Happiness at work

How to Work Hard and Get Happy

André Francois
André Francois 2024-02-23

Do you know that song Happy by Pharrell Williams;

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof (Because I'm happy) Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth (Because I'm happy)

It is a pretty good song but this blog post will not be about that song. We will talk about happiness though, and hard work. So what about this beautiful marriage between hard work and happiness? Yes, you read that right. Contrary to popular belief, these two can go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly, enhancing not just productivity but overall well-being in the workplace.

I Worked Around the Clock but I Felt so Alive

I will begin by telling a short anecdote from my own experience of working hard...

Picture this: It's late, way past midnight. The office is dim, just me and Pär, my trusty developer. We're super focused on our project, fueled by caffeine and determination. As exhaustion threatens to set in, we take breaks to fly a remote helicopter around the office – our little escape from work, and bam, we have energy again like two 3-year-olds after a sugar dose.

To keep Pär around I bribed him with take-out food and speeches about how this feature we were working on could be game-changing for us. As dawn approached, he finally left, leaving me to steal a few hours of sleep on the office sofa.

Yet, amidst the exhaustion and the hiding from security (you were not allowed to sleep in the office), there was a sense of purpose. In those late-night moments, I felt alive, fully immersed in the work that fueled my passion.

And as the sun rose, Pär came back and turned the lights on, I returned to my desk, ready to dive back in. For in those moments, I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be – chasing dreams, flying helicopters, and finding joy in the journey of starting something from scratch.

Now, you might be scratching your head, wondering, "How can grinding away at tasks bring joy?" Well, buckle up because I’m about to take you on a journey through some fascinating insights, and yes, you doubtful human being, they're backed by science.

1. The Power of Flow: Have you ever experienced being so immersed in a task that time seems to fly by? Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined this state as "flow," where individuals are fully absorbed and energized by what they're doing. Research suggests that experiencing flow leads to increased happiness and life satisfaction (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).

2. Sense of Achievement: There’s something incredibly fulfilling about accomplishing a challenging task or reaching a goal. Studies have shown that setting and achieving goals, no matter how small, activates the brain's reward system, releasing feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine (Schultz, 2016).

3. The Happiness-Productivity Loop: Contrary to the old adage "I'll be happy when I'm successful," Shawn Achor, in his TED Talk on "The Happy Secret to Better Work," flips the script. He argues that happiness fuels success, not the other way around. Happy employees are more engaged, creative, and productive (Achor, 2011).

4. Camaraderie and Connection: Humans are social creatures, and fostering strong interpersonal relationships in the workplace can significantly impact happiness. Whether it's collaborating on a project, sharing a laugh during lunch, or celebrating victories together, a sense of camaraderie creates a positive work environment (Grant, 2013).

5 Practical Tips for Infusing Your Workplace with Happiness-inducing Hard Work

Now that we've laid down some scientific groundwork, let’s talk practical tips for infusing your workplace with happiness-inducing hard work:

  • Encourage Autonomy: Empower your employees to take ownership of their work and make decisions. Autonomy breeds a sense of control and responsibility, leading to greater job satisfaction (Deci et al., 1989).

  • Provide Growth Opportunities: Invest in employee development through training, mentorship programs, or tuition reimbursement. When individuals see a clear path to advancement, they're more likely to be motivated and engaged (Rothwell & Arnold, 2007).

  • Celebrate Progress: Recognize and celebrate achievements, both big and small. Whether it's a public shoutout in a team meeting or a simple "thank you" note, acknowledgment goes a long way in fostering a culture of appreciation (Nelson et al., 2007).

  • Promote Work-Life Balance: Encourage healthy boundaries between work and personal life. Flexible schedules, remote work options, and wellness initiatives contribute to overall well-being and job satisfaction (Kelly et al., 2014).

  • Lead by Example: As HR professionals, embody the values of positivity, resilience, and empathy. Your demeanor sets the tone for the entire organization, so radiate those good vibes (Humphrey et al., 2015).


Let’s break the myth that hard work and happiness are mutually exclusive. By creating a work environment that fosters autonomy, growth, camaraderie, and work-life balance, we can unlock the full potential of our teams while nurturing their happiness and well-being. So, here’s to working hard, staying happy, and spreading joy in the workplace!


Co-author @Frédéric Francois and the blog post is made with inspiration by Jason Lemkin's blogpost My Best Advice for 2024: Work Harder

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