Changing corporate culture with the science of happiness

29 May 2015 Liane McGowan, Happy Monday
Liane McGowan, founder of Happy Monday.

Liane McGowan, founder of Happy Monday.

Monday. The word conjures unhappiness in most, the dreaded end to the weekend and the signal that it’s time to get ‘get back to the grindstone’. It seems that South African corporate culture is one of lacklustre staff members that wind down the clock to Friday, baffling management that remunerate well, but are still greeted by long-faces every week.

Internet searches spew thousands of images of unfortunate looking individuals with the caption; ‘if Monday was a person’. This culture of unhappiness is unhealthy, unproductive and, quite often, totally reversible. According to Liane McGowan, founder of employee wellness company Happy Monday cc; “To foster a positive corporate culture we must change the Monday blues outlook of the majority of South African employees. By focussing on employees’ mental wellbeing, rather than the physical only, it is possible to ignite passion and happiness in all employees; even on a Monday.”

Happiness is a science. It can be promoted and developed if the correct approach is taken. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs confirms the basic needs that must be met for a person to be happy. The hippocampus is the area of the brain that is responsible for happiness and positive memories. Seratonin, a neurotransmitter released when people are happy, regulates learning, appetite and mood. The brain also releases dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin, which are part of ‘the happy chemical team’.

How does this science help management to create a happy workforce? Use the principles learnt in science to engage with your staff in activities that will result in the release of these happiness producing chemicals. “The two biggest factors that contribute to happiness around the world are a sense of community and frequent celebrations. In the working environment, happiness can be created through consistent forms of change, utilising formalised training sessions and including casual engagements,” confirms McGowan. “When we allow employees to laugh, learn, move and communicate, they become energised, rendering them more creative and enabling them to function more productively. Movement releases proteins and endorphins; so get your staff up and about. The break in routine will invigorate them too.”

Research indicates that happy employees are less likely to seek employment elsewhere, leading to decreased staff turnover, while happy employees respect leadership, work well in teams and give a higher level of productivity and commitment to their work. “Happy employees are 180 percent more energised, 108 percent more engaged, 50 percent more motivated and 40 percent more confident than unhappy employees,” adds McGowan.

An article recently published on the British site, states that; “Any attempt to make your workplace a friendly environment for people with mental issues is good progress.” This is but one example of an international focus on shifting corporate culture to one that cares for the mental wellbeing and happiness of staff. South African corporate companies must realise the need to further incentivise and motivate employees by implementing campaigns that focus on enhancing their health and wellbeing; the physical side is being looked after, now it’s time to incorporate mental and emotional health too.

“Bring the happiness factor into your workplace and watch your people flourish! With increased morale, greater productivity and limitless motivation, success in inevitable,” concludes McGowan.

Quick Polls


In terms of vicarious liability, damages should not be borne by companies in all conditions, but only in those circumstances which it is reasonable for them to do so. Do you agree?


Yes, damages should only be borne by companies in those circumstances which it is reasonable for them to do so.
No. If there is a sufficiently close link between the employee’s acts and the purposes and business of the employer, the employer should be held liable for delicts committed by their employees.
As long as the employee is acting within the course and scope of his or her duty… the employer will be held liable.
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