The chorus is growing. Happy people are more creative and productive. Recent work by noted psychologist and organizational expert Daniel Gilbert adds yet more heft. The problem is that many managers believe that you have to keep people “on their toes,” perhaps even anxious about their job to make them more productive. Fact is that there exist no data that shows that anxious, fearful people are more creative or productive. Given the global tumult effecting western economies, I would argue that now, more than ever, it is important to ensure your employees are happy. Would it not make sense to have your human capital at its best during the toughest times in recent history?
Sources of Happiness
The findings of the science behind happiness may surprise you:
1. A primary ingredient is having a robust social network of friends and family. In fact, Gallup researchers Tom Rath & Jim Harter point out that we need six hours of socializing a day.
2. Frequency of happy moments is important. It is not necessarily how good a particular experience was as much as how many good experiences you have. Having a dozen small good things happen in a day is better than having one fantastic thing. Happiness appears to be the sum of hundreds of small things.
Like weight loss, there is no magic pill that gives instant results. Happiness is the result of small daily steps over time.
How to Increase Happiness
The main things to commit to include: meditating, exercising, getting enough sleep, and to practice altruism. This last point isn’t yet commonplace in business literature yet but is well articulated by the work of Robert Emmon. Volunteering or helping others is a great way to achieve this.
The last piece is a simple yet powerful tool: practice gratitude by writing down at least twice a week three things you’re grateful for. As Gilbert says, “these sound like homilies from grandmother…but your grandmother was smart. The secret of happiness is like the secret of weight loss: It’s not a secret!”
So if you want to improve workplace productivity and hit your competitors hard, why not start with the basics? The path to increased happiness leads to increased productivity and creativity.