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Why happiness at work is intrinsically linked to happiness outside of work

By Tim Janssen,

published on March 20, 2024.

Last month, like everyone in Belgium, we read in the newspapers a proposal to implement a 32-hour workweek as the standard in Belgium. The intention behind this change was to alleviate pressure, reduce burnouts, and cultivate greater happiness among employees.

Setting aside political beliefs or financial feasibility for employers, this proposal got us thinking. About how much we work, how hard we work, and about being happy at work. Today, on the "international day of happiness," we'd like to share our reflections.

The idea that a shorter workweek would lead to less burnout stems from a direct correlation between 'our hours' and 'our happiness.' We find this noteworthy, though not surprising. It's not uncommon for "long hours" to be equated by both individuals and companies with "hard work" or "high workload": For instance, we're made to feel guilty if we don't sit in front of a screen by 8:30 am, or if we decide to finish work before 5 pm to focus on children, partner, or a hobby. Sometimes it feels as though deviating from traditional work patterns publicly brands us as "unproductive," whereas productivity for many jobs isn't merely measured in hours.

On top of this paradox, we see a clear trend of combining our careers with a growing number of other roles in our lives. Each of these roles has its own extensive array of online role models and experts. Thus, it's no longer sufficient to excel in just one of our roles: Why not pursue a career, be the perfect partner, be an involved parent, all while pursuing a sporting hobby?

Therefore, experiencing happiness at work is inherently connected to experiencing happiness outside of work. In this regard, we must learn to be realistic and consciously manage the different roles we want to fulfill in our lives.

These roles can either reinforce or hinder each other. However, it's essential to reconsider our perception of effort: Working more hours doesn't necessarily equate to being more productive. Sometimes, it's more effective to take a step back from work and redirect our attention elsewhere. Perhaps a mindfulness session at 3 pm is the perfect focus boost for the end of your workday.

It's all about awareness: being aware of when to let go of work and consciously enjoying other aspects of our lives. Being conscious of delaying opening the laptop to walk your children to the school gate, for example. This consciousness strengthens both roles and prevents us from being present in one area while absent in another. Finding this balance not only brings more satisfaction but also more happiness into our lives.


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