It should come as no surprise that happier employees are more productive employees. A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick actually measured this phenomenon, discovering that happier employees are on average 12% more productive than non-happy employees, while unhappy employees are 10% less productive, thus resulting in a 22% productivity swing between unhappy and happy employees.
While the legacy thinking on this topic is that higher salaries result in happier employees, research shows that this is often not the case. A large majority of American workers are not happy in their current position. A recent Gallup survey found that only 13% of employees are engaged at work, translating into an immense number of disengaged and subsequently unhappy employees. Companies that invest in employee support services, rather than simply paying higher wages, see definitive increases in employee satisfaction and happiness. At Google, known for their innovative employee support and satisfaction initiatives, employee satisfaction rose 37% after implementation of non-monetary benefits such as on-site day care and dry cleaning services. However, it does not need to be the sole responsibility of the organization to keep employees happy, some of this burden can be placed on the employees themselves.
Considerable research has been conducted on how to increase one’s happiness. The findings show there are multiple ways, ranging from practicing mindfulness to acquiring a pet. One of the more interesting and relative findings shows that being grateful has a large impact on happiness. One study showed that those subjects expressing gratitude were significantly more satisfied with their lives as compared to those not specifically expressing gratitude. A 2009 study confirmed the neural basis for this phenomenon, showing that gratitude stimulates the area of our brain responsible for the pleasure sensation. Researchers at the University of North Carolina have even shown a genetic predisposition towards expressed gratitude and subsequent happiness. Other studies have shown that expressing gratitude can elevate the mood of those around us as well, revealing that those with a propensity to express anger, reduced such propensity when shown gratitude. Thusly, those showing gratitude at work not only can increase their own happiness (and productivity) but can influence the mood of their co-workers or boss.
Showing gratitude, however, is not always easy. If only 13% of employees are engaged at work, what is there to be thankful for? We are constantly having both positive and negative experiences. If we take ownership of our happiness, we can be mindful and focus on the positive and push back the negative. Everyone can find something to be grateful for — family, friends, the beauty of nature or the lack of traffic on their way to work. The point is that if we are self-aware and emotionally intelligent, we can be accountable for increasing our happiness through gratitude. Some experts recommend making a “gratitude list” as a means of reminding yourself what you are truly grateful for. When the negative experiences are bringing you down, you can refer to the list to boost your happiness. Others recommend a more external form of gratitude expression by sending out two grateful emails each morning.
Most of us never consider how our work impacts others. At our firm, we are grateful to be able to make a significant impact on the processes within organizations that lead to successful execution of results, the development of leaders to drive strategies effectively and the emergence of stronger cultures the enable mission-driven decision-making. We know that both customers and patients are impacted positively as well by our work, leading to better healthcare, improved population health, more responsive customer service and ongoing strategic shareholder communication that builds trusting relationships. Think about how your work impacts people and organizations positively and be grateful for the ability to make these differences. It will strengthen your focus and behaviors to work productivity and deliver results every day.