UC Berkeley Executive Education Partners with United Arab Emirates to Create Happier Workers

The United Arab Emirates’ Prime Minister’s Office has appointed 60 “Chief Happiness and Positivity Officers,” who are being trained by a cross-section of campus faculty experts to create a more positive workforce, and ultimately a happier country.

The training and development program—which will be taught in both Dubai and Berkeley—is spearheaded by UC Berkeley Executive Education, partnering with Berkeley-Haas and the Greater Good Science Center.

“We are thrilled to partner with The Greater Good Science Center and rely on UC Berkeley Psychology Professor Dacher Keltner’s influential body of research for this innovative program,” said Mike Reilly, CEO of UC Berkeley Executive Education, who traveled to Dubai for the contract signing in August. “Our hope is that the government, citizens, and residents of the UAE are able to build happier lives through what we’ve learned from the science of happiness and positivity and serve as an inspiration to other countries.”

Mike Rielly, CEO of Berkeley Executive Education, signing the UAE contract

The training supports Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s five-year initiative, which focuses on promoting happiness and positivity in government work through policies and initiatives; promoting happiness and positivity as a lifestyle in the UAE; and developing ways to measure happiness in the community. Berkeley-Haas Lecturer Rajiv Ball is faculty director of the program.

UC Berkeley and Haas faculty will teach in the areas of business, psychology, leadership and public policy on topics ranging from mindfulness, to creating metrics around happiness and positivity, to leading happy people and organizations. Government employees working in areas including the oil industry, information technology, education, and welfare are participating.

“We are delighted at the opportunity to partner with the UAE,” said Berkeley-Haas Dean Rich Lyons. “This is a wonderfully forward-thinking program and initiative, and we are grateful for being selected, reflecting Berkeley’s leadership in interdisciplinary research and unparalleled spirit of questioning the status quo.

The government’s happiness officers-in-training are taking their work in the program quite seriously, says Andrea Salvemini, director of business development for UC Berkeley Executive Education. Salvemini attended the first session in September in Dubai, taught by Keltner, who also teaches at Haas, and Emiliana Simon-Thomas, co-directors of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, which researches happiness and gratitude.

“There is a clear science behind happiness and they are applying what they learn as they go,” said Salvemini. “Happiness at work is attainable—and our faculty members are helping these workers to become leaders who are more engaged with their colleagues and, ultimately, more satisfied at their jobs.”

Future sessions will be taught at UC Berkeley, and in Dubai, tapping faculty expertise from across campus. Site visits to study companies practicing happiness and positivity in the workplace are also planned to local companies in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area.