Policies & Happiness
The session started with the meaning of happiness for each participant. The answers were diverse – serenity, peace, fulfilment/wholeness, feeling accomplished, communion – showing the complexity in defining happiness and its meaning. In general terms, happiness is something that derives from harmony and a synchrony with life as it is, regardless of circumstances.
In a first analysis, and since it is a topic with very specific perspectives, it is considered a priority to work on a personal level, where each one can work on their own reality. The changes are only real when they start in each one of us.
Some examples of the proposals at the individual level were:
- Each of us choose projects that were defined beyond the salary, defining more objectives than the immediate wellbeing;
- Slow down the pace of day-to-day life with prayer and contemplation.
In the organizational / community branch, the discussion started recognizing that labor relations must become that: relationships. In fact, the human dimension is often overlooked in the business world, with an excessive focus on production, productivity, to the detriment of valuing the person, belonging to a surrounding community. This can be particularly problematic in a teleworking context. Communication here assumes a central role of mediation for the enhancement of a sharing relationship between boss and employee – diluting possible organizational hierarchies – with a view to managing workload and work objectives, according to the different personal and family circumstances of those involved.
In addition, creating a humanistic culture in organizations presupposes the valuation of moments of silence and rest as instruments that promote individual and collective reflection – which appears, in today’s world, to be something unnatural. However, this exercise can be considered beneficial, either to help review poorly implemented processes and offer an opportunity for their future improvement, or to recognize how well the processes have been developed and the need to be grateful for that.
The measures proposed at the organizational / community level were the following:
- Implement team building moments, weekly reflection and retrospective exams, which can bring benefits to the business processes;
- “Friend by force / buddy” – each person in the company is responsible for another person, in order to help and contribute to the happiness of one another within the organization;
- Continuous training for leaders – to demonstrate the importance of defining and communicating to employees the mission, direction and purpose of the company, both in the market in which it operates, and in terms of impact on society in general. This measure will allow the alignment of the purposes of each individual with the purpose of the company, enhancing sustainable happiness for all stakeholders, as well as the achievement of the common good and sustainable growth / developemnt;
- Limit working hours, making it well defined / delimited;
- Regular monitoring of workers by well-being and happiness organizations, through the creation of a department focused on the well-being of their employees, with the help of a psychologist and / or chaplain;
At the political level, there are also several proposed ideas. Starting by emphasizing that happiness must be a criterion for the management and conduct of public policies, as it is a concept that includes those involving several human dimensions. On the contrary, regulating ourselves by revenues and costs seems reductive, when the parties involved in the processes are, above all, people.
The measures presented at the political level were the following:
- Creation of more representative and consensual indicators for measuring happiness. Example: average time each job has to dedicate to the family – In practice, if a Portuguese person has 2 hours less free time than a German (or less 1 hour daily for the family), governments must adopt policies to correct this inequality;
- Participatory budgets so that the choice is for the common good of all individuals (the notion of the common good may differ from person to person and it is important to take into account different opinions) – there should be a rotation in the entities that manages these budgets.
- Training in schools and universities on Happiness and the importance of the Purpose of life.
- Existence of a standardized inquiry for companies, surveying their workers’ well-being and happiness indicators (Examples: working after hours; birth policies). With the premise that the results would be published annually, this measure would put pressure on companies with more dissatisfied workers to correct their management. This survey should be carried out by a public institute.
Vocation & Profit
As in the first village, the beginning of the work started by finding several meanings for the words vocation and profit. In the word vocation, the answers were varied, with the most frequent responses being: path, God’s project and call. For the definition of profit, the words reward and retribution were the most chosen.
With this starting point, we establish the parallelism with the individual, agreeing that a person’s life objective should not be purely and simply making money, reinforcing the importance of the existence of a purpose and a mission, which should be the center and the main motivation of each one. Here, money appears as a positive outcome, not as a goal. The problem then arises when money / profit constitutes the final objective, and then the logic is distorted, closing the individual and the company in themselves. Focusing only on vocation does not pay bills, but when overvaluing profit, the heart will be lacking.
Prioritizing values between profit and vocation does not have to be an exclusive choice. It is possible to reconcile both, but it is even more important to assume the fulfillment of each vocation as the cornerstone.
The measures proposed at the individual level were as follows:
- Courage to follow the vocation (seek guidance with spiritual direction, give space and time for reflection);
- Undertake more effort and professionalism in activities in the social sector (often it does not happen because it is seen as a free-time activity) – Balance between working and caring;
- The importance of having a life purpose and a mission discovered and assumed by each person. Money comes as a positive result and not as a goal.
Similarly, it was understood that organizations and the current world in which we live are too focused on profit, leaving the concept of vocation to the background. We conclude, however, that profit and vocation are not necessarily incompatible / antagonistic. Thus, the vocation, as a call to a cause greater than the person (common cause), can be measured through the impact that organizations have on society. The optimum point is to positively align the strategy of the companies with this impact that is caused in society, through obtaining profit.
In this logic, it was concluded that profit is rather an excellent result, but never a single objective in itself. Thus, if a company does not make a profit in a given year, this should not mean that the company has failed its objective. On the contrary, it should mean that the company is not yet realizing its maximum potential and having the due impact on society in a sustainable way.
Profit must be repositioned within companies, ceasing to be the ultimate objective, and rather be used as a growth metric for the realization of a real purpose in society.
Thus, in the organizational /community dimension, the proposed measures were:
- Difficulty in choosing the Social Sector as a professional activity because it is not possible to have sufficient financial remuneration. Consequently, there is a lack of qualified labor in this kind of organizations. The solution involves the professionalization of this sector in order to increase the level of demand in management and operation;
- Promote participatory budgets within the company, where workers can have a say in several investments (Example: investments in expansion into new markets, environmental investments or in social projects). Involve workers in the company’s decision-making processes, motivating and co-responsible, thus contributing to more horizontal structures;
- Enable workers to develop their personal projects with the company’s tools (Example: Google).
Our society, – often camouflaged under ideals of individualism, emancipation, prosperity – insists on deviating each person from his vocation, that is, from the purpose for which he was created, from his purpose, role to play in the community. The vocation is mostly discovered if conditions exist that allow it. Ensuring people’s personal, social and spiritual fulfillment should be the priority of any public policy driver.
Taking the academic context as an example, we find that many schools prefer to submit “to the laws of the market”, instead of promoting a culture of love of knowledge, in which knowledge is not only a means, but also an end. People should not be subject to the laws of the market, as products subject to the laws of supply, demand and utility. Rather, it is the market that must serve the person, in its integrity.
In the political dimension, the main suggestion to implement was the following:
- Allocation of a % of the annual profits to a fund of social projects, with independent management or with the participation of the State. Companies would receive tax benefits and the fund’s donor list is public, to encourage companies to participate. This measure contributes to increasing the companies’ focus on generating social value and not just profit.
To sum up, we conclude that there is no dichotomy between vocation and profit.
We must, however, apply the “Golden Circle” theory to our lives, asking frequently, and in every decision we make: what we do, how we do it and why we do it.
The biggest challenge is this one that urges us to reflect: in the places in which I am inserted, what can I do differently to contribute to a happier, more just and balanced society?
The session was:
- Directed by: Marta Bicho, Joana Nazaré Morgado, Afonso Espregueira, sj and Leonor Costa e Almeida
- Coordinated by: ACEGE Next