How to apply positive psychology at work?

During the European Conference on Positive Psychlogy we (together with Ad Bergsma) will organize a lunch gathering (12.30 – 14.00) on Wednesday July 2. Experts working at several national and international organizations will share their extensive experience in implementing positive psychology at work. Two representatives from each organization will be present to answer your questions.

European Conference on Positive Psychology

European Conference on Positive Psychology

We are very interested to find out what kind of questions practitioners might have. To get a better perspective we will start an advance dialogue on an English and Dutch platform. We hope that this conversation will spill over to the offline lunch session we will have on July the second. Please find the online International platform here and the Dutch platform here.

Looking forward to meeting you either life or online!

Onno Hamburger & Ad Bergsma

Onno Hamburger is author of the book happiness at work; Improve your self leadership skills to flourish at work.  He has extensive experience with implementing happiness at work in organizations. He works as a senior trainer and happiness at work coach. He runs his own company which focuses on happiness at work (

Ad Bergsma is author of happiness at work; Improve your self leadership skills to flourish at work. He is a psychologist, speaker, scientific journalist and happiness researcher. He received his Ph. D. on happiness a the Erasmus University in 2011. (

How to create more flow in your work?

When I find my flow, I notice that time seems to go faster, or sometimes it even goes slower. I’m less aware of myself and my surroundings, and I am fully focused. Paradoxically, this is the worst moment to stop and think about whether you’re happy or not. However, for me personally, when I look back on these moments, they are always the happiest moments in my working life. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi creating flow in your life is one of the secrets to happiness. Lets take a closer look at flow and find out what it is (and what it isn’t). 

Two surfers

Two surfers (by Marcos André)

 Flow is characterized by the following experi­ences:

  • Your sense of time changes (time seems to go faster or slower).
  • You forget yourself.
  •  You forget your surroundings.
  •  You have no worries.
  •  You are fully focused.
  •  You feel inspired.
  • You feel like you are surpassing yourself.
  • Often, flow also results in exceptional achievements.

What do we mean with flow?

Flow is not like daydreaming. It therefore does not mean that you are losing yourself in random thoughts, such as when you have been driving for a while and you realize that you have covered a great distance without even noticing it. When you are daydreaming, you are not pushing yourself. You are simply on automatic pilot because what you are doing is entirely routine. When you find your flow, you immerse yourself in an activity that consumes your at­tention in its entirety. You need all of your skills and qualities to ensure that everything keeps running smoothly, and you have no time to stop and think about how you feel. It is a state of intense enthusiasm that completely takes over your being.

For flow you need balance

To generate flow, you need to be challenged just enough, and it is a delicate balance. If the challenge is too great, then you can risk overstretching yourself. At first, you get excited, but once your energy is too low to banish the insecurity, then apprehension and anxiety take over. In the long run, this reduces your level of happiness and decreases productivity, and can even result in excessive stress and burn-out. If you are challenged too little, then after a while, the feeling of safety and secu­rity turns into boredom and apathy. Paradoxically, it can also result in stress. In the long-term, ‘understretching’ yourself can result in a phenomenon known as bore-out: reduced productivity and danger of staff outflow due to extreme boredom.

What can you do to get more flow?

The trick is to get yourself into a position where you are challenged just enough. You are the only one person who can tell when you are in full flow or if your level of challenge is too high or too low. You are the captain of your flow. Flow also results in optimal de­velopment and boosts happiness at work, so it is a good indicator of how happy you are in your work. Do you want to know more about flow? Take a look at this interesting Ted talk by Csiksentmihalyi on Flow. You can also take a look at chapter 3 of our book. Both will provide you with the inspiration and practical assignments to improve the amount of flow you can experience in your work. Enjoy!

Seven myths about happiness at work

When you start talking about happiness at work some people get strange ideas. Some might think you are talking about a Steve Ballmer kind of attitude. While talking about happiness at work is getting more common it is about time to address and debunk a number of common misconceptions about happiness at work. We will address 7 over here.

7 myths of happiness at work debunked

7 myths of happiness at work debunked


Myth 1: For you to be happy, everything must be perfect.

Some people believe that happiness at work means the eradication of all negative feel­ings. These people are heading for disappointment. Happiness at work means that the balance is tipped in favor of the positive and that you have the feeling that you are doing something worthwhile. However, even when things are going well, we sometimes need negative feelings, as they serve as a warning when there is a chance that things may go wrong. Negative emotions also help bring about change. The problem arises when you get stuck in these negative emotions, as the feeling of powerlessness that it brings is very unhealthy. The increase in stress and burn-out over the past 20 years shows that this is a significant problem.

Myth 2: Happiness encourages laziness.

Happy employees are not lazy pleasure-seekers: they are more active, more committed and more result-oriented. Studies show that on average, happy employees are 50% more motivated, more than twice as committed and are 30% more productive than unhappy employees.

Myth 3: Happiness cannot be measured.

It is often claimed that happiness is a personal thing that is impossible to measure. However, studies conducted over the past 30 years have shown that individual happiness certainly can be gauged. Using specially developed questionnaires, people can quite reli­ably indicate how happy they are. Happiness is therefore a perfectly measurable factor.

Myth 4: Happiness at work is the same as job satisfaction.

Although these two terms are closely related, there is a critical difference in usage. Job satisfaction is often a factor that is influenced by the organization, which creates cir­cumstances that promote employee satisfaction. Happiness at work is a factor for which employees themselves are principally responsible. Studies show that while there is very little correlation between job satisfaction and productivity, there is clearly a positive cor­relation between happiness at work and productivity.

Myth 5: Happiness at work and happiness in your personal life are two separate things.

