Crafting Happiness at Work with Izzy Van Aelst

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  • 04 min. reading
  • Workplace

What is the future of work, and how can it be happier? Ariad brought together 4 experts to share their thoughts, give insights into how they're working to make their teams and workplaces better, and what will be important factors in building the next phase of a better working life.

Happiness at work is not a checkbox on a corporate to-do list, but rather a dynamic interplay of motivation, managerial responsibility, and a holistic approach to individual wellbeing. Izzy Van Aelst, former Head of Re=Bel, sheds light on the nuanced dynamics in fostering a positive work environment.


Intrinsic Motivation and Managerial Responsibility

During the panel discussion, Izzy addressed the question: “Is finding intrinsic value or motivation solely the responsibility of the employee?” His response reflects a nuanced perspective: “As a manager Is it your responsibility to tell somebody why you should get up in the morning and come to work? The answer is not black and white. I am convinced that intrinsic motivation is by definition something that comes from inside, from you as a person. But I do believe that as a manager, you have a responsibility to create the canvas and the context for people to find their intrinsic motivation.” 

He likens this managerial responsibility to a marketing funnel of engagement, where understanding, belief, action, and ambassadorship form sequential steps :  “ [first] the people need to understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. The next step : they have to believe in it, and then [they] will be able to walk the talk. And in the end, be an ambassador.”

Izzy emphasises the manager’s role in providing a conducive environment for employees to “walk the talk” as he says. “Give them the canvas and ensure it aligns with their capabilities and energy” he suggests. “Creating the context starts with explaining why we do what we do” says Izzy. “It’s about articulating the real reason behind the company’s mission and emphasising its importance.” The next steps involve instilling belief in employees and guiding them on the significance of their roles within the broader organisational framework. Importantly, he highlights the necessity of ongoing interaction to understand and support employees on their journey toward becoming ambassadors for the company.


Nurturing Ambassadors and Recognizing Achievements

As engagement matures, Izzy's vision extends to the creation of workplace ambassadors. Ambassadorship, according to Izzy, is reciprocal. As employees proudly represent the company, the company reciprocates by acknowledging their contributions."Give them a podium from time to time to show that to everybody," he recommends, “Give people the possibility to be proud and show their own work”. This cyclical dynamic not only boosts morale but also fosters a culture of genuine appreciation and interconnectedness


Find the Balance

As he was voicing his opinion, Izzy hinted that fostering a workplace that is conducive of self motivation was not the only thing a manager could do to improve wellbeing in the office. "The biggest difficulty is to find the balance between work, family and social life" he noted.  Recognizing when the balance wobbles is, according to him, a managerial responsibility. According to Izzy, restoring it is actually an investment in the long-term happiness and well-being of employees.

Managers play a crucial role in recognizing when this balance wobbles and taking steps to restore it, and it’s all about being open and ready to act : “when we notice that it [the balance] gets wobbly, how can we actually make sure that it gets in check again?”. This acknowledgement highlights how workplace happiness isn’t an isolated entity; it's intricately woven into the broader fabric of an individual’s life.


Providing Perspective for Happiness

As we neared the end of our discussion, we asked Izzy about his tips on what companies should focus on to improve well being in the workplace. Izzy emphasised the need to provide perspective. “Perspective is the capability to look beyond today,” he says. Take workload management for example, Izzy believes that offering perspective helps employees navigate uncertain times, fostering hope for the future and encouraging them to cherish the present: “ [perspective] can give hope that times will be better afterwards. Or the other way around. If it is going to change, it's good that you enjoy to the fullest how it is today.” His message is quite clear: providing enough context, enough perspective, should definitely be on the roadmap for everyone in a leadership position.

Izzy’s insights paint a comprehensive picture of the multifaceted approach needed to enhance happiness at work. By understanding the responsibility of managers, nurturing ambassadors, recognizing achievements, finding balance, and providing perspective, organisations can create a workplace where employees not only find joy but also contribute wholeheartedly to the company’s success.


Learn more

Curious to learn more insights from industry leaders on happiness at work? Watch the whole discussion now!


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