Sunday, July 11, 2010

Happiness Explained: Happy people really do work harder




  "Economists have established a link between
workers' happiness and  their performance,
and say employers should take note"


A team of economists has now produced research that suggests there are clear links between workers' happiness and their productivity.

The team, led by Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics at Warwick Business School and a leading authority on the relationship between economics and mental health, said its research has important implications for the worlds of politics and business.

"We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity," the team said. "Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings, while negative emotions have the opposite effect."

The team conducted a range of exercises in their research. In one, students were asked to add a series of five two-digit numbers in 10 minutes. The subjects were paid an attendance fee, and a performance fee based on the number of correct answers.

Some were then shown a 10-minute film based on comedy routines performed by a well-known British comedian. The film succeeded in raising the reported happiness levels of those who saw it, compared to those who did not see it, or who watched a "placebo" film – a clip depicting patterns of coloured sticks.

Among the subjects who reported higher happiness levels after seeing the comedy film, productivity was significantly higher than for the other subjects, for both men and women. The Warwick economists noted: "Happier workers, our research found, were 12% more productive. Unhappier workers were 10% less productive." Significantly, subjects who watched the comedy film but did not report higher levels of happiness were unable to demonstrate higher levels of productivity.
The findings led the economists to claim: "The increase in productivity seems to be linked to the increase in happiness, not merely to the watching of the comedy movie per se." The team also found that those who had experienced a death or illness in their families within the past two years performed 10% worse than others.

"Given the extraordinarily homogeneous sample of our subjects, the difference in productivity was unexpectedly striking," it wrote in the latest issue of the University of Warwick's Economic Research Institute journal.

Hand printed, signed, limited edition woodblock 'Work Hard & Be Nice to People' print by Anthony Burrill available from the Pedlers webstore.

Read the full post here: Jamie Doward - The Observer - Happy people really do work harder


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