Happiness & Work Productivity

Analysis of 200 studies involving around 250,000 people showed that higher levels of happiness correlates with a higher degree of success across all aspects of life, including work. 

Taking into account all other variables, research shows happier workers to be more productive, better leaders, sell more and earn more when compared to colleagues who are less happy.

Relating to other research which shows happier people are healthier, it’s unsurprising that happier employee’s take significantly less sick days, which considering statistics show the estimated cost of sickness absence for the average sized business is £400 per day per person, you would think business owners and directors would be paying more attention to the mounting evidence.

Managers and directors are increasingly focused on putting ‘health’ back into health & safety with wellbeing programmes becoming more commonplace, however, finding out how to make staff happy is a BIG win, still being missed.

Having wellbeing days or events is great but if ways of working are fundamentally making employees unhappy, no amount of massages or wellbeing events will help keep staff healthy and productive.

For example, many businesses still subscribe to outdated methods of ‘motivation’, such as, what I call, the ‘push & punish’ approach whereby staff are pushed to breaking point and then maintained just below this maximal workload and capacity. I guess the thinking behind this is to make sure staff are as productive as they can be but this method belongs buried in the 1980’s.

Target driven pay or bonuses are also commonly used. This can work very well for extrinsically motivated personality types (I.e. driven by external rewards) and extremely well for those with psychopathic traits but will completely demotivate and cause misery for people who are intrinsically motivated (e.g. driven by a sense of doing a good job).

Also, the happiness of receiving a cash bonus for reaching targets is often offset by the following pressure of having to reach even higher targets the following month or quarter. This is the true concept of a ‘push & punish’ system because eventually they will fail. Equally, reaching targets is not necessarily a reflection of productivity, dedication or hard work. An employee might be working extra hours and working twice as hard and yet still fail to reach targets set for them.

Targets and bonuses have there place of course, but should not be seen as a means to motivate staff or get the best from them and as for staff being kept at near breaking point, I feel this is  ridiculously short sighted because it will not only decrease happiness – and therefore productivity – it is also highly likely to be the root cause of high staff turnover.

Workplace wellbeing programmes should embrace the evidence and do much more to create a happy work force if the business wants to thrive.

Vice President of people development at Google:
“It’s less about the aspiration to be No. 1 in the world, and more that we want our employees and future employees to love it here, because that’s what’s going to make us successful.”

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