Excerpts from The Best Place to Work by Ron Friedman
A funny thing happens to your brain inside a casino.
Rational thinking becomes elusive. Logic and self-control fade. You suddenly find yourself gripped with a hunger for immediate gratification.
The emotional roller coaster of winning and losing is one reason it’s hard to maintain your poise, but there’s more to it than that. Casinos also play a role in promoting a risk-taking mindset. They do so by using subtle techniques that sway our moods, shape our thinking, and gently nudge us in the direction of gambling.
For example, Betting with colorful plastic chips instead of money makes losses abstract and allows gambling to feel like more of a game.
If all of that weren’t enough, casino floors bombard the senses. Blinking lights and colorful sounds excite, overwhelm, and disorient.
What casinos are doing is leveraging a series of psychological techniques that increase people’s tolerance for risk, enhancing their willingness to gamble.
So what’s all this got to do with the workplace? More than you think.
In most organizations, risk-taking is obviously of limited value. But there exist certain mindsets that are worth promoting among employees. Like happiness.
Research shows that happy people tend to be more effective in their jobs. When we’re feeling good about our lives, we connect with others more easily, think more optimistically, and free up valuable mental resources to focus on novel ideas.
How exactly do you foster happiness in the workplace? By taking a cue from casinos and embedding psychological triggers into the employee experience that promotes a positive mindset.
Why Workplace happiness is hard to find?
One of the more distressing facts about human nature is that we are not particularly good at staying happy. Positive emotions wear off. Whether we’ve earned a promotion, landed a new client, or moved to the corner office, with time we tend to return to our happiness baseline.
Our brains are programmed to adapt to our circumstances, and for good reason. Too happy and we’d lack any ambition; too sad and we’d never leave our beds.
To some, learning about the existence of a happiness baseline can feel incredibly liberating. To others, it can seem downright depressing. If happiness is fleeting, what’s the point of even trying?
Recently psychologists have begun examining ways of slowing the adaptation process as a means of prolonging happy experiences. If we can prevent ourselves from habituating too quickly to positive experiences, the reasoning goes, we can sustain the initial high for longer periods of time.
How do you delay adaptation? Here are some inspirations from the book,
INSIGHT #1: Frequency is more important than the size
Small, frequent pleasures can keep us happy longer than large, infrequent ones.
Offering employees relatively inexpensive workplace benefits—for example, by purchasing a high-end espresso machine or stocking the refrigerator with interesting snacks—are more likely to sustain day-to-day happiness levels than the sporadic pay increase.
INSIGHT #2: Variety prevents adaption
Variety helps prevent adaptation, which is why creating a happy workplace involves more than just repeating the same enjoyable activities again and again.
One way of introducing variety into the workplace is by linking certain happiness boosts to specific seasons.
INSIGHT #3: Unexpected pleasures deliver a bigger thrill
When something surprising happens, our brains automatically pay closer attention, lending unexpected events greater emotional weight. We’re motivated to make sense of events we haven’t predicted and devote more mental energy to thinking about them after they occur.
By leveraging positive surprises in the workplace, organizations can get a bigger emotional bang for their buck. For example - hiring a massage therapist to walk around the office for a day.
INSIGHT #4: We don’t always know why we are happy
Scent & Music can also lift our mood unconsciously. Obviously, no office wants to smell like a casino or sound like a bar. Yet the findings do hint at subtle ways ordinary workplaces can tweak their environments to promote better moods.
INSIGHT #5: A grateful mind is a happy one
It’s rare that we pause to savor what we’ve achieved. The moment one grueling project ends, the next begins. But by taking a moment to direct our attention to things that are going right, we enhance our enjoyment and stave off the process of adaptation.
Gratitude helps us appreciate positive events when they happen, making them last longer.
Is there value to promoting happiness in the workplace? Absolutely. But it’s only by doing so in ways that complement the requirements of employees’ tasks and allow them to be authentic about their experiences that we can expect it to drive success.