For about a century, psychologists have been conducting studies to draw connections between employee (worker) happiness and the ability for those happy employees to produce more quantity and quality of work. Many of the earlier studies defined employee happiness as job satisfaction, and couldn’t quite draw a clear connection to productivity.
More recent studies have leaned into the notion of employee happiness as general feelings of happiness and mood. By surveying employees on how they felt on any given day or week, these studies have shown a strong correlation between happiness and productivity. They found a good mood positively affects both the quality and quantity of work by up to 12%. And conversely, a bad mood could negatively affect productivity by up to 10%.
How Does Happiness Affect Productivity?
Employee happiness affects employee performance and company productivity in three categories: cognitive (how we think), motivational (how we engage in tasks), and social (how we interact with others). Different industries and job types are affected differently, but because there are numerous ways productivity is affected by positive emotions, overall, companies will experience an increase in productivity regardless of industry type.
Cognitive (How We Think)
A good mood influences how we think and process information. Positive feelings signal that we are safe and in a non-threatening environment. Being in this state of mind leads to greater balance, resilience, and insight.
When it comes to problem solving, a happy person will more likely be able to process information more efficiently, and think more flexibly and creatively. They are more open to receiving new information and to adhering to company workflows. When in a good mood, people are generally less distracted by negative chatter and worrying. Leaving more attention to address the important tasks at hand.
Motivational (How We Engage In Tasks)
When people are happy, they are more motivated to get the job done. A good mood, allows us to experience the joy in completing the most mundane of tasks and creates a positive expectation to enjoy the next task. When we are happy, we tend to put more effort into our job, building momentum to initiate, engage in, and complete additional tasks.
Social (How We Interact With Others)
Perhaps the most obvious effect of a good mood is how we interact with others. But how does better social interactions affect productivity? Some may argue, a more social person is more distracted and less efficient. But overall, happy employees tend to negotiate other people’s negative behavior better, tend to be less aggressive, and tend to have better interactions with co-workers, managers, and customers. They are better equipped to leverage their social skills and manage their emotions leading to more effective communication and ability to get the job done.
The Good and Bad of Mood
The good news is we know good mood affects performance positively, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Not only are employees able to get more work done, more efficiently, but they enjoy the work more and are able to make better decisions for themselves and the company.
But aren’t general positive feelings and employee good mood outside of a company’s control? A company can’t control if an employee was in a car accident on the way to work or if it’s been raining for two weeks straight. It’s true, when we define employee happiness not as job satisfaction, but as a general emotion, there are so many factors at play. Not all of which will be within the company’s control. But just because it is difficult, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. The studies show it is worth it.
A great place to start improving your team’s sentiment is first understanding it; how people are feeling, generally. Then follow up with how sentiment can be improved and what is within your abilities to change. You may find it is as simple as helping your employees feel heard.