The 3 Secrets of Happy Employees

secrets of happy employees

Shhh….Can you hear it? There’s a revolution taking place in our workplaces, and employees like you and I are leading it.

Fed up with energy-draining bosses, soul-sucking jobs and the financial uncertainty that cheats us of our choices, a grass-roots campaign is underway in a growing number of workplaces that’s aimed at restoring people’s happiness—and new data suggests it’s about to hit a tipping point.

What are your signature strengths?

I recently partnered with the VIA Institute on Character to release the 2015 “Strengths @ Work Survey,” and here’s what we discovered:

  • While in 2001 only 2 out of every 10 people said they had the opportunity to do what they do best each day at work, this number has increased by 30 percent to 5 out of every 10 people.
  • Today, 56 percent of employees can name their top five strengths, compared to estimates a decade ago that only a third could.
  • A resounding 64 percent of employees say they believe developing their strengths will make them more successful at work, compared to the 63 percent in 2006 who believed they’d grow most in their weaker areas.

Even without organizational and supervisor support, 49 percent of employees can name their strengths and 26 percent still find the opportunity practice them each day.

So why are these employees bothering to take time to grow their strengths? Because it makes them happier.

We found that 70 percent of the employees who say they have the opportunity to use their strengths regularly look forward to going to work. Not only that, but 78 percent report feeling  engaged and energized in their jobs because they believe they’re making a difference and their work is appreciated. And, most important, 70 percent of these employees describe themselves as flourishing at work over the last six months.

How are they achieving these results, even without a supportive boss? Many are doing three simple things:

1. Discovering their strengths

The best way to identify your strengths is by taking the free, 10-minute strengths assessment at viacharacter.org. Then pay attention to your best moments at work—when you feel really engaged, you’re energized and you enjoy what you’re doing—to see which of your top strengths are at play so you know how to apply them to your role.

2. Meeting their best-possible future selves

Once you’ve discovered your strengths, boost your optimism and self-belief by imagining what might be possible in the year ahead if everything went as well as possible and you were using your strengths daily. Journal whatever comes to mind for 15–20 minutes a day, three days in a row. Try to detail what you’d spend your time doing, what your colleagues or clients might say and which strengths you’d be using.

3. Creating a small, daily strength-development habit

Pick a strength to develop that will bring you closer to the future you’ve described. Think about how you could use this strength for at least 10 minutes each day as you go about your job. For example, use your curiosity to learn one new thing, your gratitude to genuinely thank a client or a colleague or you persistence to power through on a task you’ve been putting off. (For more ideas, check out this free e-book with over 70 strength-development habit ideas.)

Are you ready to join the revolution? It is possible to feel more engaged, energized and happy at work—you just have to take a moment each day and do what you do best.

To read more about happiness in the workplace, see our special feature section in the June 2015 issue of Live Happy magazine.


Michelle McQuaid is a best-selling author, workplace well-being teacher and playful change activator. She is passionate about translating cutting-edge research from positive psychology and neuroscience into practical strategies for health, happiness and success. To learn more about Michelle visit www.michellemcquaid.com.