Newsletter • December 2013. unsubscribeview online
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SA HAPPINESS DECLINES

This was the title of a recent Liberty Life report. It did not make me happy, to say the least, especially this time of year where we anticipate holidays, gifts, family, friends and happy times. But I guess as our rand spirals downward, our economic growth heads south and our safety declines, so too must our happiness. It is inevitable.

But how serious is it and why is it important?

Well, it is surprisingly serious and even more surprisingly significant. Liberty stated that we are ranked as only the 96th happiest country in the world, according to the 2013 World Happiness Report. We are also one of the few countries in the world that has seen their level of happiness deteriorate since the previous survey five years ago.

Now the global financial crisis definitely had an impact, but several years have passed, measures have been taken and people are bouncing back. So why do we still lag behind? Clearly our unhappiness is not as connected to the global issues as to the local sources of strain.

What is happiness, though, and how is it measured? The author makes a distinction between happiness as an emotion and happiness in the sense of life satisfaction. “For example, a very poor person might be happy emotionally, but have a low sense of happiness with life as a whole. Recent surveys show that, in general, people living in poverty do express relatively low levels of happiness with life as a whole. It is important that both types of happiness are evaluated in constructing a happiness index.”

The author goes on to list 6 key variables that impact the levels of happiness:

  • years of healthy life expectancy
  • having someone to count on in times of trouble (sometimes referred to as “social support”)
  • perceptions of corruption
  • prevalence of generosity
  • freedom to make life choices
  • GDP per capita

Interestingly having someone to count on in times of trouble and feeling a sense of freedom to make key life choices are the two most important determinants of happiness.

Happiness is important because it is an indicator of socio-economic progress; “... people who are... happier are more likely to be healthy, productive and socially connected.” It needs no further explanation to connect the dots between a healthy, productive and socially connected workforce and increased productivity.

I often hear clients say, “But why should I ask about my employees’ happiness? I am not responsible for making them happy.” Indeed, but it goes without saying that happier employees are better at work, so it is in your interest to ascertain the level of happiness in your business and then decide whether you can and/ or want to do anything about it. After all, more productivity (more profit...)will not make you sad.

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Over the last few months I have had to do shopping for about 25 children in various ages for Christmas presents on behalf of clients. Many of my colleagues have mentioned how useful it would be to see what I bought and where I found them. I thought that this might be something to share with our readers.

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