Happiness guru Stephanie Davies launched the National Happiness Awards four years ago. Here she explains why.
“Fifteen years ago, after a decade working as a stand-up comedian, I had an idea for a business venture and went to see my manager for a loan. I explained my proposal. I wanted to establish a learning and development company, working in the public and private sector, which used the psychology of happiness and humour to improve lives and boost productivity and wellbeing. The bank manager listened, then laughed. It was not the reaction I was hoping for.
Back in the early noughties, the idea that making people happier could improve how they developed was treated with thinly veiled derision. The commonly held philosophy was that if you wanted people to learn or work more, you either offered them inducements (carrots), or drove them harder (sticks). I realised there was a better way. If you built and environment in which people could be happier and, just as importantly, gave them the tools to cope with unhappiness (because it’s an inevitable part of life), you could achieve much more. I persevered, found a more enlightened bank manager and established the learning and development consultancy, Laughology.
Since then, the world has thankfully become a different place and increasingly the business and education sectors have come to realise that there are huge benefits to be had by investing in the happiness of their people. Mental health and wellbeing are no longer viewed as airy-fairy concepts. The government came on board too and in 2010 the National Happiness Index was introduced, after politicians realised that GDP was not an accurate indicator of the state of the nation. Today, Laughology works with some of the world’s biggest multinational companies developing programmes to boost productivity, based around the guiding philosophy that happy workplaces are better spaces. And in schools Laughology has helped raise standards and improve outcomes for pupils of all ages.
While all this was going on, at the back of my mind, a kernel of an idea started to grow. So many organisations were doing ground-breaking things to make their people happier, that I wanted to find a way to share their successes, to recognise their achievements and to show others the benefits of placing happiness at the heart of work and learning. And what better way to do that than with an awards scheme, with a glittering ceremony at the end of it?
The National Happiness Awards launched in 2016 and we held our first award ceremony in November of that year. We were backed by Nat West and attracted nominations from across the country. It has always been my intention not just to focus on organisations and individuals who were doing novel things, but to highlight the tangible outcomes and the sustainability of their actions. This way, others would be able to see what was working and what benefits could be had by adopting and developing initiatives based around the idea of happiness.
The National Happiness Awards have allowed people and places to share their successes and celebrate together. The awards have become a place where people can network and exchange ideas and information, all with the goal of creating a happier world. Each year the awards and the buzz they create grow. Last year we received nominations from household names such as Bupa. One of our winning schools went on to become a finalist in Britain’s Got Talent.
Through my experience working with organisation who are ‘doing happiness’ well, in addition to academic research, at Laughology we have designed the happiness matrix. This is a model for organisations and schools which describes the five elements which comprise what we like to call realistic happiness. We’ve identified a range of behaviours and actions related to each element that organisations can adopt in order to create a happy culture. We’re overjoyed that CIPD now use our ideas as best practice on their wellbeing in the workplace course. These actions and behaviours also form part of judging criteria for the awards and you can find details on the National Happiness Awards 19 page.
The word continues to spread. 2019 will be the biggest and best yet, and meanwhile, the National Happiness Awards has helped place happiness firmly on the map.”