Are Happy People More Productive?
The business world can be brutal. Companies will chase after talent, trends, and technology to gain a competitive edge.
However, they may need to look somewhere else besides their inventory or assets. Instead, gaining an advantage in today’s cutthroat economy, they may want to leverage their people.
Because a line of research that has been gaining momentum shows that happy people are more productive.
Happiness Drives Productivity
People used to think that motivating their workforce was as simple as paying them more money. To a large degree many people still think that money is the best motivator. But it’s an outdated idea.
In recent years, research has begun to show how happiness can lead a company to higher profits. One of the most famous and compelling pieces of evidence comes from economics professor Andrew Oswald and his team from the University of Warwick.
Why was his study so important?
We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity.
Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings, while negative emotions have the opposite effect.
It was important because it was one of the first studies to find that happiness causes productivity. And they did it over four different experiments in randomized controlled studies – a strong and reliable form of research.
Happiness Boosts Productivity by 12%
In the study, people performed a boring task of adding a bunch of 2 digit numbers together. But before they performed the task, individuals were randomly assigned to watch 1 of 2 clips. Either a comedy clip designed to raise happiness, or a “placebo” clip featuring patterns of colored sticks.
Those who had a boost in happiness performed better at the task. What’s more is that the data also showed that those who watched the comedy clip but didn’t report being any happier had no boost in their productivity.
Another experiment looked at negative life events from a person’s recent past. If they had a death or illness in the family withing the last two years, an individual’s performance was worse when compared to other.
When they measured productivity from a numbers perspective, the authors write:
Happier workers, our research found, were 12% more productive. Unhappier workers were 10% less productive.
And while 12% was the average, some groups were as much as 20% more productive when compared against the control groups.
While you shouldn’t generalize the 12% number for different types of tasks or industries, it lends strong evidence to the happiness/productivity theory.
Why Does Happiness Cause Productivity?
Positive emotions can definitely help you feel more energized, but it’s deeper than just that. Dr. Sgroi from the study says this:
The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality.
The story really doesn’t stop there, though. There are many benefits of happiness that can have an impact on your professional success. So while Andrew’s study shows a direct and causal relationship, there are other factors at play.
For example, Harvard Business Review conducted an interesting analysis that looked at hundreds of studies. Their data crunching found that happy people had 31% higher productivity. They also found their creativity was 3 times as high.
Another study found that positive emotions translated into greater persistence at tasks and better cognitive functioning. It even contributed to more overall workplace happiness.
Between these results, and the fact that happy people are more cooperative and have better social relationships, you can begin to see how productivity gets its boost.
You Work Harder When You’re Happy
Some people believe that achieving professional success will make them happy. And it can, at least temporarily.
Big picture, though, psychologists are beginning to make the case that happiness causes success. And being more productive on the job is a key contributor.
But whether you’re seeking professional success or personal success, you could argue that just being happy is its own reward. And maybe the only success that matters.