Happy Workers = Productive Workers: Seven Benefits of Positive Emotion in the Workplace

“We hold these truths to be self-evident…” —Opening line of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson

It should be obvious to anyone that when you’re happy, you’re more likely to do a better job at work. Clearly, some managers don’t care; we’ve all worked for such people. It’s equally obvious you don’t have to be happy to be productive. Aside from those of us who work best under pressure, many of us have learned to put our heads down, ignore our discontent, and just push until we finish the work on time. If we couldn’t bull through on sheer willpower, few companies would have survived either the Great Depression or the Great Recession.

Just because we can do something, however, doesn’t mean it’s the best way. That’s one theme I hope I’ve driven home repeatedly in this blog. If we’re to push on and become even more productive than our already historic productivity levels, we have no choice but to try new things. So why not go with the Bobby McFerrin method of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? Or maybe I should call it the “Half-McFerrin method,” since you always have to be a little worried about what’s bearing down on you, so you can stay ahead; but you can, and I think should, seek happiness nonetheless.

Study after study has shown happy workers make the best workers. The universal conclusion is that happiness produces greater productivity, perhaps its ultimate benefit business-wise. But other benefits are intertwined with happiness, sometimes boosting productivity further, if indirectly. Let’s look at seven.

  1. Happy workers are better engaged. Full engagement has rarely exceeded 35% in recent American history; all other workers are either disengaged or partly engaged at best. It’s well established that engaged workers have higher productivity ratings than their unengaged coworkers. When someone works just to put food on the table or resents their job, they’re less likely to become engaged. When companies make efforts to improve happiness, engagement and productivity rise.

  2. Happy workers have lower medical costs. Compared to those just going through the motions, happy workers are less likely go to the doctor for either physical or mental health issues. They’re less likely to be depressed, anxious, or stressed. Keeping workers happy can save companies a great deal on PTO costs—in the billions annually, according to some sources.

  3. Happy workers have lower absenteeism rates. Not only are they less likely to take sick days, they’re also less likely to play hooky or take so-called “mental health days”. When work makes you happy, you seek it rather than avoid it, and job satisfaction rises.

  4. Happy workers are more efficient. Beyond the fact they’re less likely to miss work or become disengaged; happy employees just do their work better, with fewer mistakes and at a faster rate. It’s easier to focus and make decisions when you feel well, as opposed to when you’re feeling ill or depressed.

  5. Happiness benefits workers fiscally. According to psychologist Martin Seligman in Authentic Happiness, happy workers tend to get higher pay and better performance assessments than their unhappy coworkers.

  6. Positivity makes a huge difference in teamwork. Optimism, caring about others, inspiring each other, not playing the blame game, and forgiving mistakes tend to bolster teams against negative events, boost existing positivity, and attract new employees looking for a nurturing environment.

  7. Positivity makes the brain work better. In a recent TED talk, The Happiness Advantage author Shawn Achor reports the brain works better when you’re happy. He suggests that instead of success making you happy, it’s more like happiness makes you successful—though there’s obviously some feedback in both directions. Achor claims optimism offers the greatest predictor of entrepreneurial success, “because it allows your brain to perceive more possibilities.”

Chew on That

None of these factors surprise me, as I’ve always believed happiness is a factor in high productivity. It’s nice to see, however, that science has proven it many times. Positive emotion and, specifically, happiness actually contribute more benefits than these seven to productivity, but I feel this list sets the stage quite nicely.

How has happiness benefited your work or workplace?

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Christine@TheProductivityPro.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland