Hamburger of Happiness

Hamburger of Happiness

In 2022, the Centenary University launched the humanities first Master of Arts in Happiness Studies program, which is being directed by internationally renowned expert and author Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, who is also the co-founder of the Happiness Studies Academy. This comes at an opportune time when global stress levels are at its unprecedented high.


In fact, the American Psychiatric Association reported late last year that 26 percent anticipated experiencing more stress at the onset of 2023, up from one 20 percent last year. The American Institute of Stress revealed that for 2023, 94 percent of US workers reported feeling stress at work and 63 percent of US workers said they are ready to quit their job to avoid work-related stress. Globally, the number of stressed people out of 143 countries is 35 percent.

In the Philippines, a recent study by Milieu Insight revealed that 47 percent of Filipino workers surveyed said they have anxiety symptoms while 46 percent experienced burnout due to work-related stress. Furthermore, the top work-related stressors among Philippine respondents cited having too heavy workload (46 percent), long hours at work (41 percent) and worries over job performance (40 percent).


Workplace stress is real. In many cases, our employees and staff spend more time at work than in their homes together with their families. That’s why we as managers and employers seek to make the workplace as conducive as possible to their well-being and satisfaction. How do we make our employees happy in the workplace?

In the book Happier by Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, he discusses the “Hamburger Model” of happiness where he categorizes situations into four types of hamburgers, depending on the benefit or detriment to one’s present or future.


The first type is the vegetarian burger. This describes a tasteless vegetarian burger made only with the most healthful ingredients, which would afford one future benefits, in that one would subsequently feel good and healthy, and present detriment, in that one would not enjoy eating it. One example of this situation is a hardworking employee, working long hours to get the job done to build some savings to secure a future like owning a house; but he is not enjoying his job and finds it a daily grind.

The second type is the junk food burger. This is a tasty hamburger that would yield present benefits and that one would enjoy, but future detriment in that one would subsequently not feel well. This is exemplified by a hedonist who seeks pleasure and avoids pain, like a person who indulges in drinking, drugs and sex, not thinking about tomorrow.

The third type is the worst of all possible burgers, which is both tasteless and unhealthy in eating it, one would experience present detriment, in that it tastes bad and suffer future detriment, in that it is unhealthy. This describes a person who has lost the drive and lust for life; someone who neither enjoys the moment nor has a purposeful future.

The last type is the ideal burger which exemplifies the happiness archetype. Happy people that knowingly perform activities that would bring them enjoyment in the present would also lead to a fulfilling future. This means finding enjoyment in our jobs now while saving some money for the future. Instead of asking “Should I be happy now or in the future?,” one should ask “How can I be happy now and in the future?”


We have to strive to provide the ideal hamburger of happiness to our employees — such that they enjoy their jobs while living a purposeful life for the future. Perhaps business leaders need to take up further studies in happiness.

The author is the founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consulting, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is a fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He is the chairman of the IT Governance Committee of the Finex Academy. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at rey.