Updated: Apr 5
"Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin conjures up images of breezy beaches and carefree living. Who wouldn't want that? Well maybe that isn't practical in all work environments but happiness expert Mara Bray is in pursuit of helping organizations and individuals find a happiness fit to create a better workplace culture.
In this week's interview, she shares a how happy workplace can pay dividends.
How and when did we first meet?
Stewart Meyer (CMO at KUOW Public Radio) was my professor for my Strategic Marketing Course Certification at the University of Washington. I mentioned to him my idea of a Happiness Consultant and he connected me to you. It was in November and I'm so grateful for the introduction!
You are certified in the "Science of Happiness". What is that and how does one get certified?
You know, a lot of people ask me that, and I always laugh. What is it, truly? And can you really get a certificate in it? Well, I received the certification through UC Berkeley's EdX program and it took about three months. Essentially you go through the coursework learning frameworks and strategies to tap into and grow your own happiness. During this process you also learn the tools necessary to better measure happiness as it applies to yourself and your environment. I really enjoyed the coursework and the information was so interesting! There were a lot of "aha!" moments that really resonated with me, or connected to my educational background in sociology and psychology. You'd be surprised to know that so many things all connect back to happiness!
How did the topic of happiness at work become so important to you?
Well, to be honest, it always starts with personal motivation, right? I wanted to be happier - both personally and professionally. More often than not I would think how little (or big!) things in my work environment, or even the work environment of my peers, could change to support happiness. Like, if this changed my coworkers would be so much happier. Or if I had this opportunity, I would be so grateful to take it. What would happen if the dress code is more relaxed, there's flexibility to work from home more, our cubes had more natural light, there's more snacks, higher levels of engagement and educational opportunities... All of a sudden my brain started populating all these little things that could be slightly tweaked that could improve the company culture, our engagement, and ultimately our happiness. To me it just makes sense. I keep asking myself - we are all human, we all deserve happiness in all aspects in our lives - so why not now? Why not build a culture that leads with happiness?
As an employer, can we really make everyone happy? I mean, don't employees own part of their happiness?
I don't think it's about making everyone happy, but rather, giving everyone the opportunity to be happier. And I completely agree, we do own our own happiness. We own our mindset, we own our own decisions. However, there are roadblocks, issues, limited resources that can make this difficult. Really, we are asking employers not to make people happy, but to help invest and provide in an optimal culture that leads with happiness.
Think about it this way: if you walk into a room saying "I am happy. I am going to help make others happy". Imagine what that can do for yourself. Imagine what it can do for your peers. I want employers to know that happiness is an investment. If you start building a culture that puts your employees' happiness first you are then giving them the opportunity to be happier. And this happiness is contagious.
Your goal is to help organizations and individuals find a "Happiness Fit". What is one thing each party can do to increase the probability of a "fit"?
A happiness fit is tailored to a specific organization or individual, which means you have to identify your baseline and what you're willing to invest for happiness.
For organizations you must be willing to give more now, to receive more in the future. If you aren't willing to make changes, regardless of the timeline and investment, then you aren't able to build a culture of happiness.
For individuals, it really just depends on each person's motivation and dedication. I can give you all of the tools and resources you need to be happier, but you need to be dedicated. Happiness isn’t instantaneous. It requires hard work, dedication, and most of all, practice.
Thanks Mara! I feel happier just having this conversation with you. Okay, it's time for our rapid fire round:
What was the title of your MA thesis: Deterioration of Civic Education: Millennial Political Engagement in Contemporary Politics
One big, hairy, audacious goal you have for 2020: Happiness!
Non-profit you are passionate about: Greenpeace Fund
Dream vacation: Egypt!
Favorite down time activity: Painting
Top recommendation for tourists visiting Seattle: Speakeasies
Want to learn more about how to create a happiness fit? Check out Mara's website at https://marabray.com/.