"Well-being Management": ANA Group Adopts Happiness Planet Gym by Hitachi

Flight attendants showing the display of the Happiness Planet Gym app (Photo: Daisuke Saito)

In recent years, the topic of "well-being" has garnered attention for its focus on maintaining a good state of mental and physical well-being. Against this backdrop, Happiness Planet, a Hitachi Group company, has made available an app called "Happiness Planet Gym." This app is a service that supports the enhancing of company well-being by generating positive intra-organizational connections. We spoke with the ANA Group about the lead-up to and results of the group’s adoption of this service.

In the spotlight: What is "well-being management?"

Kazuo Yano, CEO of Happiness Planet
Kazuo Yano, CEO of Happiness Planet (Photo: Daisuke Saito)

According to Happiness Planet CEO Kazuo Yano, "Research has shown that happy employees have about 30% higher productivity.i There is also data showing that companies with high numbers of happy employees have about 18% higher profit. ii"

He also says that, when implemented, well-being management—a management method focused on improving employee health and quality of life—has many benefits not only for employees but for companies, too.

Mr. Shinichi Inoue, president of ANA, explained their reason for focusing on employee happiness, as follows:

Mr. Shinichi Inoue, president of ANA
Mr. Shinichi Inoue, president of ANA (Photo: Daisuke Saito)

"We all desire to live a happy life. I was deeply impressed with this during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without a vital workforce, companies cannot create value and boost productivity. What is needed is an environment that promotes the mindset of 'being happy while working.'"

In February 2023, the ANA Group announced a new management vision: "Uniting the World in Wonder." To achieve this, the group aims to maximize employees’ performance by improving their sense of happiness.

Mr. Inoue said that "While wondering what must be done to attain the new management vision, I arrived at an action plan thanks to a book by Mr. Yano about technologies for measuring happiness. After going to meet and talk directly with him, I decided to adopt Happiness Planet Gym."

Developing a positive spirit through declarations and support

The display of Happiness Planet Gym (Photo: Daisuke Saito)

Happiness Planet Gym lets multiple employees from different departments, job types, job locations, and other situations communicate with each other by using a dedicated app.

Every morning, when users open the app, it displays such expressions as "Going forward, how can you strategize for fulfilling work?" Employees then use the app to post a positive declaration, such as "Today, I will work hard to create presentation materials." Members from the same team can then respond by sending "supports" (supportive comments).

Over time, making such small declarations and offering such support gives employees a sense of connection with those they work with and enables them to maintain positivity in their work.

Yano said that "Support is found in sports but not so much in business. Whether giving or receiving support, it has the effect of boosting one's positive energy while promoting happiness."

"Just like using Instagram"

For six weeks starting in June 2023, the ANA Group held its 1st Happiness Cup, a competitive team event that uses Happiness Planet Gym. In total, 150 employees in their 20s formed teams of 15 that competed against each other for points. According to the rules, points are accumulated according to number of declarations, number of supports, and content of comments.

Ms. Rinku Abe, a grand staff member and event participant, said that "It was amazingly fun to use—just like Instagram, X [formerly Twitter], and other social media."

Ms. Rinku Abe of ANA Airport Services
Ms. Rinku Abe of ANA Airport Services

She added that "Making positive declarations, giving points to people you want to support, and graduating from one level to the next as if playing a game—these all helped make a habit of using this game. When I saw how fellow workers of the same generation were converting their failures into positives, such as in 'Next time, I'll do it like this,' it gave me courage."

Also through the app, Ms. Abe received praise on her attitude toward her daily work from fellow workers involved in different types of work with whom she ordinarily did not cross paths.

"During the competition, many of our customers were traveling for summer vacation, but because my fellow workers and I had made a habit of supporting each other through the app, I could provide higher-quality service to customers than this time last year."

Posting according to a theme (Photo: Daisuke Saito)

The 1st Happiness Cup brought together employees of the same generation working in a wide range of workplaces, including airport operations staff, pilots and flight attendants, mechanics, call centers, systems, catering, sales, cargo, accounting, general affairs, and human resources.

Users also made new discoveries about their accustomed work through comments from fellow workers of the same generation but in different situations, and they have continued to exchange information with the people they met during the Happiness Cup.

A participant questionnaire was conducted in which over 90% of respondents said that they would like to "continue creating supportive and encouraging connections with colleagues in other organizations." They also responded that they could "keep their eyes on the work of the entire group (work besides their own)."

Creating an environment that facilitates "being happy while working"

Mr. Kaihei Kato of the ANA Group's Labor Administration Department
Mr. Kaihei Kato of the ANA Group's Employee Relations

The ANA Group's Employee Relations was responsible for operating the Happiness Cup. Speaking about the features of Happiness Planet Gym, department member Mr. Kaihei Kato pointed out that, through the app, fellow workers connected by means of "support" rather than via simple communication using a comment function.

"Rather than an environment in which simple impressions and critical words fly about, the app delivers in infrastructure for the positive exchange of ideas through the support function, enabling participants to connect with each other through positive words. This is a huge difference from other social media and represents a tremendous advantage."

Mr. Kato also gave the reasons for limiting participation in the Happiness Cup to people in their 20s:

"For the first competition, we targeted people in their 20s. This is because we realized that they had limited opportunities to communicate and connect with fellow workers from other workplaces due to the pandemic starting right after they joined the company. While at subsequent competitions, we will be verifying the effects of adopting this app, in the future, instead of constraining it to a certain generation, we would like for more employees to experience the changes in feelings and behavior afforded by Happiness Planet Gym. If this initiative improves our employee happiness level and the quality of our customer service downstream while also triggering the growth of society's potential, then we can look back on the adoption of this app as a big success."

The ANA Group plans to expand participation in the Happiness Cup to other generations. In addition, the group will work together with Happiness Planet to realize its vision of "Uniting the World in Wonder" by further improving employee well-being and by maximizing employee performance.

i [Reference] Harvard Business Review (January 2012) Special feature: The value of happiness
ii [Reference] Harvard Business Review (January 2012) Special feature: The value of happiness

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