World Reimagined

The Rise of 'Chief Happiness Officers'

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Credit: Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

The C-suite has a new tenant these days.

Chief executive, financial, operating, technical, marketing and information officers are nothing new. Many companies have some or all of these jobs on the payroll. But a growing number have added “Chief Happiness Officer” to the list as well.

In fact, more than 4,000 companies have them listed on the payroll these days, according to LinkedIn. And the number is growing as companies look for ways to ensure employee wellbeing.

It’s an idea that has quietly stewed in the background of many industries for years. For example, if you ever find yourself at in Charleston, SC at a Riverdogs game (the minor league baseball team), keep an eye out for the long-time Director of Fun—actor Bill Murray, who’s also a part owner. He takes it upon himself to keep both staff and fans happy.

Baseball’s one thing. But can a chief happiness officer have an impact in the more traditional workplace? Actually, yes.

Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace Report found that just 21% of workers were engaged at work. That’s down from 30% in 2013, which is a significant problem, as happier employees are more productive (A 2019 study from the University of Oxford found them to be 13% more productive). Low engagement costs the global economy $7.8 trillion, the Gallup report finds.

Human Resource departments can take things so far, but chief happiness officers focus beyond things like training needs, looking at things like satisfaction and future goals.

“By going above and beyond base values like fair salaries and good working conditions, chief happiness officers help employees feel fulfilled by connecting their personal achievements with the company’s greater vision,” says business school HEC Paris. “By fostering more personalized social, growth, and empowerment opportunities, chief happiness officers enable employees to actively support the company through more defined—and therefore more achievable—shared successes and goals.”

The role of a chief happiness officer, of course, varies from company to company. At one business, it’s setting up retreats for staff. At another, it’s surprising them with occasional small gifts to let them know they’re appreciated. The end goal is the same, though, to make employees know they’re supported and cared for, and ideally making them relaxed (and, ultimately, hardworking).

One thing the job isn’t: Disposable perks like free food or “forced” fun time. A chief happiness officer’s job is to ensure that the team is working well together and feel like they’re part of a team, rather than a cog in a machine. To achieve that, they often have skills in psychology, sociology or human resources.

“When workers are happier, they work faster by making more calls per hour worked and, importantly, convert more calls to sales,’ said Oxford University Professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve. “There seems to be considerable room for improvement in the happiness of employees while they are at work. While this clearly in the interest of workers themselves, our analysis suggests it is also in the interests of their employers.”

So what are companies looking for when it comes to a chief happiness officer? It probably goes without saying that it’s essential to be a happy person yourself. Beyond that, though, there are a few universal skills they seek out:

  • Team building skills
  • A strong sense of cultural awareness
  • Compassion and emotional intelligence
  • Creative thinking
  • Willingness to help others
  • Excellent decision-making skills
  • Good business acumen
  • Empathy

“Whether employees are stressed because of work, or their stress is carrying over into work, one thing is clear: The world's employees are feeling even more stressed than they did in 2020 (the previous all-time high),” said the Gallup report. “Wellbeing and engagement interact with each other in powerful ways. When employees are engaged and thriving, they experience significantly less stress, anger and health problems.”

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Chris Morris

Chris Morris is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience, more than half of which were spent with some of the Internet’s biggest sites, including CNNMoney.com, where he was Director of Content Development, and Yahoo! Finance, where he was managing editor. Today, he writes for dozens of national outlets including Digital Trends, Fortune, and CNBC.com.

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