Who Cares Whether Employees Are Happy As Long As They Produce?

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If you agree with me that happy employees tend to be healthier than unhappy employees, and that healthy employees tend to be happier, and that therefore they are on the job being creative, productive, and loyal, then you can stop reading. WHAT you should do now is get back to work and make it part of your job to help keep yourself and other employees healthy and happy.

On the other other, if  you suspect that happiness, fun, and positive mind-sets might be worthy workplace objectives (TRUE), but you’re worried that “happy” might mean all-out buffoonery or class-clowning at work (FALSE), read a little further to find out WHY there’s no need to worry.

Still on the other hand, if you get it that things like happiness, fun, and positive mind-sets will produce terrific bottom-line results, but you’re not quite sure HOW to make it happen, then read all the way to the end, and then read my forthcoming book –this blog is an excerpt– and then take my 2-day course on the topic.

…Research shows…Workplace advantages of Positive Activities and Positive Mindsets

From Positive Intelligence by Shawn Achor, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2012:

• When people work with a positive mind-set, performance on nearly every level—productivity, creativity, engagement—improves.

• People who cultivate a positive mind-set perform better in the face of challenge.

• There is strong evidence of direct causality between life satisfaction and successful business outcomes.

• You can train your brain to be positive…perhaps in as little as three weeks, working at it only a few minutes a day.

• Happy employees mean better bottom-line results: low LSS scores à decrease productivity of 15 days per year due to absence. High LSS scores high customer ratings, more earnings per square foot of space (Gallup) and tens of millions of dollars in profits to a large chain.

From Creating Sustainable Performance by Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2012:

• “Worrying about whether or not your employees are happy might seem a little over the top. But in our research into what makes for a consistently high-performing workforce, we’ve found good reason to care:
     – Happy employees produce more than unhappy ones over the long term.
     – They routinely show up at work, they’re less likely to quit, they go above and beyond the call of duty, and they attract people who are just as committed to the job.
     – Moreover, they’re not sprinters; they’re more like marathon runners, in it for the long haul.

• Happiness is not about contentment, which connotes a degree of complacency; it is about thriving.

• Thriving employees are not just satisfied and productive but also engaged in creating the future—the company’s and their own. Thriving employees have a bit of an edge—they are highly energized—but they know how to avoid burnout.

• Thriving employees demonstrated 16% better overall performance (as reported by their managers) and 125% less burnout (self-reported) than their peers. They were 32% more committed to the organization and 46% more satisfied with their jobs.

• They also missed much less work and reported significantly fewer doctor visits, which meant health care savings and less lost time for the company.

• Researchers identified two components of thriving: vitality and learning.

• Vitality: the sense of being alive, passionate, and excited. Employees who experience vitality spark energy in themselves and others. Companies generate vitality by giving people the sense that what they do on a daily basis makes a difference. [AWARDING RECOGNITION AND THE GENERAL ENVIRONMENT CAN BOTH BE FUN.]

• Learning: People who are developing their abilities are likely to believe in their potential for further growth.

• The two qualities work in concert. When you put the two together, the statistics are striking. For example, people who were high energy and high learning were 21% more effective as leaders than those who were only high energy.

• The outcomes on one measure in particular—health—were even more extreme. Those who were high energy and low learning were 54% worse when it came to health than those who were high in both.

From The Science Behind the Smile, An Interview with Daniel Gilbert by Gardiner Morse, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2012:

• By and large, happy people are more creative and more productive.

• Many managers would say that contented people aren’t the most productive employees, so you want to keep people a little uncomfortable, maybe a little anxious, about their jobs. FALSE! “I know of no data showing that anxious, fearful employees are more creative or productive.”

• People are happiest when they’re appropriately challenged—when they’re trying to achieve goals that are difficult but not out of reach (and people hate being bored). People blossom when challenged and wither when they are threatened.

• What are those little things we can do to increase our happiness?

• The main things are to commit to some simple behaviors—meditating, exercising, getting enough sleep—and to carry out altruism, and all six practices of Good-Hearted Lving™.

• One of the most selfish things you can do is help others. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. You may or may not help the homeless, but you will almost surely help yourself.

• And nurture your social connections.

• Twice a week, write down three things you’re grateful for, and tell someone why.

• These may sound like homilies from your grandmother. Well, your grandmother was smart. The secret of happiness is not a secret!

“Having fun is no trivial pursuit.”
Evidence From Other Researchers, Writers, Philosophers and Theorists
Mark Beeman, PhD, at Northwestern University, found that people have an easier time solving a puzzle after watching a short comedy clip. Having fun, perhaps by easing tension, may facilitate neuronal connections that are helpful for greater mental flexibility and creativity. In another brain imaging study, Dr. Beeman found that activation of pleasure centers in the brain predicted successful puzzle-solving These findings suggest that well-being helps us think more creatively and could potentially help us resolve challenging situations. ~SPIRITUALITY & HEALTH, May-June 2011
“Play is purposeless, done for its own sake. Nevertheless, such purposelessness has extraordinarily positive effects. Play quiets our busy minds, putting a stop to our constant barrage of thoughts about the past and future.”

