Looking at Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report, some of the findings don’t paint a rosy picture about what’s going on in the United States.

In particular, only 33 percent of people working today are engaged in their jobs. More than half are looking for new jobs or watching for positions to open up. Apparently, happy employees aren’t the norm.

These findings hit home at a recent Happiness at Work panel. Hosted at the Hood River Library on Oct. 10 as part of One Community Health’s Gorge Happiness Month, the event drew employees, employers and workplace engagement consultants. Together, they gathered to discuss the challenges and triumphs behind healthy workplace cultures.

However, as some attendees listened to the panelist’s insights and success stories — and then talked about their own struggles and situations — emotions surfaced. More than one admitted they’d tried to run happy workplaces, but often their efforts were in vain.

In listening to the panelists and participating in the open-format discussion, people gained not just validation around their fears, but a sense of hope, thanks to the viable suggestions put forth for building more positive, productive employee cultures.

The Happiness at Work panel featured five speakers from very different professional backgrounds:

Some of the panelists shared how they’ve helped grow engagement and bolster workplace cultures for other businesses — or clients they’re hired to help. One of the keys is building connection, Sweeting said, noting that it’s the boss’ responsibility to lead that charge.

Next week, Gorge Happiness Month continues to amplify appreciation at four community-wide Culture of Appreciation Workshops, all running from 7-8:30 a.m.

Monday, Oct. 22, Hood River Library

Tuesday, Oct. 23, The Dalles Library

Wednesday, Oct. 24, Stevenson Library

Thursday, Oct. 25, White Salmon Library

This free workshop is designed to help supervisors, managers and HR professionals learn how to give simple, easy and effective appreciation. Attendees will leave with a personalized plan for their workplace that can help double productivity. Coffee and pastries are included in this early-morning opportunity.

For more information, visit: www.gorgehappines....

“A third of our lifetime is spent working,” Sweeting said. “So why isn’t that time enjoyable? If you’re an employer, it’s your responsibility, we believe, to make that an enjoyable place to work.”

When the boss is connected to its people and the people know their purpose, the happiness factor goes up — everything is just way more enjoyable and people know they matter. In addition to feeling we matter, Venture added, people also want to feel safe and know they belong.

“If you meet those three needs, you are going to get double productivity out of them,” she said. “But what’s really happening in our culture is that 69 percent of people report that they feel underappreciated at work.”

The other panelists, such as Stepper and Farquharson, discussed how they’ve built more staff appreciation, learning how each person likes to be uniquely valued, according to their personal motivators, interests and beliefs. In addition, they explained how they’ve been creating happier workplaces through a mix of self-improvement initiatives for their own leadership abilities, while embracing guidance and feedback from colleagues, through consultants and with business tools (e.g., books, 360-degree professional development assessments, and other learning resources). From this, they’ve taken action, implementing efforts to make workplace happiness a priority.

“We have a statement of purpose — it’s on the wall, and we’ve read it once a week as a team for 13 years,” Stepper said. “I believe that is part of our glue.”

Ratchford from The Dalles Blue Zones spoke to research on happiness in the workplace. The findings, he says, show job happiness comes less from money and more from experiences like having:

Jessica Chamberlin from the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum was unable to make the event, but has been proactively raising the happiness factor in her workplace. In particular, she’s been capitalizing on a number of prompts from Gorge Happiness Month and doing some fun “experiments” at Venture’s suggestion.

“I have been showing my employees random acts of kindness and really focusing on the acts being personal,” she said. “I have noticed a happier work environment, and I truly believe the small acts of kindness is the reason for it. Although October is Gorge Happiness Month, I plan on doing these often. Showing your employees appreciation makes for a happier staff, and you will feel good about coming to work. I want to thank you for letting me do this experiment, and it has proven now to be true.”

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