Happiness at work has been a trendy topic for quite some time now. Everyone is curious, even nervous about it. From companies to scientists and employees. There is an abundance of studies and articles that draw quite a picture. Some argue that happiness at work can even make or break your business. Others find that it’s all inconclusive.
In fact, companies with happy employees score better in many different ways. The reverse is also true. Unhappy workplaces cost more to maintain. And may lead to failure. Unhappy employees get sick more often. They’re also more likely to look for work with another company.
One key issue on the matter is how you define happiness at work. Another key issue is the research that goes into proving why it matters. Employees really do care about the topic. Trends in online searches reveal a mounting interest on the topic. With search activity spikes right before going on a holiday.
Leaving all of these aside, here’s what happiness at work is and why it matters to you and your company.
What happiness at work is and what it is not
Happiness at work is how you feel about your work on the whole. Feeling that you contribute to the world and make a difference. That you like the people you work with. Similarly, that they like you back and respect you. Indeed, that they appreciate your contribution and reward it accordingly. Happiness at work means that you feel great going to work. Essentially, happiness at work is a feeling. It is dynamic, volatile, and needs maintenance.
Work satisfaction (or job satisfaction) is a separate entity. It’s typically what you negotiate. The salary you’re getting. Similarly, the benefits and bonuses. The perks and the status. All the stuff that motivates you objectively. Work satisfaction can be a feeling in the sense that you’ve settled well. However, it is a static sort of thing.
It might be easier than you think to confuse the two. This Harvard Business Review study makes the same mistake. To quote, “(…)happiness, which is often defined as job satisfaction (…).” The article goes on about how all research on happiness at work is inconclusive. Make no mistake, happiness at work is not work satisfaction.
Happiness at work is liking what you do. Feeling that you contribute and make a difference. It shouldn’t be so surprising then that happiness at work boosts productivity. Work satisfaction has little to do with productivity. Granted, high work satisfaction usually comes together with competence. Overall, however, these two notions are distinct.
But how to we know this to be true? After all, emotions seem rather intangible and abstract. Luckily, we have more and more research on the matter. Here’s how we know why it’s important and how we should approach it.
Why happiness at work matters
More than a decade of research into measuring happiness shows the importance of happiness at work. And recently, it’s become quite a thing in itself. And businesses are getting in on the side of happiness. For example, this study tells the story of why happiness at work truly matters. Hence, let’s get into explaining it for a bit.
Proof that happy workers are productive workers
Imagine you have a team of scientists. And you design an experiment. Hence, you take seven hundred people. And run a series of tests on them. Your working hypothesis is that happiness at work boosts productivity.
You test for happiness and productivity. Indeed, that might seem challenging. How do you test for happiness? If you’re not using an instant communication platform that already computes a happiness index, then you should build a multi-point survey that determines happiness levels. Then you do the same thing with productivity. You rate anything that significantly affects productivity. Then you just need to induce happiness. And see if it affects productivity.
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Essentially, you play comedy clips to the test group. The control group watches nothing. You assume the control group will get happier after watching comedy clips. Your multi-point survey measures just that. And your results confirm your assumptions. Boosts in happiness are accompanied by boosts in productivity.
And you notice that happiness-generating tests boost productivity. There’s a relation that begins to shape up. Productivity boosts and happiness are strongly correlated. In fact, the more happiness triggers, the greater the productivity.
To be fair, it’s not definitive. It could be that repeated exposure to funny clips boosts productivity. It could be contextual, in the sense that maybe this only happens at work.
Even more, it could be something else. In fact, strategic breaks also boost productivity. Still, the control group takes breaks. Yet, breaks alone are not granted to accelerate productivity.
On the other hand, other factors also impact productivity. To put it differently, happiness is a warm cup of chocolate. A chocolate bar similarly boosts productivity.
The costs of an unhappy workplace
No happiness at work has negative effects on everything. It puts down productivity. It stifles creativity and cooperation. Remember, happiness at work is how people feel about work. Feeling great means great work happens. Consequentially, it has little to do with the perks. In reality, it has everything to do with well-being.
An unhappy workplace takes its toll on productivity. Unhappy workers are more prone to procrastination. They’re less cooperative. Unhappy employees slack off and are underproductive. Some even decide to leave your company.
Then there are other issues. Firstly, happiness is more than a feeling. It’s an activity. Hence, it takes energy to be happy. Secondly, more happiness doesn’t always increase productivity. It might sound cliché, but some lines of work shouldn’t be too happy. The stereotypical creative genius is often miserable.
Sure, some argue you could figure out alternatives, such as remote work. Indeed, working from home is on the rise. And having people working remotely eases the burden of ensuring happiness at work.
Engagement, however, is a significant factor in overall productivity. It’s not easy to stay engaged while working from home. This need largely explains why coworking is on the rise. Freelancers and remote workers banding together in special places. The modern workplace is a coworking space, successfully sustained by instant team communication platforms. Why? Because, however apart, it keeps team members close, connected and well-informed.
Bottom line, there’s no denying that happiness at work is very important. It affects productivity, performance, creativity. It greatly contributes to one’s well-being. Most important, all of us have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are quintessential to being alive. And all of us should be able to feel happy at work.