Our society has misunderstood the happiness equation for a long time. The common assumption that happiness is the reward for success may be upside down. An article in Harvard Business Review, Positive Intelligence, by Shawn Achor, a positive psychologist, argues that happiness improves all the key components of success, including productivity.
When people are happy, they invest more time and effort to work well. This, of course, leads to higher levels of productivity. Productivity, in turn, leads to profitability. Here are three ways a company can harness the untapped potential of happiness at work:
1. Improve How Employees Do Work
Inefficient work is unsatisfying on many levels. Many corporations wonder why their employees are disengaged and unhappy. They mistakenly blame this lack of output on poor motivation.
While a lack of motivation may produce lackluster performance, it isn’t always the primary culprit. Inefficient work isn’t always because of a lack of willingness to do the work quickly and well.
Another factor may be at work–the way employees do the work. If they do things in the wrong order, spend plenty of time doing the wrong thing, or spend too little time doing the right things, then the quality of their work will suffer. So, the problem may be in the system itself.
A perfect example comes from the world of manufacturing. Before the invention of Lean Manufacturing, mechanical engineers would unintentionally create a significant amount of waste at a production facility. They wasted effort, which lowered productivity, and they wasted inventory, which raised production expenses.
2. Improve How Supervisors Manage People
Many companies produce high-pressure situations for their employees. Leaders demanding results hold their managers responsible. The harassed managers then badger supervisors. Supervisors, in turn, castigate workers. Frequent meetings, flooded inboxes, and frivolous arguments are all symptoms of a chaotic workplace.
Dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics produce anxiety throughout the day every day of the week. This accumulating fear and tension reduces the prefrontal cortex’s ability to solve problems and increases the activity of the amygdala, the part of the brain that develops the threat response of fight, freeze, or flight.
The solution is to retrain leaders and managers in the nuances of human relationships. Instead of assuming that leadership is a natural ability, it is more realistic to recognize it as a people-management skill based on principles of psychology.
3. Improve Corporate Culture
Not all corporations are dysfunctional. Those that flourish, especially high-tech companies, recognize that happy employees are also more innovative and productive.
Google has reinvented the idea of the corporate culture. Today, business analysts consider it one of the best companies in the world to work for. Did Google become a $397 billion corporation because it had superior technology after hiring the smartest engineers and treating them with numerous perks? On the surface, this is how things appear–but when you dig a little deeper, you will discover that the company initially created the right conditions to attract the best and the brightest minds.
Evidence That Happiness Improves Productivity
Many corporations don’t equate productivity with happiness. They don’t see the relationship between creating better working conditions and adopting management efficiency systems with employee engagement.
However, there is plenty of evidence that suggests that happier people not only thrive in their personal lives but also help their employers improve the bottom line. Happy people work with focus and clarity. They enter flow states where hours feel like minutes. They make better team members and provide superior customer service.
We can find evidence that happiness improves productivity in research by positive psychologists who argue that happiness precedes success. We can also find it in highly successful companies like Google that show that treating employees better produces better work.