Happiness at work cannot be separated from happiness in your life as a whole. The disadvantage of this is that unemployment clearly has a negative effect on people’s gen­eral happiness. However, the advantage of this is that people who are happy at work are clearly happier in their lives in general. When you derive enjoyment, fulfillment and meaning from your work, this clearly has a positive effect on your general level of happi­ness. And vice versa, of course.

Myth 6: Happiness at work is only for highly educated people.

Some people think that philosophizing about happiness at work is only for intellectuals. However, nothing could be further from the truth. At every educational level you will find a comparable percentage of people who put their heart and soul into their work, while another percentage of the same group are simply there for the money. The more autonomy a person has, the happier they are. On average, managers and people who are self-employed feel happier. However, there are also ways to increase your autonomy without switching jobs.

Myth 7: Happiness at work is guaranteed if you have an enjoyable job.

The converse of this myth is that it is impossible to be happy if you have a boring job, which is equally untrue. The working environment is not the most important factor in­fluencing your happiness. How you think and act is much more important. It deter­mines the level of enjoyment, fulfillment and meaning you derive from both your work and your life, and it is completely independent of your particular working environment.

As more and more people (and organizations) are getting interested in happiness at work it is getting more important to have a good idea of what happiness at work is (and isn’t). In this post we focused on popular misconceptions about happiness at work. If you come across other myths about happiness at work please leave a comment or send us an email.

If you want to know more about happiness at work you can also take a look at our book. If you would like to get connected please “like” our Facebook page. We would love to stay connected!

Barbara Fredrickson happiness at work Onno Hamburger

Barbara Fredrickson receives first copy of Happiness at work

A fragile looking woman in the middle of a crowded conference room. She describes herself as introverted. But looks can be deceiving.

She is a world renowned positive psychology researcher who speaks with great authority and enthousiasm about her subject. She has an impressive list of publications and books in the field of positive psychology. I know of her work already for years but never met her in person. I was delighted she took the time to receive our book. This all happened at a sold out congres on positive psychology in The Netherlands.

Barbara Fredrickson happiness at work Onno Hamburger

On November 11 Barbara Fredrickson received the first copy of our book on happiness at work. 

Love 2.0 by Barbara Fredrickson

The new book by Barbara Fredrickson is about love. Using research from her own lab, Fredrickson redefines love not as a stable behemoth, but as micro-moments of connection between people. In her book she shows that the capacity for experiencing love can be measured and strenghtened in ways that improve our health and longevity. We want to thank Barbara Fredrickson for her encouraging words. Ad and I look forward to support you in your quest to bring the field of positive psychology to the next level.

Happiness at work

The new book Barbara Fredrickson received is a combination of state of the art positive psychology, practical assignments and a personal narative that guides you through the process of becoming happier at work. People who already read the draft of the book mentioned that the book is both practical and evidence based. (Read more quotes here.)


See more from Barbara Fredrickson:

Albert Ellis - Happiness At Work - Onno Hamburger Positive Psychology Founder

Albert Ellis would have been one hundred today.

Albert Ellis - Happiness at work - Gelukkig Werken -- Onno Hambuger - Founder Positive Psychology Albert Ellis, would have been one hundred years old today. He invented ‘Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy’. Seven years ago he died in New York. Had he lived, today I would whole heartedly celebrate his hundredth birthday. Please find a short summary of his biography below. For an extended overview of his life, see: Albert Ellis 1913 – 2007

De world doesn’t end

Ellis fought all of his life. Hit started when he was six years old. He was an ailing child who had to spend months in hospital . His father only visited him once in this whole period. His mother visited only once a week. Ellis concurred his loneliness by addressing himself: “If I die, I die, but the world doesn’t end damn it.”

Looking differently

As a teenager Ellis was very shy. He hardly dared to open his mouth in public or speak to girls. Aged 19 he read somewhere it was possible to overcome fear by doing things that scare you. He imposed exercises to himself: He had to chat with every woman he saw standing on her own. It worked. Ellis noticed that you can change the way you observe yourself and how you perceive the world.

Rational Emotive Therapy

After an education to become a psychanalytic therapist he started to see the psycho analytic way of working as a waste of time. He started to give his patients homework en became more and more directive. Not only did his patients recover better because of this, but Ellis started to enjoy it himself. In 1953 Ellis broke with psycho analysis. Two years later he coined his way of working as “Rational-Emotive-Therapy”, RET in short.

RET was more easily accepted by patients and insurers than by his colleagues. Being critical towards Freud was seen as serious offence. [SIMON: They resented him for being critical, how to say that in correct English, JDD] In 1982 however, he was chosen as one of the most influential therapists of the 20th century, by his fellow practitioners.

More than comprehending

Ellis changed the name of the therapy to REBT. The B stands for behavioural. Eliss wanted to emphasise to patients the importance  of changing his behaviour. To merely comprehend didn’t suffice according to Ellis.

The years before his death Ellis spend mainly time fighting the institute he founded himself: The Albert Ellis Institute in New York. Ellis was expelled from the board but returned through law suits in the year before he died. A period too short to settle unfinished business like copyrights to his books and ownership of the brand “Albert Ellis”.

Albert Ellis, a corner stone to Happiness At Work

Albert Ellis contributed tremendously to the development of the field of psychology. He supported many people in gaining insights about themselves and how to change themselves. With REBT he invented  a methodology that helps many people to find more fun and fulfilment in in their work. With this he is one of the corner stones in enlarging the happiness at work in organisations.

Albert Ellis was born one hundred years ago on September 17, 2013 in Pittsburgh, USA. He died aged 93, on July 24, 2007 in New York.