What is #morejoyharvard?

#morejoy Harvard welcomes anyone who wants to create a community of connected employees. A workplace culture of joy inspires participation, inclusion, safety, curiosity, innovation, and a sense purpose and belonging.  As Harvard employees, we are empowered to participate in creating joy which can promote professional growth and unparalleled job satisfaction. 

Why Joy?

Only 30% of America’s workers are emotionally engaged in their jobs.

Over the last two decades, corporate America has started to understand the link between improved employee satisfaction and improved financial outcomes, and has moved to foster more satisfying engagement among some sectors of employees.

As university leaders, we are not focused on profit and ROI, but we might consider examining employee satisfaction in terms of the health of our institution, and in particular our current interest in issues of inclusion and belonging.

Our 16,000 employees represent organizational potential that can help us toward that goal.  It is human nature to aspire to membership in a community, to be a valued contributor, appreciated by colleagues at all levels. 

This kind of shared recognition drives employee retention, enables recruiting, and works to create an employment space where people want to be.

Employee needs are changing and evolving, and we need to explore those wants and needs and learn how to build a more exceptional workplace. 

It’s an opportunity for culture change, and one road toward creating new possibilities centers on joy. 

The issue of inclusion and belonging, so critical to advancing the university’s mission, may be experienced by staff as top-down and prescriptive. 

Our grassroots proposal comes at that same issue, but takes a different approach, one that leverages like-minded managers and front line employees and empowers them with tools to add more joy to the work place. 

Joy, for us, is not a superficial synonym for happiness

Rather, striving for a culture of joy is a substantive way to encourage employee intention, vocation, and purpose.  Bringing joy into the workplace is fundamental to the work of inclusion and belonging.   The 2016 report, Pursuing Excellence on a Foundation of Inclusion   specifies four goals and four tools for adoption. 

The report focuses on faculty and students, leaving an opening for Harvard to think more critically about the value of our 16,000 staff members, and the ways in which they can further the commitment to creating connections and community. 

Our project—#morejoy@harvard--will offer a tool kit of ideas and strategies focused on using joy as an additional rubric for measuring how employees think about their professional experiences and community here at Harvard.

Joy is a Choice Purposefully Made

There’s a difference between joy and happiness. But what that difference is, is difficult to definitively define.

For every person who says joy is an underlying truth that good or bad circumstances can't dictate, and happiness is rooted in circumstance, there will be others who think the opposite.

Despite the different perspectives, the idea that holds greater sway today is that happiness depends on external factors to exist. Happiness happens to us. Even though we may seek it, desire it, pursue it, etc., feeling happiness is not a choice we make.

Joy, on the other hand, is a choice purposefully made. Joy is an attitude of the heart and spirit, present inside of us as an untapped reservoir of potential.

It's possible to feel joy in difficult times

Joy doesn’t need a smile in order to exist, although it does feels better with one. Joy can share its space with other emotions – sadness, shame or anger. Happiness can't.

Happiness is not present in darkness and difficulty. Joy never leaves it. Joy undergirds our spirits; it brings to life peace and contentment.

Joy requires a connection. Often the connection is with other people, but it can also be with pets, creation, creativity, etc. Joy is present. In the moment. Happiness mostly just passes through.


Understanding the Difference Between Joy and Happiness

When happiness is present, it is larger than life. Nothing seems better or worthy of attention. But happiness is also fickle. It can be present for weeks on end and gone in an instant. Joy is constant.

Understanding the differences between joy and happiness has a greater purpose than being fodder for an intellectual debate.

Despair is like happiness in that it's temporary, although it never feels that way. Despair is a product of circumstance, and it can't hold a candle to joy. Joy can overcome anything and everything in this world, if it's allowed. If it's chosen.

With joy, there is hope. With joy, hardship offers growth and opportunity. With joy, self-esteem and self-respect are indestructible.

Happiness Versus Joy In The Workplace

There is a lot of discussion about happiness at work and how it can change an organization. There is even a “science to happiness”. We’d like to clarify the definition between happiness and joy because it is often misinterpreted or misunderstood.

According to the dictionary, joy is:

  • the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation
  • a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated

And happiness is:

  • the quality or state of being happy
  • good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy

They sound very similar but there are some distinct differences

  • Joy comes from within, an inner sense of peace, as well as enthusiasm, excitement, passion and optimism, long lasting, an attitude of the heart—a state of being
  • Happiness is external, being happy with the situation, circumstances, more temporary in nature—a positive emotion

There is an entire segment of research and academics that are studying the Science of Happiness. An acclaimed psychotherapist, Martin Seigelman is the founder of positive psychology and has created the PERMA model. We find the PERMA model encompasses all the elements when you have joy in your life. PERMA in short is Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment.

Positive emotions

For us to experience well-being, we need positive emotion in our lives. Any positive emotion like peace, gratitude, satisfaction, pleasure, inspiration, hope, curiosity, or love falls into this category – and the message is that it’s really important to enjoy yourself in the here and now


When we’re truly engaged in a situation, task, or project, we experience a state of flow: time seems to stop, we lose our sense of self, and we concentrate intensely on the present.


As humans, we are “social beings,” and good relationships are core to our well-being. People who have meaningful, positive relationships with others are happier than those who do not. Relationships matter!