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Happiness at work conference starts soon

It is not about fake rubber noses but about how people are treated

Work and happiness are often looked on as two different things, but that does not need to be the case. A  conference called Happiness@Work, held Nov. 10 in Prague, hopes to show that happiness at work is possible, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The conference is almost sold out but a few places remain.

“Happiness to me is not running around being a happy clown every day, it is a feeling inside that when you wake up in the morning what you do is meaningful,” conference co-founder Monika Hilm. “That is what happiness means to me.”

This is the second edition of the conference, and it will be in a bigger venue, Studio Hrdinů in the lower level of Veletržní palác. It will also have more speakers than last year. The keynote speaker is Alexander Kjerulf, the founder of Woohoo Inc and one of the world's leading experts on happiness at work. He is also the author of four books including Happy Hour is 9 to 5.

The 14 speakers will also be more varied, covering fields such as IT, manufacturing and the non-profit sector. “We have the whole spectrum from Microsoft talking about their workspace to Šimon Pánek of [the NGO] People in Need. We are more diverse in terms of what happiness means,” Monika said. “The audience is also more diverse this year,” she added. Some audience members are coming from Germany, as so far there has not been a comparable conference there.

Monika warns that each company needs to find what works for them. “A lot of people think if you put in bikes in the office and a couple of pool tables and a sleeping area, then you are a happy company, which is so very wrong. Happiness at work is not about all the gadgets … the real happiness is about how you treat people,” she said. Management training is a key part, as people are often promoted without getting necessary training in managing people. “To me that is what happiness is about — teaching the people about how they should treat the people that work for them,” she said. “It is about attitude and how we treat the younger people, taking care of young people — taking them into our industry and showing them ethics,” she said, adding that it also extended to how people treat their colleagues and people in general.

“If we treat people nicely, treat them with respect, give them the opportunity to be a bit creative in their jobs … then most people are bound to be fairly happy in the sense of feeling good,” she added. One pillar is to feel productive and the other is to have people you enjoy working with, Monika said. If a company can manage to create those things, it doesn't need a lot of the expensive solutions such as game rooms and climbing walls that a lot of happiness experts talk about.

She cited one example of a company that put in a climbing wall, but the atmosphere in the office was so rigid that everyone was afraid to use it as they didn't want to seem like they were slacking off. So the wall was simply a waste of money in this case.

In the Czech Republic, happiness and silliness are often mixed together as a single idea, but that does not have to be the case. Happiness in the office doesn't have to include dressing up as a clown or wearing a rubber nose. She hopes the conference will explain to people that workplace happiness is something else.

She also discussed more concrete topics, like bonus systems that put uncertainty into people's paychecks and foster short-term thinking. She says such payment policies can be counterproductive for a company and lead to a high level of anxiety.

For the key partner companies of the event, Alexander Kjerulf will visit them and lead a private sessions so they can kick start their own programs. Participants will also get a signed copy of Kjerulf's book Happy Hour is 9 to 5 in either Czech or English.

For more information, visit

By Raymond Johnston -, Prague 02.11.2016

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