How happiness will impact your business with Katie Couric and Dr. Laurie Santos
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How happiness will impact your business with Katie Couric and Dr. Laurie SantosApril 2023
Supporting people’s mental health matters. So what can employers do to show up for their people, and why does it matter for businesses? Join award-winning journalist Katie Couric and Dr. Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University and host of “The Happiness Lab” podcast, as they discuss how wellness is being prioritized in the workplace, how it’s influencing consumer behavior, and why businesses and brands should care.
Watch other insightful conversations on forward-looking topics in our Future Ready series on the Think with Google YouTube channel.
Dr. Laurie Santos: Promoting people’s mental health, right. It’s going to save you time in terms of sick days. It’s going to make people work harder. It’s going to make them love their job.
Katie Couric: Society has never been more focused on happiness. But do we really know how to achieve it? This is Future Ready by Think with Google. I’m Katie Couric. Today, I’m joined by Dr. Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology at Yale and creator of “The Happiness Lab” podcast. Hi, Laurie.
Santos: Thanks so much for having me on.
Couric: Oh, I’m so thrilled to talk to you because I know you created a hugely popular course at Yale, one of the most popular in the history of the school, called Psych 157: Psychology and the Good Life, informally known as “The Happiness Class.” What motivated you to create this course?
Santos: Well, I’ve been teaching at Yale for the last 20 years, but in just the last couple of years, I took on this new role where I’m a Head of College, and that means I live with students on campus.
I see them in the dining hall, at the coffee shop. And I honestly didn’t like what I was seeing.
I was seeing this college student mental-health crisis — and this was my community. And it was frustrating, because I realized that psychology has all these tips we can use to feel happier.
Couric: You talk about a culture of capitalism that is negatively affecting our happiness. What exactly do you mean by that?
Santos: Yeah, well, I think capitalism is built to go after stuff, right? Get the next thing, buy the next thing. It’s often really based on these extrinsic rewards, often material rewards.
And everything we know suggests that’s not really what’s giving us happiness.
So I think we need to kind of push back against some of the norms we’ve gotten through advertising and so on to recognize what does the science really say will work for happiness.
Couric: There’s something that people talk about today which is conscious consumerism, where people are supporting brands, because they’re aligned with their values.
So what can business leaders do to keep that in mind when they’re marketing their products or they’re trying to really communicate that their values may be shared by their consumers?
Santos: You know, one thing we forget is that people really do get value from doing nice things for other people, from doing nice things for the planet, for example. And so I think this is something that businesses mess up.
There are large multinational corporations that wind up giving a lot of money to charity, but they don’t often like to tell people what they’re doing. And I think that’s leaving a potential happiness boost on the table.
Really share, as a business, what you’re doing to help the planet and help the world. Really share as much as possible how much an individual purchase is going into that, even if it’s a small amount.
But if I feel like, if I buy something that even 1% is going to something good, tell me that, because it’s going to give me the happiness boost that comes from doing something nice for others.
So businesses need to capture people’s attention, but if they can think about creative ways to do that, that don’t fall into the glut of everything we’re getting caught up in in social media, I think that can be really powerful.
And they can do that just through something creative. Make people laugh. You know, if you’re taking someone’s attention, give them something back for it.
Couric: Let’s talk about the workplace. I think workplaces have changed dramatically. What can employers do to keep their employees feeling happy? And is that really their job?
Santos: Keeping employees happy is more of the job than managers think, in part because there’s lots of evidence that your performance relies on your happiness levels.
You want a doctor to come up with an innovative solution to a medical problem? Have them watch a short cat video where they laugh ahead of time.
Just putting a doctor in a positive mood makes them come up with more innovative solutions.
Santos: It kind of is their job, more than they think.
Couric: Watching cat videos is the answer?
Santos: I think promoting people’s mental health right. It’s going to save you time in terms of sick days. It’s going to make people work harder. It’s going to make them love their jobs, so turnover happens less often.
There’s so much talk about quiet quitting these days, right? You get people to love their job, and they’re going to do it better.
And I think the key is it depends on different businesses. But I think the key is really to think about what are the benefits that we’re getting from coming together when we’re in the office together.
And one of those benefits is just that teams get to interact, and they get to connect, right? And so I think finding ways where you can actually get everybody to coordinate on coming back when they know people know they’re coming back to really get this social connection or from a special meeting.
Those kinds of processes can really embody like making sure you’re getting the social connection you need without any of the downsides.
Couric: I think a lot of employers are struggling with how to construct a really healthy work environment where their employees feel fulfilled. What do you think the ideal workplace will look like in the next five years or so?
Santos: I think there’s a tendency to sort of want to micromanage, to control folks’ time. And the evidence suggests that that actually makes people underperform, and that if you allow people to really embrace their strengths, embrace their values, and give them a little bit of bandwidth to succeed in that, that can actually increase performance more than many bosses expect.
Couric: Fascinating. Laurie Santos, thank you so much. This was such an interesting conversation.
Santos: Thanks so much for having me.
Couric: There are more great conversations to help you and your business stay ready for what’s next. Make sure you’re subscribed to Think with Google’s YouTube channel and also watch the other Future Ready videos on Think With Google now.
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