Finding Happiness at Work

Culture of Respect — formerly BE4ALL (Belonging and Excellence for All) — launched in December 2021.

Dushaw Hockett

Culture of Respect — formerly BE4ALL (Belonging and Excellence for All) — launched in December 2021. The initiative envisions a diverse, inclusive and unionized sheet metal industry that is welcoming and fosters belonging for all. This work includes a human side, where individuals take pride in the work they do and value the contributions. It also includes a business side, where workers and contractors work together to achieve the highest standards of performance and excellence in their technical skills and crafts. When SMACNA, SMART and ITI (International Training Institute) launched this effort, they wanted it to be more than just words on a piece of paper. It was important that the initiative be backed by research and best practices. Here, we explore how social connections and building meaningful relationships at work make us happier and more successful.

Dr. Laurie Santos is a professor at Yale teaching the most popular class on campus. It’s called “The Science of Well-Being” and explores ways that everyone can increase their own happiness and build productive habits. In a recent article by Reneé Onque, published by CNBC’s Health and Wellness, Dr. Santos says that the No. 1 thing people can do to feel happier is to engage in social connection. She recommends the following tips:

  • Intentionally make time to develop the relationships in your life.
  • Be open to connecting with strangers: “We kind of assume that connecting with a stranger will feel awkward or vulnerable or weird. But the data really suggests that reaching out to people who we don’t know and starting new connections will feel better than we expect.”
  • Aim to ask deeper questions during conversations to learn other people’s values and truly connect.

A recent interview published by the Harvard Business Review is with Arthur C. Brooks, a Harvard professor who teaches a class called “Leadership and Happiness” that explores the question of how people find satisfaction at work. Brooks says that the people who are happiest at work are those who feel like they are creating something of value, are recognized for their accomplishments, and feel needed in the work that they do.

Robert Waldinger is director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development and author of the book “The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness.” In a recent interview for the Harvard Business Review, Waldinger says that the people who “have the warmest relationships and the people who are most connected to other people in their lives” are healthier and live longer.
In his interview, Waldinger mentions a Gallup survey of 15 million workers that asks, “Do you have a best friend at work?” Three in 10 workers said that they do have a best friend at work, which makes them want to come to work each day. This stresses the importance of connections among employees.

An article by Gallup Workplace explores the importance of building and maintaining respectful, trusting and friendly relationships in the workplace. Employees who feel that they have friends at work are more likely to recommend their workplace to others and have greater overall satisfaction with their job. The article recommends that “employees at all levels” make an effort to get to know their coworkers and to maintain friendships. This could be by video chat, having lunch together or holding a walking meeting. “Just as important, managers are responsible for promoting a local team atmosphere that encourages trust and collaboration. Wherever possible, managers should remove constraints to socialization and create an atmosphere where employees feel free and encouraged to connect and show support.” 

For Culture of Respect Toolbox Talks, visit