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Happy Chemicals, Happy Teams, and Happy Results

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Can chemicals play a role in our workplace?

If we were to pose this question to the employees of a bank, or maybe even a tech company, their response would probably be: NO!

To some extent, this answer is correct as we don’t see any test-tubes being used in our office. Unknowing to most, a few chemicals do in fact, play a vital role in every workplace. This is not quite evident as these chemical changes happen in our bodies rather than in a laboratory.

Let me introduce you to our “happy” chemicals:

Oxytocin: More commonly known as the love hormone or the cuddle hormone. This chemical helps you build trust and form strong relationships. It is not very difficult to get this common chemical flowing within us. You can significantly improve the Oxytocin levels in your team by replacing distant ‘hello’ waves with handshakes, and further improve it by replacing greetings with hugs (Ensure the hug is in consent with the other person or else you may be reported to the HR team for inappropriate behaviour. Also, you don’t want to be known as the creepy hug guy in the team). When a team is committing to a mission, provide them with an environment and encourage them to put their hands together at the end. This helps with the circulation of Oxytocin. Oxytocin is very selfless in nature, so you can stimulate the flow of this chemical by praising people in front of someone else, or by simply taking the time to ask “How are you?”

Serotonin: This particular chemical gets triggered when we feel important or significant. We can increase the flow of this chemical just by sharing a meal with a team member. This chemical starts to flow when we remember what we have achieved in our past, so it is a good idea to reflect on our team’s accomplishments every now and then to receive a healthy supply of this chemical (which to me is an unbelievable deal). The deficiency of Serotonin may result in depression.

Endorphins: Endorphins flow in order to produce relief from pain or to produce a feeling of well-being, which in turn, also reduces anxiety. This is a common occurrence with runners - they receive a burst of this chemical and will feel happy after an exhaustive run. As tempting as it might be, we simply can’t ask people to run around their workplace every time they feel stressed. Instead of running, we can create and promote an environment that generates happiness through laughter. This includes watching something fun together, encouraging people to share funny stories, messages and emails with each other, listening to a great song together, or going for a short walk out in the sun. We can also help them co-create and align themselves with the purpose behind their work, and revisit it time and time again. Lastly, we can change the format of meetings so that they can become more engaging and eventful instead of dull and monotonous, and organise charity initiatives such as blood or book donation drives. All of these activities help to boost the flow of endorphins within us and make us feel happy, especially during stressful times.

Dopamine: Dopamine is closely associated with inspiration and recognition. This chemical helps us move towards our goals, and gives us a sense of happiness and satisfaction while achieving them. Since this is the chemical that helps us take action towards our goals, the onus is on us not to set very long term goals for ourselves. If we create goals that span over a very long time, we may run into dopamine deficiency. A recommended practice is to break down your bigger goal into smaller goals and celebrate when you successfully achieve something. This ensures the continuous flow of dopamine in your team.

In my experience, I have seen amazing positive changes in team dynamics just by replacing distant waves to high-fives, taking coffee breaks with the whole team to discuss non-work stuff, and going for lunches or dinners together as a team at least once a week.

Teams gradually improve on their awesomeness scale when these chemicals are in action. As time goes by, they become more accountable, reliable, trusting, proud, transparent, and fun to work with. Additionally, the improved trust levels result in improved understanding and amazing collaboration.

So what’s your team’s daily dose of happiness?