How to get happy :-)

In conversation with Professor Wippermann from Trendbüro

What part will happiness play in the workplace of the future?
I believe that happiness in the workplace will play an increasingly important role. There was always a clear division between work and leisure in the industrial culture of the past – happiness is something you found outside work. You were lucky if you weren’t actually unhappy at work, but it was ultimately all about work efficiency. The image of people on the assembly line was not unfamiliar. But now, in a world that’s all about ideas for developing new opportunities for businesses and employees too – we need to create environments that are inspiring and free from stress – but above all environments that give free rein to situational intelligence. We have stopped establishing set processes as the experts did in the past and instead network with our idea generators and look for new solutions instead, and we mustn’t forget to invest in space, as this can deliver all that you would expect of pleasant working environments and situations – and achieve much better results.

Is a happy workforce reflected in the profits?
Absolutely. SAP can even measure it – you might not think so, but you can now actually measure health and mental stress levels, conduct individual anonymous assessments and correlate them with a company’s success levels.

Are people looking for happiness more than they did in the past?
I would like to look at the concept of happiness in a bit more detail – it’s all about luck and happiness. We like to talk about luck when we talk about happiness here in Germany – it falls in your lap just like that. Happiness means: What approach do I actually take to my life? Where is the balance? And ultimately: How do I deal with situations that I have never come across before? I believe that if we think of it as mental fitness, it makes a lot more sense to think about why it is important to find your inner balance and be happy. Because we need an inner point of calm within ourselves when we are developing things or taking risks and are unsure of the outcome.

Are people looking for happiness more than they did in the past?
I would like to look at the concept of happiness in a bit more detail – it’s all about luck and happiness. We like to talk about luck when we talk about happiness here in Germany – it falls in your lap just like that. Happiness means: What approach do I actually take to my life? Where is the balance? And ultimately: How do I deal with situations that I have never come across before? I believe that if we think of it as mental fitness, it makes a lot more sense to think about why it is important to find your inner balance and be happy. Because we need an inner point of calm within ourselves when we are developing things or taking risks and are unsure of the outcome.

How can companies boost the mental fitness of their employees?
I believe that this is the main issue. In the past, you kept your opinion to yourself when you went to work – not everywhere, but in most places. But nowadays your opinion is actually what you are bringing to a company. Because machines are taking over all the repetitive processes, we have to start thinking about how to combine the new possibilities. It‘s relatively easy to explain. As soon as you start saying that IT is becoming an infrastructure that requires technical connectivity so that a company can even be part of economic life, cultural connectivity – how we interact, who you are, how you respond and what you can actually offer – is the biggest task.

What do you think of the Chief Happiness Officer at the US company Zappos?
You need to look at how Zappos recruits people: I believe that Zappos runs a four-week familiarisation course and pays people 3,000 dollars after two weeks if they drop out.Their approach is: We are looking for people who enjoy working with and ultimately adopting our mind-set and we don’t need anyone who is only in it for the money. And it is economically viable – maybe not transferable to all areas, but interesting all the same.

Does every company need a Chief Happiness Officer?
That would be a little excessive. But it’s still a good idea to look at how high stress levels and dissatisfaction are within the company.

According to a study, 40 % of all people working in the USA will soon be employed on a project-only or freelance basis. Will we be seeing the same thing?
We are now living in a divided world. There are some who see this scenario as highly probable, especially when you include artificial intelligence and deep learning – the automation of self-learning IT systems and algorithms. But there is the opposing camp who say that there has always been change – that jobs will disappear but employment won‘t.

Many people say that the process is a lot more radical now – and a lot more disruptive than we’ve seen before.
This is definitely the case, as developments in all sectors and the way we go about our daily business are all happening at the same time – and at such a rate that many people are feeling overwhelmed. Many people can’t even see themselves being affected.

How are jobs actually changing for us in real terms?
If you look at how large companies are now being structured, they always have fewer actual work stations than employees – this is now the norm. About a third of people have no dedicated work station. This means that a majority – especially innovative people – work on the move. I believe that the concept of the home office is outdated – after all, you are still working, even if you are out and about your smart phone. Everyone is familiar with flexible working – to varying degrees.

Can Skype etc. replace the coffee break at work – what about the social side?
People are still made of flesh and blood – they are still social beings. The chance to connect has become rather precious – a really intense thing. Social networks simulate this by enabling a remote presence – knowing you still belong through various media. If we look just a little way ahead, we can see that we will be meeting in virtual reality spaces interacting with avatars. The question is: How do you get that intensity of creating something with a group, breaking out again to work on your own ideas and finally sharing them with the group again? What we actually do in reality and virtual reality will be an exciting issue in the foreseeable future.

You founded Trendbüro – how do you see your working life?
I am definitely someone at the end of their working life, but still enjoying it because I find what I do incredibly exciting and interesting. I think that’s a bit of a clue to my personal attitude. If you really enjoy doing something, the concept of work loses a lot of its meaning. Working is obviously demanding, but there is also an inner satisfaction – and plenty of moments of pleasure as you go about your daily business.