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Boosting Productivity through Happiness

Happiness makes Productivity

Have you ever stopped for a moment to ask yourself are you happy and what happiness actually means to you? I did and after an exhausting and unsuccessful 6-minute attempt to define the term, I did what any typical member of the Generation D gone hyper would do. I grabbed my smartphone and asked Google: What is happiness? 

The formal (dictionary) definition „the state of being happy“ just didn’t cut it, nor did the more philosophical ones such as „it’s a state of mind, not a place you can get to“ or „it’s a journey, not a destination“. So, I started a more in-depth research and while hopping from website to website, I bumped into Disney’s animated short film called „Inner Workings“.

Spoiler alert: If you still haven’t had the chance to watch the movie, the next few lines will try to grasp its essence by exposing plot details. So, it is strongly recommended to stop reading for now and enjoy the film. Hopefully, it is still available on Vimeo. If not happy, it’ll definitely make you smile for a while. 

The movie follows Paul and his internal organs (Brain, Heart, Lungs, Stomach and Bladder) during one of Paul’s typical work days. On the way to the office his Heart desires to try all sorts of fun and pleasant things but his Brain only wants Paul to get to work on time and avoid any potential risks (arising from those activities) that could get him killed. 

Even though the film mainly tries to explore how logic and fear can hold us back from our desires (in reality, even cause us to miss out on our own life), one particular scene caught my attention. After his lunchbreak Paul returns pleased to his desk and continues with his work with much more enthusiasm that soon will spread over all of his coworkers.

I started thinking about a possible correlation between the level of happiness and his productivity; not just at his workplace but at home and in his personal life too. 

HAPPINESS = PRODUCTIVITY

The next thing I bumped into was an experimental study on Understanding the Happy-Productive Worker, undertaken at the University of Warwick (Coventry, England) and published in 2015. The research shows that happier subjects had approximately 12% greater productivity than the control group and that lower happiness was systematically associated with lower productivity.

But why? “We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity,” says the research team. “Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings, while negative emotions have the opposite effect.” If you are happy, your brain works at higher speed. If you are happy, your brain is filled with positive thoughts. When you think positive thoughts, your energy and creativity levels are higher and this can have a major impact on your productivity.

“Happy people are more likely to enjoy their job and people who enjoy their job are more likely to be good at it as well”

Happy people are more likely to enjoy their job and people who enjoy their job are more likely to be good at it as well. Typically they care about the company’s goals, they see themselves as a part of bigger picture and are more compelled to work. Happy people are more engaged in the work they do, more present and more likely to stay with their employers for the long term. They will have no problem with putting in a few of those overtime hours.

On the other hand, in most cases people that are not happy and satisfied with their lives will just play it safe and put in a minimum effort in what they’re doing, just to avoid getting fired.

I think, we can all agree that happiness does increase productivity and that, as individuals, we can and should do something about it. The important thing is to realize that you actually can train your brain to be more positive, but you cannot just simply switch your mindset and jump into a permanent state of positive feelings and emotions. It is something that should be a part of your daily routine; a set of your own rituals that will gradually help your brain work more enthusiastically and consequently more successfully.

7 TIPS TO INCREASE HAPPINESS IN (AND OUT OF) WORK

1. NURTURE YOUR BODY

One of the first things you can do is to NURTURE YOUR BODY. Why? Well, simply because “Mens sana in corpore sano”. As the old Latin phrase points out, our physical health is an essential part of our mental and psychological well-being. A 10-minute daily workout, a 10-mile run or a sequence of yoga/meditation exercises, the choice is yours, as long as you’re triggering those feel-good hormones every day. And if you’re a strong believer of neurotransmitters that dictate our perception of happiness, here’s an article that might interest you. 

Even a simple walk can increase your “positive output”. In 2014 researchers from Stanford University (California) published a study that shows how walking boosts creative inspiration. 

It’s said that Steve Jobs used to be a notorious walker who preferred walking meetings. So did Hitler while staying at the Berghof, one might say, and then the whole world was faced with the biggest monstrosities a human brain can produce. But let’s focus on the good guys, such as Aristotle, Beethoven, Dickens, Nietzsche or Freud, who also enjoyed daily long walks. 

Getting your body in motion will not only stimulate your creative juices, help you get inspired and more focused, but it will also improve your mood and make you feel relaxed.

2. THINK POSITIVE THOUGHTS

The other thing you could do on a daily bases to improve your state of mind is to think of at least one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours. Reminding yourself to intentionally concentrate on the positive things will help you hold off negativity in your life. You can take it one step further and express your gratitude for them in writing.

3. HELP OTHER PEOPLE

Helping others can also be a great happiness booster. Try to be as much kind and helpful as possible towards the people around you and see how much impact it’ll have on your own life. One very interesting TED Talk entitled “How to buy happiness” explains how you can actually benefit from spending money on others.

In additions to these, there are also rituals you can practice throughout your work day, which will help you be at your best. Take a look at the 9 daily rituals suggested by poundstopocket.co.uk. Whether you’re an employee or an employer, there are many ways for you to boost your performance through the power of the ritual.

However, if you are an employer, there are a couple of other things you can do for your employees to make them happier and thus more productive.

4. RESPECT YOUR EMPLOYEES

IT goes without saying that each and every one of us wants to feel respected. So, treat your employees with dignity, set them as equals and encourage them to express their opinions; listen and never speak over. Try to have as much person-to-person interaction as possible, it’ll you’re your employees feel more engaged in your company’s identity. Acknowledge the unique skills and qualities your employees bring to the table and try to find the way to give them chance to use those talents.

5. TRUST YOUR EMPLOYEES. 

Be upfront about the goals and vision of your company. Define and set them with clarity. People will be more ready to take part in a project/task if they know its purpose but also the contribution their effort will make to the company. 

6. REWARD YOUR EMPLOYEES. 

Embrace the positive feedback strategy and recognize a job well done. Make sure your employees receive feedback on their strengths as well, not just on their weaknesses. However, if you have to deliver criticism, make sure their value stays recognized.

I’m not saying you should sugarcoat your remarks, but rather present them in a form of suggestion or direction to help your employees improve. It is also important to make employees feel they’re getting paid fairly for the job they do and they’re given the opportunity for career growth within your company.

7. BE FLEXIBLE. 

Talking about the nine-to-five office concept in the 21st century sounds a bit old-fashioned, given the fact that most of us are available round the clock through our mobile devices and a lot of work can get done over the internet, anytime, anywhere. 

However, offices do have their own benefits. It’s easier for co-workers to bond and build trust if they sit in the same room. They’re more likely to avoid potential misunderstandings deriving from internet communication, if they have the opportunity to communicate and interact face-to-face. So, it might be a good thing to consider the perks of a flexible work model, where employees get to set their own schedules and are given the option to work from home. Naturally, as long as their work is consistently finished on time and at an expected level of performance.

Lastly, it is important for all of us to understand that by changing the way we see and experiences our own life and the way we interact with others, we can provide more for both ourselves and the organizations we contribute to.