Happy Hour is 9 to 5

By: Alexander Kjerulf



Let’s face it. We all know that happy employees, managers, customers and suppliers make the best team. They get more work done, they come up with more new ideas, and they create more value. But why?

Well, Alexander Kjerulf, Chief Happiness Officer thinks he knows the answer, and in his book: Happy hour is 9 to 5 he gives us his justification. Join us for the next ten minutes and we’ll tell you how to love your job, love your life and kick butt at work!


Kjerulf, being a Dane is proud to claim that Scandinavian workers are the happiest in the world. It’s built into their character. He believes happiness at work is an emotion. It comes from inside us, and, like all other emotions, it is difficult to define, but inescapable once it’s present.

One thing is for sure: Though we may not have a formal definition of happiness at work, we know when we are — and especially when we’re not. But happiness at work is not the same for everyone. That’s means treating everybody differently, because treating everyone the same only makes a few people happy.

Ever been happy for someone else? Happiness for work is the same. It’s contagious. One happy worker can li# the spirits of an entire department. The bad news is that unhappiness is even more contagious than happiness, so your happiness depends on those around us.

Kjerulf also points out that job satisfaction is not happiness. Do you want to spend your working life simply being satisfied? I certainly don’t!

But no matter how much we love our job, we are still going to experience some bad days. Kjerulf states that happiness at work is not about eliminating all the bad stuff. It’s about being happy at work even though some of these bad things are present.

  • If we don’t commit to being happy at work, we won’t be.
  • We won’t make the right happiness choices.
  • We won’t take the actions needed to get there.
  • We won’t change the things that need to change.

As the late Stephen Covey said: “Happiness, like unhappiness, is a proactive choice.”


Kjerulf believes that happiness at work is less about what we have and more about what we do. We may have a great boss and great team, but it's how we’ve contributed that made it so. And it's what we will do today that will keep it so.

Kjerulf gives us six everyday actions that create a good mood and make us happy at work. These are things we can introduce into our job and workplace. Let’s dig a little deeper into each of them.

Being positive is an important skill to learn. It’s key to both happiness and success at work. Positive people and positive workplaces focus on possibilities, solutions and fun.

It’s not that they ignore problems and threats: it’s just that they have found that being positive makes them both happier and more efficient. The truth is that many workplaces focus on the negative. Everything that goes well is ignored, while meetings focus on problems. Kjerulf’s key to positivity is ‘Praise’. It’s the single most effective method to make people happy at work. And everyone can do it.

No matter how much we enjoy our job, if we do the same thing in exactly the same way for a long time, sooner or later we will stop enjoying it. We need stimulation, we need to learn.

There are many ways to learn in the workplace. We can learn professionally and get better at our job, or we can learn about ourselves, the people around us, and the workplace. We can have a meeting and learn. We can work on a project and learn. We can work alone and learn. We can talk to co-workers and learn.

The key point Kjerulf makes is that learning provides fuel for stimulation. Stimulation for positivity. Positivity for Happiness. HAPPY ACTION #3: BE OPEN Kjerulf suggests that we’re more likely to be happy at work if we can be ourselves and behave openly. Conversely, having to hide our real thoughts and emotions will make us unhappy at work. In business, most companies tend to secrecy. Yet if employees really know what’s going on, it makes them more efficient and more able to make good decisions.

The only reliable way to create openness is for each of us to say what we really think. We don’t need to be rude or impolite about it, but we must express what is really going on inside our minds.

Believe it or not, complaining can be a great tool for initiating change. But we need constructive complaining. Here are some examples of the difference.

  • Unconstructive: Complain to whoever will listen
  • Constructive: Complain to someone who can do something about it
  • Unconstructive: Point fingers
  • Constructive: Look at yourself first
  • Unconstructive: Only complain
  • Constructive: Complain, but also appreciate what’s good

Constructive complaining leads to change, whereas unconstructive complaining saps everyone’s energy, optimism and belief that change is possible.

Kjerulf suggests that happiness includes the ability to control our own environment. When we are involved in the decisions that matter to us, we feel active rather than passive. And active means happier.

If we only participate when we’re invited to, we will miss opportunities. If there’s something going on that we really, really want to be a part of — we need to invite ourselves!

Being in control of our own work patterns is a crucial factor. It’s all about standing up and speaking out. Have a good idea? Spit it out. Repeat until someone listens. The advantages are clear: with more thoughts and ideas, we get more energy and inspiration, and consequently more helpers and allies in bringing the idea to life. The more the merrier!

It’s much easier to be happy if our job has meaning and we keep that meaning in mind. Knowing how our work contributes to the company’s success makes us proud of what we do.

Kjerulf states that it is important to make results visible so that we see what we’ve achieved. Most people are happy only when they do good work and get great results. He suggests we keep a to do list so that we can tick off completed tasks and see how much work we’ve done every day or every week. In that way we can see ourselves move forward.

Another good way to find meaning is to contribute to something other than ourselves. We can use work as a springboard to help the community, a charity, the environment, society, developing nations— anything that delivers meaning to us.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, our most fundamental needs are physiological—food, sleep, etc.— and our need for safety. This is followed by our need to belong and to feel loved. Our species has evolved in groups and communities, and few of us can be happy unless we belong to a functioning group.

That is how Kjerulf interprets this type of love— simple signs that people like each other and communicate well. He tells us to get to know the people around us at work. We don’t need to make friends with everybody, but positive relationships are an important factor in ensuring happiness at work.

It doesn’t take much to build and maintain good relationships, but it does take conscious effort. It’s important to focus upon maintaining communication, otherwise relationships can wither and die.


Why does happiness at work even matter? Can’t we just trudge to work, sit at our desks, collect our pay checks and be happy in our free time?

According to Kjerulf the answer is clear: Not only does happiness at work matter, it is the major force that determines whether a person or a business will be successful. Happiness at work is not a luxury. Happiness is more important than anything else for determining our enjoyment of our work, our quality of life outside of work, and our success.

So whose job is it to make you happy at work? Your manager? Your co-workers? The company?

According to Kjerulf, the ultimate responsibility for our happiness at work can only lie with you, for three very simple reasons:

  • Happiness at work is an emotion. It’s something totally inside. Only we know when we’re happy at work. Only we know if things are fine, or if something needs to change.
  • Happiness at work is individual. Only we know what it takes to make us happy at work. Therefore we are responsible for making sure we have what we need to be happy.
  • Making ourselves happy at work can entail some tough choices. It may mean quitting and finding a new job. It may mean battling existing corporate culture and values. You are the only one who can make the decision of whether or not to do these things. The choice and responsibility is yours.


As a manager, our most important responsibility is to make ourselves happy at work. A happy leader is a natural role model for employees, and spreads a good mood by their very nature.

Secondly, managers must know and care about their people. We can’t lead people without a sincere interest in them and some detailed knowledge about them. Good managers know about all their people, and use this knowledge to create an environment in which it’s easy to be happy. Whether or not employees take this opportunity is up to them. We can’t force people to be happy.

Finally, the company has a responsibility to prioritise, value and reward happiness at work. It’s no use for a company to say, “We want people to be happy at work,” and then turn around and demand overtime, reward ruthlessness and manage in an authoritarian style. Genuine happiness is critical.