Modern attention toward a work environment that keeps employees happy is more than just feel-good fluff; a new study shows clearer links than ever before between worker happiness and productivity.
Researchers from the Social Market Foundation at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy showed that productivity increased by an average of 12 percent — and up to 20 percent — when test subjects were given what the researchers termed, “happiness shocks.” (For instance, they were shown a 10-minute comedy clip or were provided with snacks and drinks.)
In addition to the 700-person randomized controlled trial, they also looked at long-term worker productivity data and found that the effect was even more pronounced for unhappy employees, by showing that unplanned, unhappy events in workers’ lives led to decreased productivity for about two years.
The findings strengthen the case for employers who are shifting away from the traditional workplace — something that we’ve talked about and has been in the news for years in response to the out-of-the-box workplace practices at companies like Google.
Yet we can’t help but wonder: If the happy and unhappy events that affected productivity came from external factors, could there be even greater benefits if employers also sought to make people happier with the way work fits into their personal lives.
A shorter commute, for instance — no one starts the workday in a good mood after spending an hour in traffic (long shown to have deleterious effects on people). Perhaps providing a balance between structure and freedom in where and when employees are “at work” could reduce stress and improve overall happiness. The same goes with stifling workspaces. Providing opportunities for workers to learn, not just produce; and creating an environment that is stimulating but not draining, could also have a profound effect on employee happiness and, ultimately, productivity.
If people come into the office happier, lighter — feeling as if it was someplace they enjoy being rather than where they are obligated to be, think of how much more productive, more inspired the workplace could be.