Human connections key to contentment

Human connections key to contentment

There is no happiness in life without human connections. And that’s not just one person’s opinion speaking – that’s 75 years of research into adult development by the Harvard Grant Study speaking.

Partner, Global Head of Family Business

KPMG in France


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One of the directors of the study, George Valiant, reports that the findings of the decades-long study is that warm and intimate relationships are the most prevalent indicator of contentment with life. Other factors such as work enjoyment, health and a good income are also strong indicators of happiness, but none are as significant as close human relationships.

The primacy of family relationships

The most common setting for warm and long-lasting relationships is family – the immediate family unit as well as extended family. Family firms therefore have a unique opportunity for fostering their most meaningful relationships even through their work.

Ways of fostering these relationships include:

  • the eating of meals together,
  • extended family get-togethers (this includes in-laws),
  • the inclusion of games and other fun activities into family meetings,
  • the creation and retelling of family lore,
  • family outings,
  • group celebrations of individual milestones and achievements, and
  • group celebrations of business-related milestones and achievements.

What other activities do you think should be on this list? Please share in the comments section below.

Emphasising the family in family business

Older generations would do well – for the sake of both their own happiness and that of ensuing generations – to promote the importance of family connections in relation to the family firm. If family relations are shunted to the side during business hours home relations will be negatively impacted. Rather invest in family members at all hours and promote the importance of these relationships at all times, as this should not only bring about better workplace results but also build lasting relationships that are integral to the entire family’s harmony and happiness.

Some steps you could consider taking to emphasise the family in family business are:

  • write or commission a family business book – this might be a formal history of the company or a storybook that the young in the family could read,
  • speak during family gatherings about individuals’ unique contributions to the business (which could also include the less marketable aspects, like their pranks, sense of humour, and bear hugs), and
  • have a discussion where older generations share with the younger ones work challenges they faced and how they overcame them.

Include family members outside of the business

For the greatest level of satisfaction with both family and work, make an effort to include those family members not directly involved in the family business. All family members are a part of one’s family’s story, so the non-working mother or young child should be made to feel that the company’s story is also their story, and vice versa since their lives feed into the family firm members’ lives and influence them and their work.

Look for ways to include these family members in the business wherever possible. For instance:

  • talk with them during family meals or meetings about business milestones, funny incidents at the office, and so on,
  • introduce important non-family employees to members of the family who are not part of the business,
  • use work celebrations and year-end parties and the like to have family members mingle with the work crowd, and
  • take children around the office giving them the opportunity to see what you do and ask questions.

We all want to be happy, and now not only our gut but also solid research indicate that the way to achieve this is to invest in the development of solid and close personal relationships.

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