From “The Power of Play”,  by Hara Estroff  Marano, Psychology Today, July 1, 1999:

• Having fun is no trivial pursuit. In fact, it’s crucial to mental creativity, health and happiness.

• The very essence of play is antic, full of novelty and joyful abandon.

• Play’s value among adults is too often vastly underrated.
      • It lifts stress from us.
      • It refreshes us.
      • It recharges us.
      • It restores our optimism.
      • It changes our perspective.
      • It stimulates creativity.
      • It renews our ability to accomplish the work of the world.

• Play may in fact be the highest expression of our humanity, both imitating and advancing the evolutionary process.

• Play appears to allow our brains to exercise their very flexibility, to maintain and even perhaps renew the neural connections that embody our human potential to adapt, to meet any possible set of environmental conditions.

• It may be that playfulness is a force woven through our search for mates. Certainly, playful people are the most fun to be around. But the ability to play may be a strong and appealing signal of something more. Especially among males, playfulness can protect us.

• It may be a way to indicate to potential partners that a man is not a threat to himself, to his offspring—or to society at large.

• One sign that males may not be dangerous either to females or to their children is their willingness to play with them. “So it is possible that females seek out mates who are playful, both for their own protection and for that of their offspring.” Men, for their part, are not immune to the pleasures of playfulness in selecting a mate either. Playfulness is an indicator of youthfulness in women.

• Like art, play is that quintessential experience that is almost impossible to define—because it encompasses infinite variability—but which we all recognize when we see, or experience it.

• If Garry Chick is right, we play because it protects us. Chick, who has studied games and sports in a number of cultures, contends that the standard explanations for why we play just don’t wash.

• For example, the belief that play affords practice for skills needed later in life is true—for some animals, and then just for juveniles. “Some animals appear to play at things they will be doing their adult lives,” he observes. “Predatory animals play at predation, those that are preyed upon play at escape. Social animals beat each other up to establish rank and hierarchy.“

• It can truly be said that we are made for play; after all, humans are among the very few animals that play as adults. What the evidence adds up to is this: we are most human when we play—and just because we play.

Through my new book and course, we will understand all that contributes to such a necessary, and exalted, psychological state.

BONUS: Need More Fun Ideas? Not sure what to do? Need help? Here are some other unusual ways, adapted from Playfair, to celebrate the day with your co-workers:

* Celebrate International Fun At Work Day, an idea started by the gang at Playfair, Thursday, April 5, 2012. That will also help kick-off National Humor Month, all of April 1, now in its 37th year. 

* Ask all employees to bring in baby photos or pet pictures or High School yearbook photos to post on the bulletin board. Then guess who’s who.

* The Traveling Bouquet. Bring in a bouquet of flowers and present it to one of your co-workers. Tell him or her, I want you to keep this on your desk for the next half-hour. Then pass it on to someone else and tell them to do the same!

* Hold a Company Limo Lottery. Hold a lottery where the winner gets driven to and from work in the company limo. (If you don’t have a company limo, rent one for the day!)

* Offer your employees some unusual gifts (like free housecleaning certificates) to celebrate the day.

* Take some Joy Breaks during the day and teach all your employees the art of scarf juggling. . .or play marbles together.

* Hire an On-site Masseuse for the day.

* Take a group photo portrait of your office mates dressed up for Clash Dressing Day … or Polka Dots Day … or Suspender Day … or Pajama Day … or Bad Hair Day!

* Dog Days of Spring: Let all employees bring their pets to work with them for this fun day celebration!

* Bring in some champagne (or sparkling apple juice) and take time to toast each other, your successes and your fabulous failures of the past few weeks.

* Hold an all-employee pizza party … with the name of your company spelled out across the top of the pies in mushrooms!

* Decorate Smiley faces and put them up in a “giggle gallery”; make it a contest; have themes such as love, peace, cheer, get-well, Valentines, birthdays, 4th of July, thinking-of-you…whatever; donate them to a hospital! Make you own smiley or start with the 13″ diameter smiley cardboard cutouts shown below, available at www.smileystore.com.

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About the Author

Steve Wilson

Award-winning psychologist, Steve Wilson, also known as The Joyologist and The Cheerman of the Bored, has spent 30 years specializing in applied and therapeutic humor with a humanitarian mission. As Director of National Humor Month, he intertwines science and ancient wisdom with substance and humor to create practical methods to lead the world to health, happiness and peace through laughter. More than six thousand people have completed his unique training in how to create therapeutic laughter, and tens of thousands more around the world have been uplifted by his talks, classes, books, and articles. He established the World Laughter Tour, Inc., in 1998, to be a rich resource and inspiration for improving productivity, health, and well being in business, healthcare and education. For more information https://www.worldlaughtertour.com and http://www.humormonth.com.