The terms wellbeing and happiness are used a lot these days. Often in the same context. But are they one and the same? We look at some of the similarities and differences between the two and what this means in the workplace...
Defining happiness and wellbeing
Aristotle argued that "happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence". But what exactly is happiness?
The dictionary defines happiness as: "the quality or state of being happy".
Whilst wellbeing is defined as: "a good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterised by health, happiness, and prosperity; welfare".
By definition happiness contributes to our state of wellbeing. So it’s easy to see how the lines between the two can become blurred.
What do the experts say?
Through her company Promoting Wellbeing, Ruth Hickinbotham provides bespoke, complimentary therapies to help improve the health and wellbeing of her clients. One of her specialisms is workplace wellbeing.
Both wellbeing and happiness are common terms in her industry. She views them as positive, yet separate things.
"Wellness is our physical and mental health and lasts over a numbers of days, weeks or months," she says. "Happiness is a state of being. Happiness can last for a long period or a few minutes."
Monideepa Tarafdar is Professor of Information Systems at Lancaster University (Management School). One of her topics of interest is organisational and individual wellbeing.
She believes "happiness is a deeper condition" that doesn’t just affect one aspect of our lives. "It’s a way of looking at things and being. Wellbeing (in the workplace) is temporary, with a number of factors causing it to change."
The importance of wellbeing at work
Employers are responsible for the wellbeing of their staff and seem to be waking up to this fact.
"I am working in more organisations than I was three years ago," says Ruth. "And I am gaining more clients in all of my organisations, with a proportion of clients increasing their frequency of treatments."
The treatments Ruth offer forces her clients to reassess their lifestyle and make changes.
"Treatment usually leads to client’s feeling healthier, sleeping better, having more energy and generally feeling happier," she says. "They also report less pain, for example reduced headaches, so it’s easier to work."
Meanwhile, Professor Tarafdar is encouraging businesses to understand the effect technology has on our wellbeing at work. In her research paper: The Dark Side of Information Technology, she argues that information technology is sapping the wellbeing of organisations and staff.
Tarafdar found that the very things which make technology useful - reliability, usability, portability and speed - is undermining our productivity, innovation and taking its toll on our health.
Though it’s early days, it’s encouraging to see companies making positive changes in these areas to ensure a healthier workforce.
Happiness matters too
Over the years a wealth of research has been carried out to prove that happiness is the key to success.
Studies have linked happier doctors with faster, more accurate diagnoses; happy young adults with higher earnings than their peers; and companies with happy employees outperforming the stock market every year.
Then there’s the wider ranging impact happiness can have on society, like boosting creativity, and improving health which can lead to longer life spans.
Ruth says: "If I had to choose, I’d choose happiness as emotions I feel are stronger. I think happy people can conquer anything and reach out of their comfort zone. Also if an employer creates a happy, relaxed, encouraging environment I believe the staff will be happier and more loyal, creative and productive."
Striking a healthy balance
Though not completely unrelated, happiness and wellbeing are clearly separate states and can mean different things to us all.
Yet as research suggests that happiness promotes wellness, and vice versa, we should be striving to balance both in all aspects of our lives. The challenge is how.