Can happiness really increase productivity?

Photography, Estée Janssens, Unsplash

Right now we are living in an incredibly fast-paced world. We have fast food, fast transport, people you can hire at the click of a button on apps like Fiverr, and we even have spellcheck so we don’t have to look in the dictionary anymore!

All of which can help us become more efficient. But does this mean we’re expected to churn out work at the speed of light? Honestly, sometimes it feels that way. Work hard, be successful, and then you’ll be happy and can enjoy life. Right? Wrong. Positive psychology shows that this formula is in fact backwards.

Shawn Achor, the author of ‘The Happiness Advantage’ says that “happiness fuels success, not the other way around.” Which when you think about it, makes complete sense. When we are happy our overall mood and outlook on life shifts. We are optimistic and positive, which makes our brain more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and, drum roll please… more productive.

In a recent study by the University of Warwick, economists carried out a number of experiments to test the idea that happy employees work harder. In the laboratory, they found happiness made people around 12 per cent more productive.

They also found that this number was even higher in those companies who invested in employee support and employee satisfaction, i.e. Google, who found their productivity rates rising by 37 per cent. Dr Sgroi from the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick said: “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.”

So, if putting our happiness first can really increase productivity, fuel success and performance at work, how can we make ourselves happier?

There are two ends of this scale. At one end you have the happiness that you can create for yourself. At the other end are the environments you’re in, where your happiness may be affected by the other people around you or the systems that are in place.

Let’s start by looking at what you can control – the happiness you create for yourself. What do you do for fun? What brings you joy? Are you setting aside time for self-care? Are you getting enough sleep, exercising and eating a balanced diet?

Lara Franks

Looking at what is within your control first is the easiest way to begin increasing your happiness. If you are continuously putting other people’s needs before your own or saying “yes” to every opportunity or piece of work you’re asked to complete, then you’re going to burnout. Protect your energy by putting some healthy boundaries in place and making time for the things that make you smile and feel good.

Okay, so what about the things you have less control over, like the procedures at your workplace, or a negative co-worker, or at the office the word ‘fun’ is just an acronym for ‘Financial Unclassified Notification.’ Yawn. This can all be extremely draining and cause productivity to wane.

Even though you cannot control other people, you do still have the choice to speak up and voice your concerns. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Can you have a chat with your manager? Could you make some suggestions to increase connection? Like a team-building day, or friendly catchup after work. What about offering some innovative ideas to streamline certain processes?

It’s not always easy to approach these conversations, but if what you have to say might lead to injecting more joy into your workplace and greater productivity, then it’s going to be beneficial for everyone involved.

A quote I love by Robin S. Sharma, which sums this all up perfectly, is, “productivity is less about what you do with your time and more about how you run your mind.”

Change your mindset. You do not have to sacrifice happiness to be successful. Happiness comes first, whether that’s at work or in your personal life.

If you would like to work on your mindset and learn ways to become more productive through creative expression, come join me and a group of ambitious women for my next online group coaching program – Creative Power – kicking off February 28th. Sign up via my website or flick me a DM on Instagram.

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