Posted by: goalpath | July 10, 2009

Does Happiness in the Workplace Equate to Higher Productivity?

The answer is yes. Numerous research studies have borne this out. Alexander Kjerulf, author of Happy Hour is 9 to 5, speaks to and consults with business executives on how to change their workplaces from dreary and stressful to fun, energized and happy. According to Mr. Kjerulf, happy workers work better with others, are more creative, have more energy, are more optimistic, are more motivated, get sick less often, learn faster, make fewer mistakes and make better decisions. Consequently, they are much more productive.  

Okay, the next question is, “How can a person achieve a higher level of happiness in the workplace?” I suspect you have plenty of ideas and have even tried several of them. Was the outcome what you expected? If not, read on.

If you ask people in your office what would make them happier at work, most would tell you less hours and more pay. I don’t actually believe that is true. That is the standard response. But research on the subject indicates that is not the case. Less hours, could increase one’s happiness level. Generally, more time spent away from work with friends and loved ones will increase one’s happiness. But if you are unhappy, money might be a quick fix, but in the long run it won’t cure the problem.

 A research study by Nattavudh Powdthavee, an economics professor at the University of London, suggests that money will not affect your happiness nearly as much as your personal relationships with family and friends. According to Professor Powdthavee, if you take a job that requires you to relocate a long distance away from the city where your friends and family live, you would need to earn an extra $133,000 to make up for the lack of happiness you would feel by being so far away from them.

Okay, so money won’t buy happiness at work. What can we do to be happy and more productive at work? Gretchen Rubin has some suggestions. Gretchen graduated from Yale Law School, was editor of the Yale Law Journal and clerked for Sandra Day O’Connor at the U.S. Supreme Court. Gretchen is currently finishing her book, The Happiness Project, due out at the end of 2009 (Harper Collins).

According to Gretchen, the secrets to happiness in the workplace revolve around controlling your environment. People are happier when they feel a sense of control over their lives. Letting employees do it their way is critical to happiness. My management philosophy has always been to give my subordinates goals and guidelines and then give them the freedom to get the job done the best way they know how. I learned early on that employing micromanagement techniques and rigid job definitions decreased the productivity of my staff.

Gretchen also believes that having an easy commute will go along way to maintaining a happy disposition at work. Not exactly an epiphany, but having experienced difficult commutes in the past, I am aware of the toll it takes on you and your family. Working out of a home office does have its advantages. The only problem there is you are always at work.

Another factor that Gretchen mentions is wasted time. Inefficient meetings and tight work deadlines create major problems for many white collar workers. She mentions Bob Sutton’s book, The No Ass**le Rule, which recommends eliminating chairs from meetings. A study found that meetings where members STOOD for the whole meeting took 34% less time, with no loss in quality.

Other happiness factors in the workplace she cites include accommodating social interactions, providing job and skills growth, encouraging healthy habits and fitness, and surprising your employees with an outing, party or gift on occasion. She says that recent studies reveal the importance of social relationships and how interacting with others at work boosts the moods of all concerned, even the introverts. She recommends designing office spaces so they encourage social interactions.

Anything an employer can do to help their employees achieve personal growth will increase that employee’s dedication and commitment to the company. Educational stipends or in-house training pay dividends to the employer. Health and fitness programs whether in house, or out, are good for employees and good for business. Healthy employees have better attendance and higher productivity.

Bottom line, increase your employees’ happiness quotient and your company’s productivity will increase exponentially. Hal Rosenbluth and Diane Peters wrote a book titled, The Customer Comes Second: Put Your People First and Watch’em Kick Butt. The major thesis of this book is that when you take really good care of your employees, they will take really good care of your customers.  Happy workers and high productivity are a given.

Then there are those bosses who say, “The long hours, continuous nagging and unrealistic deadlines will continue until morale improves”. I suspect Mr. Sutton mentions these guys in his book, The No Ass**le Rule. You have, no doubt, come across these guys in your career.

Have you got any good stories or horror stories about managers trying to increase the happiness quotient in your workplace? We want to hear them. Comment on Linkedin and/or on my web site, We are still looking for Baby Boomers with an opinion who don’t mind speaking out. And we have a Boomer Happiness meter on our homepage. Whether you are Bummed or Ecstatic, come join us and tell us how you feel about life and business



  1. Hello GoalPath,

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  2. I think that after a certain point, pay is secondary to an employee’s productivity. If an employee feels respected and feels like they are making a difference in achieving a greater goal that they agree with, then they will be orders of magnitude more productive. Recognition of outstanding work helps, a positive work environment with minimum negative politics is essential. If management doesn’t encourage this type of work environment, it doesn’t really matter how qualified it’s people are, productivity will take a big hit.

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