A new study measures the exact impact that workplace happiness has on productivity and success, with results that will convince even the most hardline employers to put wellbeing first.
Happiness at work is the kind of ephemeral quality that many employers pay lip service to – without bothering to find out what it really means.
But a new study shows that the topic is worthy of a little digging, since employees who feel good about themselves are a massive 13% more productive and successful as a result.
While previous studies have established a link between workplace happiness and productivity, this research is the first of its kind to give an exact measure to the relationship.
Academics at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School partnered with telecoms firm BT to assess the mood and performance of nearly 2,000 call centre workers over a six-month period.
“We found that when workers are happier, they work faster by making more calls per hour worked and, importantly, convert more calls to sales,” says Professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, leading the study.
He adds that “there has never been such strong evidence” of the causal tie between happiness and productivity.
Participants ranked their happiness on a weekly basis, using a choice of five emoji buttons that ranged from very sad to very happy. Researchers then cross-referenced this data with information on attendance, call-to-sale conversions and customer satisfaction.
Information about each worker’s characteristics, along with company details on their scheduled work hours and productivity, was also factored in.
The study is a good incentive for companies to prioritise the wellbeing of their employees – although other research suggests that fostering a sense of happiness is no mean feat.
A recent global study found that nearly a fifth of UK workers are unhappy in their jobs, and around 39% do not enjoy socializing with colleagues. Meanwhile, almost a quarter of UK employees are uninspired by their current roles, according to a separate survey by accounting firm Deloitte earlier this year.
Worryingly, these figures are all higher than the European average for the same issues.
Researchers in the most recent study say concrete evidence on what creates workplace happiness is scarce; but they do offer a few insights.
“Higher paid workers and those in secure jobs are generally happier,” the team write. “For example, while those who find their job more interesting and meaningful also report higher wellbeing. Equally, workers who enjoy better work-life balance as well as better relationships with colleagues and managers also have higher levels of happiness.”