Dr. Tracy Brower is a sociologist studying work life fulfillment and happiness. She is the author of two books: The Secrets to Happiness at Work and Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work.

She is also a contributor for Forbes.com and Fast Company, and a Vice President of Workplace Insights with the Applied Research + Consulting group at Steelcase. Dr. Brower explains why employees feel unfulfilled and what brings them happiness at work.



What we cover in this episode: 

  • 05:46 – Culture in Your Business
  • 08:17 – The Links to Happiness 
  • 10:10 – Experience & Expectations
  • 16:51 – Being More Present as a Leader
  • 21:01 – Convenience Over Connection 
  • 23:03 – Accountability & Accomplishment

Culture in Your Business

We have heard a great deal in recent years about the necessity of creating a healthy culture in your business. An organization’s culture affects the behavior, communication, work, and business practices of its leaders and employees. It also influences the type of individuals they attract to their team. Learning what makes employees happy at work and creating a culture around these opportunities will enhance your work environment. 

Part of creating the culture is to make your team feel empowered. Be authentic, intentional and lead with influence. This will also help with being able to delegate and free up your time more to focus on higher priority tasks. 

A main reason employees leave is because they are not feeling fulfilled at work. In a recent study referenced by Dr. Brower, it stated that “69% of people say that their leader has a greater influence on their mental health than their doctor or their therapist.” Creating an intentional workplace and culture that drives business and growth is crucial to the development of your team and business. 

The Links to Happiness

There are two links between happiness and work, the feeling of being overwhelmed or stressed and the ability to mentor and guide others. These seem like two opposites end of the spectrum but they correlate to what makes employees happy at work. 

We are not discussing bad or intense stress, but rather good stress. Good stress is constituted by feeling challenged to get things done or the push to improve and hone your skills. This is when you are pushing yourself to solve a problem or to build your business.

The joy and excitement that comes with this feeling of empowerment and satisfaction you have for what you do links to happiness. This is because you lose that feeling of not feeling fulfilled at work and gain intention and accomplishment. 

As a business owner, you need to be more than the owner or boss but a leader as well. As leader you are bound to become a mentor, either to your team or someone else looking to do what you do. When you have the ability to mentor, guide and grow others this is linked to happiness as well. Generosity is good for you and your business. 

how to be happier at work

Experience & Expectations

Dr. Brower talks about “sociological research that looks at experience and expectation… Most business owners, business leaders are sending a message about ‘what do we value, what are our mission statements and how do we treat clients’… and then people’s experience has to either match or exceed that, or they tend to be more dissatisfied. Because we kind of calibrate our satisfaction based on that expectation.”

This is also referred to as the ripple effect. What are your actions going to lead to? As a leader what you do will have an effect on everyone around you. You need to set the expectation of communication and authenticity. Acknowledging those around you for their experience and the role they play in building your business, whether big or small. This will not only give you team insight and transparency, but you insight as well on how to be happier at work, through the challenges. 


Being More Present as a Leader

Being a present business leader is hard. There is no doubt about that. Especially when you are wearing multiple hats in your business. Dr. Brower gives three great tips on how to be more present as a leader and what that might look like if you don’t have anything in place at the moment. These tips coincide with what makes employees happy at work. 

Setting cadence and regularity in your schedule. Although meetings or one on ones can be overrated, if they are intentional they will work. That doesn’t mean to go out and set a meeting with each person at a certain time every week on the same day and make it a routine tedious task. If your team knows that you will stop by each week and check on them, ask questions, and collaborate, they will appreciate you being present and thoughtful leading to more fulfillment at work.

Collaboration is a second tip to use. A great way to introduce this is in a way most businesses try to eliminate it. At the beginning of meetings, colleagues love to chat about personal or work related topics. Although most managers or owners see this as a waste of time and want to eliminate it so they can get on with the meeting, they shouldn’t do that. Creating a space where you and your team can collaborate on another level not only shows you are there and present, but you care about their desires as well. 

The third tip is sharing; sharing is caring. Having you and your team share problems, challenges, assignments and tasks can bring you closer and more in sync as a company. Linking people together and being intentional about the task, who is collaborating and how they are contributing to the assignment creates an atmosphere for your team to see you as an intentional, present leader. 


Convenience Over Connection 

“Work has an elevated and expanded role in helping us, to just feel connected.” Tons of employees are not feeling fulfilled at work because they lack that connection. We have so many conveniences in life and in work that we tend to choose convenience over the connection, ultimately dwindling the happiness you may have once had for your business, work, or company. 

The process of being together and collaborating creates familiarity and acceptance in the workplace. Being together has great benefits for your wellbeing and mental health which transfer over to how you perform and how your employees perform. 


Accountability & Accomplishment

Having accountability and making things happen at work and for your team, leads to a great feeling of accomplishment ultimately leading to a greater feeling of happiness and fulfillment. The feeling of accomplishment and accountability will go a long way with your team. 

As a leader, giving them a choice in certain areas of their work, will empower them to be more accountable leading to happier work life situations. This choice and autonomy will look different for each individual and position. For example, a restaurant cannot have a waitress ‘work from home.’ The waitress being physically present at work is crucial for the company. Being able to adapt to can be a choice for this employee, shows your leadership in a better and different way. 



As a leader, your own happiness and management skills contribute directly to the happiness and well-being of your team. Your leadership style is a prominent component that reflects on your team and on your business. Developing new work habits in small steps can lead to a happier and more successful business. This progress can be achieved by both you and your team.  

Links Mention in This Episode: