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Balancing the Grind with Evan Sutter, Co-Founder & CEO of Hapzly

Evan Sutter is a happiness consultant, author, and speaker, as well as the co-founder & CEO of Hapzly, a social enterprise with a mission to advocate for the happiest businesses.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’m the founder of the social enterprise Hapzly – a movement that recognises, supports and promotes, those businesses amongst us that are helping to make the world a better – happier – place.

We do that through consulting (The Happiness Score), education, events, awards, research, and social impact projects.

The idea for Hapzly came to me after living in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village Monastery in France. When I returned home I wrote a book (Solitude: How Doing Nothing Can Change The World), and ran a range of events to teach people the skills to live their happiest lives.

I started an environmental campaign, an education initiative in Colombia where children illustrated my stories to learn English in a fun way and dynamic way, and I got involved in a social enterprise in a favela in Brazil to teach them the skills in entrepreneurship and mindfulness.

It was these last three things in particular that made me realise that maybe we could make bigger change than just teaching people the art of happiness – and I saw business at the center of that change.

Because where we spend our time and money shapes the world. Spend it as consumers, employees, business owners, suppliers, and in our many roles as human beings with businesses and people that are doing great things and we spread happiness far and wide.

So, I wanted to create an initiative that made it easier to make business better and happier. An initiative that measures businesses on their happiness output and creates a framework for a flourishing business.

A tool to better guide corporate responsibility, sustainability and wellbeing, pinpoint areas for integrated and holistic workplace happiness, and make it easier for all of us to make better choices.

The amazing work done by businesses is limited if no one knows about them and it doesn’t affect how we spend our time and money. And, our great choices every day are limited if others’ choices aren’t great, and aren’t great on a much larger scale.

I currently speak around the world about happiness and well-being, from both an individual and business perspective. I have a new book called Awake due for release in 2021 with Schiffer Publishing, and I have an online course called Happier (available at evansuttter.com).

I consult small and large companies to improve their overall happiness output, and I occasionally work 1 on 1 in this space with CEO’s, entrepreneurs and athletes.

Prior to Hapzly, I worked as the CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) at Vancouver based startup Conscious and created an online activism meets environmentalism magazine called Journalistic Thieves – probably a little before its time.

2) What does a day in life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

My day starts between 6am and 7am. I don’t use an alarm, I wake up with the clock from a nearby bell tower (my bedroom is a tech-free zone).

I drink some water, meditate for 10-30 minutes. I go for a 30-45 minute run along the coastline, finished off with a cold ocean swim, and hot tea/coffee. I do some light movement, stretching and yoga before opening up the laptop.

My workdays are typically very varied. Most recently I’ve been working on a series of talks for some upcoming events, Workplace Wellness is next – the largest workplace wellness festival in Australia.

I’ve been working with my editor for the release of my new book, and have been working with local government on a new initiative we are hoping to launch next month. I like to break fairly regularly, every 2 hours or so, to make some food, stretch, walk to look at the ocean/check the surf, go for a coffee, and nap in the afternoons.

When I work I don’t check email, take calls or multi-task, this allows me to work very efficiently, find flow, have fun, and most importantly have time to find great balance with everything else in my life.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yes, very much so. Ever since I read Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia over 8 years ago, I’ve been focusing on an integrated life, and that is one with considerable balance and varied interests.

Flexible and remote work allows me to create joy in many different interests at all times of the day, which in turn deeply affects my passion for the work I’m doing and my ability to actually do them well – and enjoy them.

Flexible working means less time commuting and more time walking, sitting, drinking coffee, watching the ocean – with no agenda – and this is fundamental to my health and well-being (and for most of us).

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work is one component of a life, if the components are out of whack, misaligned, imbalanced, then eventually we will suffer. Well, we will suffer either way because we are human, but we will suffer more, and more often.

Work-life balance is utilising your time – for me the most important thing – in a way that allows you to enjoy your life – your relationships, your health, fulfillment, your interests – and dive into life and its bewildering palette of possibilities.

Without balance we lose time, and without time we lose possibilities. If you wait until you retire to find better balance, then you will have less interests to actually want to enjoy, and you will be in poor health to actually enjoy them anyway.

Any type of imbalance will eventually make us sick, whether that is eating too much, drinking too much, sleeping too much or too little, eventually it gets us. This is the same for work, if you’re too imbalanced and neglecting other areas of your life, eventually it will get you – if it isn’t already.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I stopped using an alarm. I stopped reading media before midday. I threw my TV out the window – well, I never threw it out the window but I got rid of it. I deleted my LinkedIn app. That one is good for balance.

I still have LinkedIn, but I don’t get notifications every time I get a message, etc. I just check it every now and then on the laptop. I did that for most of my apps. I started morning ocean swims again, even in winter.

When I work I only open the one tab I’m working on, this prevents distraction from getting new emails etc. and allows me to get deeper into the current task – and complete it better and faster (so I can surf and nap more).

I stopped intermittent fasting, and then started it again. I’ve found eating in that smaller window gives me more energy throughout the day, I feel fresher, lighter, and sleep better and deeper.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Right now I’m reading Lifespan by David Sinclair (about aging and longevity), Love’s Executioner by Irvin Yalom (about tales of Psychotherapy), Pathways To Bliss by Joseph Campbell and Happiness By Design by Paul Dolan.

I don’t really listen to podcasts, instead I like to read books everyday. I loved Pinkers’ Enlightenment Now, Sapiens by Harari, and an old favourite is Letters To My Son by Kent Nerburn. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman was a good one too.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

No. Just the sun and trees.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Yvon Chouinard at Patagonia. I know Cliff Bar does some great things around balance and are typically at the top of the 50 best workplaces for flexibility – maybe their founder would be an interesting read.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I look at work, life and balance from the lens of happiness.

Time is obviously a very important component of our happiness, well of our lives, and so a satisfying work life balance and things like flexibility play a crucial role. Especially in our busy, time-precious lives, one of the greatest things we can do as a business, and as individuals, is look at how we spend our time.

You want to be happier? 1st step – examine how you spend your time. Socrates said “an unexamined life is not worth living,” for business, examine how the people around you spend their time.

Research from Robert Half and Happiness Works shows that people who feel free at work are 2.7 times more likely to be happy than those who don’t. Most things that make your people happier make your business better. Yes, I used to spend a lot of my time in California, but this isn’t all hippy idealism. It makes business better.

Of the 50 best workplaces for flexibility, ones that offer flextime and telecommuting, 95% of employees said they would give extra to get a job done, and loyalty improved with 9 in 10 saying they would stay for a long time.

It can save a company significant money, it can attract, hire, and retain top talent from anywhere in the world. Workers are happier, more productive, less stressed,and the employee turnover rate is greatly reduced. High-trust culture improves performance.

When you look further along, we see that a culture that promotes a healthy work-life balance leads directly to a country with high childhood satisfaction rates – and that’s pretty huge!

Looking at time use and balance can have a huge impact on our individual happiness, the happiness of entire populations of children – children who then become adults – and the success of our businesses.

So we need to be creative in this space. What about implementing things like lazy days, lazy mornings or days and mornings of mindfulness? We did this at the monastery and they were powerful.

A chance for all of us to shift from doing mode to being mode. Doing mode isn’t always the best way of achieving peak performance. We replace auto-pilot with awareness, we don’t always try to sit and outthink our problems – that’s difficult and stressful.

We learn to reconnect mind with body, step outside the storm and noise, relax, refocus, reinvigorate – crucial for our health and wellbeing, not to mention things like creativity, innovation and productivity.

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This conversation is brought to you by Think Bespoke, providing LinkedIn training for individuals and organisations in Melbourne and Sydney.

About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.