Bring Your Smile On International Happiness Day - Gulf Business
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Bring Your Smile On International Happiness Day

Bring Your Smile On International Happiness Day

Jeanette Teh shares her tips to encourage happiness in the work place in the buildup to the International Day of Happiness.

In 2012, the United Nations proclaimed March 20 to be the International Day of Happiness, officially acknowledging the importance of happiness as a universal goal to be included in public policies worldwide.

Pharell Williams will be hosting a “Happy Party” with the UN to encourage spreading happiness and increasing action on climate change, beginning with signing the “Live Earth Petition”. Everyone is encouraged to upload personal photos to contribute to a graphic image that will be animated to Williams’ own Grammy-Award winning song “Happy”.

With that and the recently announced Dubai Plan 2021, the emirate’s development plan to create a “city of happy, creative and empowered people”, there has never been more reasons to start spreading happiness.


Studies have shown that happy employees are more productive, creative, have more energy, less likely to use sick leave, and work better with others. In contrast, unhappiness and stress can lead to depression, burn out, and resignations.

Employee turnover costs the company anywhere from 40 per cent to 400 per cent of that departing employee’s annual salary. These include tangible expenses such as recruitment, temporary staffing, training, and relocation costs, in addition to indirect costs such as lost productivity, institutional knowledge, potential loss of clients, and the entire team’s lower sense of morale.


The manager-employee relationship is a key component in employee engagement and satisfaction. Given how much influence a manager has on her employees’ daily lives, it is not difficult to see how the saying that “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers” arose.

In honour of International Happiness Day, we urge all employers to consider making their employees a little bit happier with a few small gestures.

Treat employees fairly: Paying a fair wage and benefits should be the bare minimum, but it goes beyond financial remuneration since only about 12 per cent of employees who quit do so for money. Treat your staff equally as managers who exhibit favouritism will destroy morale.

Be reasonable: While deadlines are necessary, must they all take place at the same time or can some of them be spread out to provide some breathing space between deadlines?

Be transparent: If simultaneous multiple deadlines are truly necessary, explain the reasons behind it and not just demand them.

Trust and empower your team:Sharing information and delegating meaningful work will help employees feel as if they are a valued part of the team.

Practice empathy by putting yourself in the shoes of others: Would you like to be treated the way you treat your staff?

Humanise your employees: They are people first and foremost, and not automatons designed to increase the company’s bottom line.

Provide feedback: Tell your team what they are doing well and where they can improve. We are often told when we make a mistake, but not when or how we are doing things right.

Thank them and show appreciation: Managers are frequently so busy fighting fires and barking orders that a simple “thank you” can be forgotten. In fact, lack of recognition was rated as one of the top four reasons for employee’s unhappiness in an Accenture study.


While we cannot control how others may act towards us, we can choose how we respond to them, either amplifying or extinguishing a negative situation. Ultimately, happiness is a choice, a state of mind that we choose over the alternative.

We can choose to look at the glass as half empty or to find that silver lining in those dark clouds. Practice some of these little actions today and think of making someone else’s day brighter, and you just might end up smiling more yourself.

Smile and compliment or thank someone: You’ll be amazed at how pleased she can be from something that takes so little effort.

Practice unexpected kindness: Give the washroom lady or security guard a chocolate bar or a generous tip. Their smiles of gratitude will perk you up.

Gratitude list: Write down a list of things for which you are grateful. While you may not like your job, be thankful that you even have a job.

Avoid emotional contagion: Whiny William who complains all the time about everything will infect you through emotional contagion and bring you down. Just like cold viruses are contagious, so too are such emotional viruses. Hang out with Smiley Shireen instead as she will infect you with her good mood.

Walkie talkie: Go for quick walk (take the stairs!) to speak to a colleague instead of sending him an e-mail. The little burst of physical activity will boost both your brain function and serotonin level, the chemical responsible for mood regulation.

Have a sing-a-long: Take a music break and play some energising, joy-inducing music to brighten up your day.

And what better way to do so than to sing along to Pharell Williams’ ‘Happy’?
“Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do…”

Jeanette Teh is Assistant Professor in the School of Business Administration at the Canadian University Dubai (CUD) where she teaches business and employment law, business ethics, and management. A former lawyer from Toronto, she also conducts corporate training sessions, including courses on legal drafting. Any views expressed in this article are solely those of the author’s and not of the university.


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