Happiness and Productivity in the Workplace

A recent poll concluded that  a mere 15% of global workers actually like their job. The vast majority positively dislike their workplaces, perceiving them as something to be endured rather than enjoyed.

But what would it mean if people turned up to work in a place they felt great about, and where they felt supported and inspired? 

These things are hard to quantify but one study, from the University of Warwick, suggested it could mean a 12-20% spike in productivity.

As to sales teams, a Harvard Business Review found that happier teams can sell 37% more.

summary
Whether you’re looking at it through the lens of neuroscience, psychology, or management studies,, happier employees perform better on all fronts, significantly boosting the productivity of the organisation as a whole. Happy employees also demonstrate more loyalty, resilience, and better health.

Nine Tangible Benefits of Happy Employees

1 https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_study_shows/
2,3 https://hbr.org/2011/06/the-happiness-dividend/
4 https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/12/13/promoting-employee-happiness-benefits-everyone//
5 https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/bul-1316803.pdf//
6 Kopelman, Rosette & Thompson, 2006/
7 https://hbr.org/1973/07/why-employees-stay, 2006/
8 http://www.mutualresponsibility.org/science/facts-statistics-happiness-contagious/
9 http://smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-keeping-employees-happy-15648.html

This means that encouraging happiness in the workplace, via well documented methods, is a wholly sensible, worthwhile endeavour for any employer. 

It’s worth it even if your sole objective is the bottom line. But if you want to create a business which makes the world a better place, a positive office culture ranks as a foundational strategy.

Arbedjsglæde
Pronounced “ah-bites-gleh-he”, this Danish word means the happiness which we derive from doing something. It’s an emotion which arises when we work in harmony with others, feel respected and acknowledged, and satisfied with our work environment.

How Does Happiness Affect Productivity?

Before we continue it’s worth establishing the clear link between happiness and productivity.

A landmark study from The University of Warwick in 2015 proved that increased happinesss directly correlates to greater productivity.

Happier individuals showed approximately 12% greater output, whilst unhappy ones demonstrate noteable less productivity.

a productive office

How do you Improve Workplace Happiness?

Knowing the benefits of happy employees is one thing, making it happen is another.

Here are some well documented methods of promoting a happier team in the workplace.

(1) Use Office Plants

Office Plants consistently score highly in studies around employee happiness.

Some theories posit that something known as biophilia, a genetically wired tendency towards nature, may be responsible for this.

Aside from their obvious aesthetic qualities, office plants can:

(2) Create Quiet Spaces

Evidence suggests that distracting noise ranks right at the top of things which annoy office workers.

Despite the much vaunted benefits of open plan offices, too much noise affects our ability to concentrate and retain information, resulting in lower quality work output and productivity.

One solution is to create a dedicated quiet space where workers can escape noisy environments, focus on specific tasks, or simply relax and meditate.

If an office design doesn’t allow for a dedicated quiet room, soundproofed ‘acoustic pods’ are now a fixture in many progressive offices. In addition to adding a futuristic vibe to any creative space, they can be moved easily, come with integrated power, data and lighting, and can even be used as a meeting room.

(3) Encourage Personalisation

For most employees the workplace offers a stark contrast to the warm, familiar and comforting environs of their own homes.

Because of this employees often feel disconected with with the space in which they work. But this can be changed via encouraging workers to peronalise their desks and cubicles to give it something of their own flavour.

This approach works particularly well with Millenials and Gen Z’ers for who strongly prioritise a sense of workplace engagement. Personalisation offers employees their own voice and lends them a sense of specialness which, in turn, benefits the work culture as a whole.

Similarly, workers in open plan offices seem to demonstrate particular benefits to personalisation opportunities since it offers them a sense of control that may counteract the lack of privacy.

Most of us have a deep-rooted, irrepressible, psychological need to express ourselves in our places of work. We need to show our uniqueness, quietly proud of our taste. People want to see and show what is meaningful to them (that photo of your baby!), or make the workplace more real by dressing it up in that colour that says so much about you – characteristics that reaffirm identities. This is especially true for those who dislike conforming to uniformity.

Psychologist Jan P De Jonge

(4) Prioritise Natural Light

Our biology responds extremely well to natural light, regulating vitamin D levels, improving sleep patterns and making us happier.

Office workers with access to an abundance of natural light experience:

Dr. Alan Hedge of Cornell University’s Department of Design and Environmental Analysis goes so far as to suggest that a mere 2 percent increase in productivity is the “equivalent of an additional $100,000 of annual value for every 100 workers” earning an average yearly salary of $50,000

Of course not every office building allows for the right levels of light. In these cases, offices can install lighting systems which mimix natural light via adjustable light dimmers, tunable white light systems or the latest LED skylights.

(5) Focus on Ergonomics

Even laptop-bound office workers use their bodies. Typing, picking up the telephone, strolling to the office printer and sitting in meetings all require the use of workstations, chairs and sofas.

Over time, protracted periods of incorrect posture cause physical issues such as neck strain, carpal tunnel, and musculoskeletal discomfort.

Considering the average worker actually spends more of his/her
awake time at the company workstation than any other single area – even more than his/her living room couch – there is every reason to make workers feel comfortable.

Employers can therefore support employees via:

  • Postural training sessions
  • Standing desks
  • Egonomic chairs
  • Encouraging hourly breaks
  • Gym vouchers

Offices which encourage proactive ergonomics demonstrate greater overall happiness and team wellbeing. They exhibit less work-based injuries, and better job satisfaction.

(6) Collaborative Working

Google is one large company which recognises the value of collaborative working. Their offices emphasise non-hierarchical structures in which people of all ages and levels of seniority inhabit collaborative spaces to work, share information and promote what they call ‘casual collision’.

Casual collision
Evidence suggests that ‘casual collision’, that is chance encounters and random interactions between employees, promotes performance. Steve Jobs, considered the father of this idea, said: ‘”Our business depends upon collaboration. And it depends upon unplanned collaboration.”‘

(6) Nutritious Food & Drink

Google and other large tech companies have taken the science of productivity to advanced levels. One of their secret weapons in geting the most out of their teams is by providing free, unlimited organic food throughout their offices.

By fuelling their team with fresh, healthy and appetising snacks, they gain focussed and happy employees. And since many employees spend more time at work than at home, the dietary choices they make there also has a tremendous impact on their overall health. In turn this costs Google less in sick leave and lost productivity.

Good office food can:

  • Boost Employee Morale
  • Increase productivity
  • Raise Job Satisfaction
  • Elevate Cognitive Performance