Its Official ‘Happy People are More Productive’

When you learn that it is a proven fact that ‘happy people are more productive’ and that successful corporations like Google and Ernst Young agree, you must think ‘why isn’t every employer taking notice of this. Is it because of disbelief of the evidence or lack of understanding, by the board members, of the huge benefits to be had, or a cultural thing where we don’t like change?

Change threatens the status quo, or risks promotion opportunity or is viewed as a waste of time because ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ attitude.

I’m sure we can all relate to the feeling of ‘I’m going to do that’ when we leave a motivational talk, or have been inspired by learning some new methodology for improving our working lives, only to find as every day pressures slowly sap the zeal from us.

Or even if we implement changes, as soon as we stop championing them they whither and drop away. Do we learn to become sanguine about the situation or should we seek to find ways that help us to improve working lives.

In every aspect of life, written and unwritten rules define our social existence. These rules started as an idea and grew to be accepted behaviours. Therefore frameworks must exist for ‘new and improved’ versions. So how can we permanently capitalise on the knowledge that ‘happy people are more productive’

In 2015 Economists, Andrew Oswald, Eugenio Proto, and Daniel Sgroi, from the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick carried out four different types of experiments on 700 participants, they tested the idea that happy employees work harder. The results indicated, happiness made people about 12 percent more productive.

“Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off,” says Oswald.

“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,” adds Sgroi.

Proto quoted “We have shown that happier subjects are more productive, the same pattern appears in four different experiments. This research will provide some guidance for management in all kinds of organizations, they should strive to make their workplaces emotionally healthy for their workforce.”

Sceptics could say ‘ah but laboratory testing has little relevance to the everyday working environments; where live conditions represent different pressures to individuals. They have a point. As humans our individual social history dictates the pressures we find stimulating or uncomfortable. Whereas in the laboratory, experiments are usually designed to measure set criteria and exclude any variable that could influence the results.

However in the report quotes from the real world of operating very successful business included these two

Google, we know that health, family and wellbeing are an important aspect of Googlers’ lives. We have also noticed that employees who are happy … demonstrate increased motivation … [We] … work to ensure that Google is… an emotionally healthy place to work.( Lara Harding, People Programs Manager, Google).

Supporting our people must begin at the most fundamental level – their physical and mental health and well- being. It is only from strong foundations that they can handle … complex issues.(Matthew Thomas, Manager – Employee Relations, Ernst and Young).

If, you like me, are fired up with evidence-based information like this, you may think of how you can help your co-workers become happier and your corporation more productive in a sustainable way. Obviously for any intention to become one of the rules we live by, requires dedication and ownership, preferably by a group of stakeholders.

For the idea of sustainably increasing employee happiness to transition into extra productivity we have to accept that the employee must maintain the emotion. To do this a mixture of increasing benefits and decreasing the pressures that cause unhappiness must be managed.

As a simple internal step you could start with a SWOT analysis, which could look like this:-

  • Strengths: The research and evidence from Google demonstrate positive advantages for the employees wellbeing and the corporations bottom line
  • Weakness: Do we have qualified expertise to manage the process? If not where do we obtain this. Do we know what the negative pressures are? Can we measure where we are and what affect any remedial actions have?
  • Opportunity: Better return on Investment through Increase in reasons for employee retention, lower absence levels, increase in profit and lower threat of employee litigation. Higher staff morale. A more efficient corporation is better placed to seize opportunity in the market place.
  • Threats: Waste of resources if not managed to fruition. Unless designed and managed by qualified people it is likely to yield a low return on investment.

If you have got this far and are still with me, you may be wondering although this information is really useful, what does it have to do with establishing good intentions? It’s this, for rules to become socially accepted they must be both inspiring and inclusive. I would suggest you recruit like-minded colleagues and produce an action plan to establish the process, which should aim to be more important than any individual involved and become self-perpetuating.

This could be one of the most significant undertakings that you perform, in terms of improving happiness and wellbeing for every individual and a contributing to a more efficient corporation.

As a final thought, It’s fair to say that ‘if you can’t measure something, how do you know you are changing it’?

Dependant on what a 12% increase in productivity looks like on your corporations bottom line, you may feel that a small investment in a psychosocial risk assessment, where your corporations statistics are compared to the national average and other indexes to measure performance, and in addition test your compliance to current guidelines.

Before committing to this you might want to visit www.workingforwellbeing.co.uk and use their FREE wellbeing calculator and input your own data and find the true costs of the underlying pressures that contribute to employee unhappiness to your corporation.

Or investing in a psychosocial test to determine the strength of negative pressures, that exist in every organisation, may be valuable in helping you define an evidence based plan to increase employee happiness in your corporation.

Francis McGinty BSc (Hons) Psych

References

Andrew Oswald, Eugenio Proto, and Daniel Sgroi from the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick Published in the Journal of Labor Economics, 2015.

Working for Wellbeing Ltd Free calculator at www.workingforwellbeing.co.uk.