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Happiness and Productivity in the Workplace

By George Waggott, founder, and Roberto Fonseca-Velazquez, summer law student, George Waggott Law

We’ve all had those days. Sitting in the office (or home office?) feeling sorry for ourselves for one reason or another, and very slowly getting through the necessary tasks for the day. Not overachieving on the day’s goals but rather just getting through the day and making it to 5 pm. Chances are that on the days where you are feeling down in the dumps, your productivity also takes a hit. However, it’s not just you!

A study of 1,800 sales workers in British call centres examined the relationship between happiness and productivity in the workplace, and the information gathered is striking.

The study measured the happiness of call centre sales workers at British Telcom, one of the United Kingdom’s largest private employers, over a six-month period. Workers were provided a novel weekly survey instrument in which they clicked an emoji to indicate their level of happiness that week. This emoji was then compared with detailed administrative data on workplace behaviour and key performance indicators. The result was that workers make around 13% more sales in weeks where they report being happy compared to weeks when they say they are unhappy. More specifically, the 13% difference was driven by workers making more calls per hour, adhering more closely to their workflow schedule, and converting more calls into sales when they are happier.

The key takeaway must be that when employees are happier, they are more productive. So, what can be done in the workplace to encourage happiness? There are schemes to enhance employee happiness where the cost to implement usually dramatically outweighs any gains in productivity. The scheme or plan does not necessarily need to be complex - simple things in the office can be done to improve the overall mood of a sales team such as periodic in-office competitions, good ergonomic office furniture options, office events and activities. For every team, the strategy will be different, but the first step is to understand that improving the mood of team members is both positive for their individual health and will also positively affect overall productivity.

Unfortunately, the same study provided that dreary British weather affected the overall productivity of the local employee population but there isn’t much we can do about that!

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