What's your happiness index at work?


by Ben Batten

On a recent trip to Cambodia, I had the opportunity to visit Oudong, which was the ancient capital and presently a picturesque spot dotted with temples and historical sites.


I was making my way up a hill when I met two local teenaged boys. Our walk included 500 steps up to the top and another 500 steps down, which gave us plenty to time to chat. Both boys came from large, poor agricultural families. To fund their own educations, they spent their weekends bringing tourists up to the temples for meager tips. Their work included climbing up 500 steps multiple times in a day, under the blistering Cambodian sun and giving mini lectures on history and architecture and botany. It was no easy job but both of them had the enthusiasm and good cheer of the young and optimistic.


Coincidentally, round about this time, there was fierce debate about how unhappy a society Singapore has become.  As a recruiter, I spend a large amount of time listening to candidates' woes and their complaints run the whole gamut from legit to ridiculous, but mostly it sounds like the Singaporean workforce isn't very happy either.


Well, no job is really an easy one and Singapore certainly isn't the easiest place to work in. We face fierce competition in every arena, clock in long hours, work alongside people we do not necessarily like, or worse, work for people we do not like, battle through overcrowded transport systems every day, and the list goes on and on. But most of the time I think we fail to forget to be grateful for what we have. Singapore is one of the most affluent cities in the world and also one of the unhappiest, it's inexplicable but it almost seems that the more we have, the unhappier we become.


I'm not exactly Miss Sunshine but I think we have to start from the basics. A bit of positivity (even if we have to fake it) and some graciousness to the people around us can help us to feel a lot better about a bad situation. At the very least, we shouldn't have to inflict our bad moods on innocent bystanders.  It may feel awkward or forced but putting on a good front on a bad day will make a huge difference to our own moods and of those around us and add a few points to the happiness index at work.


Anyway at the end of the visit, the recruiter couldn't resist asking the two boys what their ambitions were. They answered promptly and most importantly, with conviction, "Doctor" and "Teacher".