An interesting article in the New York Times – “The Sandra Bullock Trade”.  It discusses the concept of happiness (although causation is not evident):

“The daily activities most associated with happiness are sex, socializing after work and having dinner with others. The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting. According to one study, joining a group that meets even just once a month produces the same happiness gain as doubling your income. According to another, being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year.”

The article extrapolates these findings to the roles of governments:

“Levels of social trust vary enormously, but countries with high social trust have happier people, better health, more efficient government, more economic growth, and less fear of crime (regardless of whether actual crime rates are increasing or decreasing)… Most governments release a ton of data on economic trends but not enough on trust and other social conditions. In short, modern societies have developed vast institutions oriented around the things that are easy to count, not around the things that matter most. They have an affinity for material concerns and a primordial fear of moral and social ones… Governments keep initiating policies they think will produce prosperity, only to get sacked, time and again, from their spiritual blind side.”

This article was of particular interest to me as I am always trying to understand not just the dynamics of happiness in the work place, but how work itself can promote happiness.

TresVista started in a hotel conference room; we used spreadsheets to manage everything; the first training had benches instead of chairs; the men would have to drop the women home late at night when required (working late); you had to call me to unlock the office if you wanted to come in on a weekend; no receptionist; not enough bathrooms; the AC had a weird smell; the carpet was ragged; etc.  There was no lack of things to complain about.

For those who have been with TresVista from the early days, improvement in the material aspects of the workplace is clearly evident: better chairs, desks, computers, training facilities, canteen, recreation room, conference space, software, ERP, databases, activities, security, car services, accounts with vendors, etc.

Our PACT used to be a piece of printed paper in a thin frame; now it is etched in metal and printed on glass as well. We have more staff to support the team rather than having the team supporting itself.  We have more training programs and a clearer career path.

However, as we continue to grow, an increasing number of the team will have no connection to the earlier days and their base case will be a combination of what they see when they join, the culmination of a few years of feedback, complaints, tweaks, and improvements.  Despite all this, there will always be suggestions to change, which is fine.  Although it is possible to divine the origin of practices for those who did not witness the evolution, it remains fair to want an explanation.  Most requests/complaints are not new.  However, no matter what improvements are introduced, there will always be requests for things that no one previously bothered not having.

It’s no secret that most people who enjoy TresVista would say it is because of the people they are around.  But what does that really mean? We have more people now than we did before, and more work than we did before.  So what specifically has to happen at the interpersonal level between individuals and groups to contribute to happiness?  How have the material improvements contributed to a happier work place?  What relative weights should be given to the different items that contribute to a happy workplace? How has TresVista’s ability as a workplace to provide happiness changed, if at all?

(The perspectives of those who have lived through the earlier days and those who have not should have interesting contrasts that I look forward to hearing).

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