In my earlier texts, I’ve discussed why we, at VALA, chose happiness as our core ideology in our business strategy and how we track happiness and wellbeing at VALA. In this text, I’ll discuss what we actually do to reach the objective of becoming the happiest company by listing some of the main efforts that are done.
Can happiness be a burden?
In late November, Venla Pystynen pondered in her HS column whether the rise of depression has grown due to happiness being constantly highlighted. She states how happiness is more often perceived as the main goal and highest requirement in our lives. This has led to happiness being seen as a meter of success and thus the pursuit of happiness may have led to a rise in anxiety and depression. Social psychologist Brock Bastian clarifies that the problem isn’t that people want to be happier but that the problem arises when people expect to feel happy all the time. This is when people start feeling all negative emotions as personal failures and obstacles. (Pystynen, 2017)
This column got me thinking about our company strategy here at VALA and whether the work we do to build a happier and healthier culture asserts pressure that could be harmful.
Happiness meets wellbeing
To me, our vision of “Happiest Company 2020”, means taking part in creating a company culture that supports and nourishes wellbeing and happiness by providing the tools needed for my personal wellbeing. VALA can’t hand me my happiness on a silver platter, but it can provide the tools needed to help me acquire aspects of what bring me happiness in my life. In order to find out what these tools could be for over 70 of my colleagues and myself, I started asking around. My focus was on my colleagues’ perspective on what they believed brought them happiness, not on external sources.
Soon I had collected a folder full of responses and ideas from emails, interviews and surveys. From these responses, I built a Life Quality Management (LQM) program that is aimed at strategically promoting different aspects of wellbeing and happiness.
Personal wellbeing was almost always tied to a sense of happiness. Therefore wellbeing is right next to happiness at the center of all operations. The aspects that make us happy, can be very characteristic to us as individuals but there were certain aspects that came up time after time. The LQM program is built up of 3 dimensions that I believe cover most of these aspects.
Physical health is the backbone of our wellbeing. Although our occupational healthcare takes care of our general health, I wanted to find ways of promoting preventative means of taking care of ourselves as well.
Health, sports and exercise were often listed as important values for one’s happiness and wellbeing. For this reason, everyone at VALA has access to a personal trainer, with whom we can survey our current physical wellbeing and develop routines to reach any goals we set for ourselves.
The initial mapping which is done with the personal trainer on your first visit, involves an InBody scan which is one of the most advanced body composition analyzers. The analysis gives valuable insight into what’s happening underneath our skin and what our weight is really made up of. The PT also arranges a mobility test and dietary instructions based on individual food diaries.
Because exercise was often listed as an important value in people’s lives, VALA also arranges weekly collective training sessions on the first floor of our office building. For those who don’t wish to take part in collective trainings, can use their annual sports benefit (from which the company pays 75%) to pay for other forms of exercise and sport.
In a world where most of our daily work tasks require complex active brainwork, rather than physical labor, it’s important to find new ways of preserving our mental energy and wellbeing. Happiness and wellbeing aren’t made up of only extensive occupational benefits at VALA, but of an empathic and supportive company culture.
Free time and vacations are highly appreciated and thus made as easily available as possible. Just as our bodies, our minds require rest in order to function. Unpaid holidays are easy to arrange and completely zoning off on one’s free time is strongly encouraged.
When people wish to get support with issues around the balance between work and leisure, stress management, self-management, personal values and strengths or energy levels, they can reserve an appointment with a life coach VALA offers.
Transparency is vital if an organization aims to sustain a model of low bureaucracy and hierarchy. I hope that all topics at VALA are considered up for discussion by everyone. I try to uphold a sense of transparency by gathering constant routine feedback to encourage everyone to share their thoughts and questions.
I believe that in order to enjoy your work for long period of time, the work ought to feel meaningful. Meaningful work means different things to different people and one of the tasks is to find out what elements each of my colleagues deem important in their work. The next step is to find the suitable project for each person, that enables them to grow and prosper.
An “Open cases” Slack channel enables everyone to see what kind of positions are open in various projects. This gives everyone a chance to ponder what kind of a project they could best be suited for. It also provides knowledge on what kind of technologies and skills are required in the field. Going over these requirements, keeps me updated on how the business is evolving and what kind of solutions are required by customers.
Most of professional development happens within daily work tasks but in addition to this, everyone has the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and development through various other means. Everyone has the opportunity to take part in various courses, order literature and learning materials, take part in lectures and conduct online courses. VALA also invites other up-and-coming companies and inspiring lecturers to hold presentations at the office.
Happiest company 2020: A framework for tools and support
Pystynen’s column on happiness, struck a chord with me and I can definitely relate with her points. The constant focus on having to feel happy may easily cause the opposite.
Bombarding people with the slogan “Happiest company 2020” and setting our company targets so closely tied to happiness, may definitely cause excess pressure to feel jovial. This is why I want to emphasis how the objective of “Happiest company 2020”, isn’t about turning people at VALA into a bunch of blindly smiling, constantly cheerful Stepford Wives. The objective of “Happiest company 2020” is to build a company culture that supports everyone’s personal happiness and wellbeing through the tools and personal support required. VALA can’t assert happiness but it can encourage people to contemplate what elements in their own lives are most significant and worth pursuing.
- Pystynen, Venla (22.10.2017) Johtuuko masennuksen lisääntyminen siitä, että onnen korostaminen on mennyt överiksi?, Helsingin Sanomat (https://www.hs.fi/paivanlehti/22102017/art-2000005417056.html)