connection compared to older workers.

The workplace mood is definitely mixed. It’s no surprise that the Robert Half survey found monitoring workloads (35%) and assessing employee wellbeing and mental health (34%) are currently the top two issues associated with managing ‘hybrid’ teams going into 2021.

In that light, it’s a challenge to ‘compartmentalize’ happiness at home and happiness at work. There’s a lot of bleed over—if we’re unhappy at home, we’re often unhappy at work. This is a scenario that’s likely given that home is work for many of us in lockdown.

Why Happiness at Work?

I often say that happiness is a serious business. We know that work stress can cause illness, but when you’re happy, you’re less likely to get sick. You’re also more likely to have the energy for your private life. 

Becoming happier at work starts with self-awareness and reflecting on how you’re doing. To start, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What has gone well this last year in your work?
  • What is worse about your work? 
  • What are you missing the most from before the pandemic? 

The answers to these questions provide a starting point for you — a ‘snapshot’ of you at this moment. If you’re interested in a deeper analysis, try the Friday One Happiness Test. It’s a five-minute test that provides personalized results on critical areas where you can make improvements. 

Once you’ve reflected on your life and taken the quiz, it’s essential to recognize that some things are simply out of your control. How someone else treats you, for example, is not something you can directly control. But that might be a good reason to find new employment. 

Becoming happier at work

There are five drivers of happiness at work. An improvement in any of the following areas is likely to make your experience much more fulfilling. 


It’s easier to do good work when we’re happy in the company of others. Regardless of whether these interpersonal connections happen in-person or virtually, workplaces which offer friendship, laughter and a strong sense of belonging are more likely to have teams that encourage, support and appreciate each other. Try making a new friend at work. You never know how that friendship will support you later. 

Be fair

Now more than ever, being treated with fairness and respect is fundamental to happier work. We flourish in spaces where organizations are responsive to our needs. Look for opportunities to be flexible with work and to support team members that need more flexibility – especially as the impacts of the pandemic continue to evolve. 


Trusting others and sharing responsibilities is a great way to connect and grow. When we do work that plays well to our strengths, it’s also a chance to really unleash amazing potential. Find opportunities where you can be yourself and use your own judgement in completing tasks. 


We’re happy with our work when we’re absorbed and progressing. Though this means pushing ourselves and stretching into new challenges, this is the sort of practice that keeps our work interesting. When we have the space to challenge each other and ourselves, we’re able to achieve great things. 


Perhaps one of the most important aspects of work is feeling like you’re part of something bigger than yourself. Do you have pride in what you do? Our purpose at work can sustain us through difficult times. You’re more than a short-term financial goal. 

There’s a common idea that work is a way of accumulating the money you need so you can be happier in the future. Work hard now for happiness later. Yet, is that any way to live? When it comes to being happy at work, it’s 2x more likely that happiness leads to success rather than success leading to happiness. 

How Friday Pulse can help

International Day of Happiness is the perfect time to reflect on our experience of work. While we may feel that we can’t change much in the middle of a pandemic, the reality is that we can make small adjustments to our working lives which can have a big impact. Yet, for real change to happen we must measure happiness. If we don’t track happiness over time, we won’t be able to see how our experience changes.

Friday Pulse is designed to help teams look at how to improve their workplace culture. It measures and tracks happiness scores across teams, helping to identify areas of concern. And, right now, our people platform is available for free for six weeks. Get in touch today to book your demo. We’d love to help.