A model of workplace happiness

Happiness in a work sense goes beyond feeling joyful. It links directly to wellbeing, satisfaction, commitment, and engagement. When people feel happy at work, they are more productive, loyal, and committed to the organisation's success. And this very likely has a knock-on impact on performance too.

The PERMA model by positive psychology pioneer Martin Seligman identifies 5 key elements of happiness and wellbeing:

- Positive Emotions - Encouraging a positive work culture with celebrations, recognitions, and a joyful environment. A happy employee is often a productive employee.

- Engagement - Aligning roles and tasks to an employee's strengths and interests to increase flow. When engrossed in enjoyable work, people thrive.

- Relationships - Fostering strong connections through team building, communication, and mentorships. With remote work, giving time to build relationships is key.

- Meaning - Helping employees see how their role contributes to the organisation's purpose. Communicate the vision and how each person plays a part.

- Accomplishment - Setting clear, achievable goals and recognising achievements. Providing development opportunities.

How can we incorporate this model and boost employee happiness?

If we had to boil down what we do at ETS, it is about unleashing the power of people in organisations. This means unearthing insights (often through running employee surveys) for organisations to gain a deep understanding of how their people experience life at work, and where blockers may lie.  

What we know from running thousands of such surveys is that happiness in organisations day-to-day translates as feeling engaged, empowered, and enabled (because they tell us!)  

The most engaged employees say that this is their experience of work:

- Impact: I understand the impact that my job has on the customer

- Expectations: I understand what is expected of me in my job (Role)

- Achievement: I understand how my work contributes to the success of my company  

- Respect: My manager treats me with respect

- Enjoyment: I enjoy working with my colleagues

- Autonomy: My manager is supportive and respectful of my personal circumstances and gives me the freedom to work in the best way for me

Such insights reveal the clear parallels to the elements of Seligman's PERMA model for happiness and wellbeing at work. This shows the ingredients for happiness and positive wellbeing really do manifest themselves in tangible ways within the employee experience.

Small ideas with big impact  

Being International Happiness at Work Week, what could you do differently or practice more to lead happier, healthier, engaged employees who feel empowered and enabled? I’ve shared some ideas below that use PERMA model as a basis for achieving this…  

Positive Emotions:

- Encourage managers to check in regularly with employees in a positive way, not just when there are problems. Ask how they are doing, what's going well lately, etc.

- Celebrate wins and milestones frequently. Have monthly or quarterly events to recognise achievements.

- Promote a culture of gratitude by having employees recognise each other's contributions. Share appreciations at meetings.


- During onboarding and in regular one-on-ones, discuss employee strengths, talents, and interests. Align projects and responsibilities with these.

- Offer flexibility in how/when work gets done to allow employees to work in the ways they thrive. Provide autonomy.

- Ask for employee input when making decisions that affect their work to increase buy-in.


- For remote / hybrid employees, give permission to employees for social interactions, advocate for the power of connection.  

- Cross-train employees and rotate team projects to allow exposure to different groups.

- Implement mentorship and peer coaching programs to foster connections.


- Regularly communicate how each role connects to the company vision and strategy. Remind and celebrate employees’ impact.  

- Involve employees in shaping the vision and values to increase emotional commitment.

- Enable employees to give back through whatever way is meaningful for them – this could be volunteer events or social impact projects.


- Set clear SMART goals collaboratively and provide continuous feedback on progress. Recognise achievements.

- Offer training and development opportunities. Support growth.

- Give stretch assignments to build new skills. Empower innovation.

Go on, I implore you – change even one small thing and see if it has a chain reaction. What might you try out to boost happiness at work this week and beyond?

This article was originally published by one of our Senior Consultants, Louise Obi-Drake on LinkedIn.