Ottention | Happiness at work


Bouwstenen werkgeluk

Happiness at work → absenteeism ↓ people leaving ↓ productivity ↑

Happiness at work is more than having a fussball table or a pingpong table or organizing a team activity. Based on scientific research, we now know which controls to adjust in order to increase the employee happiness in an organization. More happiness at work means less absenteeism, less people leaving the organization and higher productivity.

Years of scientific research has shown that five building blocks are essential for happiness at work: autonomy, competence, positive relations, positive emotions and a sense of purpose or meaning.



Autonomy is about having the decision making authority as close to the actual operations of the organization as possible. Autonomy is about the extent to which someone has the freedom to perform an activity according to one's own insight and the extent to which someone has influence / control over what he or she does. Autonomy is the perception that one can decide about behaviors, in line with one's interests and values. Autonomy is something different than independence.


A feeling of competence indicates that someone has confidence in one's own abilities. A sense of learning and development and a feeling of self-efficacy are important for this building block (as is also indicated by the research into Positive Workplaces). An important factor that contributes to a feeling of competence is positive feedback on one's functioning.

Positive relations

Having positive relations results in a feeling of social connectedness. For this, a positive environment and trust in one another are important elements. In a positive environment, people feel free to ask questions and they are not afraid to make mistakes. It is also helpful if relevant actors set a good example in terms of their own behavior.


Positive emotions

Having an optimistic attitude and a good balance between positive and negative emotions is of great influence on happiness at work. Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are produced by our limbic system. This appears to be an automatic response, but by consciously triggering positive thoughts, we are able to bend this stress reaction.

Purpose and meaning

Meaning is about contributing to a higher purpose. If you have the feeling that your work contributes to the higher objective of the organization, this positively influences your happiness at work. You contribute to achieving the goals that transcend yourself. The opposite is also true: tasks that you have to perform, but that do not contribute to achieving the higher objectives - at least in your perspective - are often an energy drain. 


CARE model for Happiness at work


Now we know the building blocks for happiness at work, we can translate these into interventions for organizations for increasing happiness at work. Organizations can invest in the people and in the system, on the level of individuals and on the level of the collective - the interactions between people. This way, four quadrants can be created: Completeness | Culture (people - interaction), Adjusting (system - interaction), Resilience (people - individual) and Empowerment (system - individual). Together these form the acronym CARE - appropriate for the topic of happiness at work.

Positive Relations emerge in a constructive and productive culture (quadrant Completeness | Culture).

Positive emotions can be trained; investing in the quadrant people - individual leads to resilient people (quadrant Resilience).

Autonomy and Competence evolve and emerge in organizations which empower their people. This means having decision making authorities as close as possible to where the actual work is done. And finding the right balance between challenges and talents / qualities (quadrant Empowerment)

A sense of purpose or meaning exists when people see how their work contributes to the higher objectives of the organization. This calls for continuous reflection on how the different tasks relate to each other. And adjust where necessary (quadrant Adjusting).

CARE model voor werkgeluk

Completenes | Culture

Completeness is about a productive and energetic culture, where everybody can commit oneself to the maximum extent. A culture which pays attention to more than just the professional side of the person. A healthy work life balance, willingness to listen, being interested in one another and ground rules for behavior ensure that everybody can commit oneself to the maximum extent and can fully deliver for the organization.


Adjusting is about building an agile strategy. And about continuous adjustment of the tasks, roles and organizational entities. In such a way that these remain relevant for contributing to the higher goal. In the current era this also means letting go of the planning and control perspective.


Investing in resilience means developing resilient employees building on their strengths and qualities. A resilient organization is an organization that pays attention to a healthy balance between positive and negative statements (3:1) and in which people are resilient. This means amongst other things: flexible thinking, pro-actively solving problems and constructively dealing with non-constructive thoughts and behavior.


Investing in empowerment is building an agile structure and management philosophy, in which decision making authorities are being organized as close to the actual operations as possible. In such an approach there should also be attention for the balance between challenge on the one hand and talents / qualities on the other. Too little challenge for the available skills leads to a boredom. Too much leads to stress.


Happiness at work by Ottention

Teamscan or organization scan: scan of the organization or team based on the building blocks and the CARE model for happiness at work. With the outcomes of the scan, specific follow-up actions can be determined for increasing happiness at work.

Workshop / Inspiration session happiness at work: half day inspiration session (4 hours) in which we explore and further deepen our understanding of the basic elements of happiness at work. In combination with a teamscan or organization scan, this session can be specifically tailored to issues that are relevant for the team or organization.

Team trajectory / leadership trajectory: in 5 session we train the theory of happiness at work and we work on concrete solutions and changes for increasing happiness at work in the team or the organization.

Contact us for a teamscan, workshop or teamtrajectory