"The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality," says Daniel Sgroi. (Credit: utnapistim/Flickr)

Google is right: We work better when we’re happy

New research confirms what Google already knows—greater employee happiness results in higher productivity without sacrificing quality.

Economists carried out a number of experiments to test the idea that happy employees work harder. In the laboratory, they found happiness made people about 12 percent more productive.

Andrew Oswald, Eugenio Proto, and Daniel Sgroi from the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick led the research.

The findings, to be published in the Journal of Labor Economics, included four different experiments with more than 700 participants.

During the experiments a number of the participants were either shown a comedy movie clip or treated to free chocolate, drinks, and fruit. Others were questioned about recent family tragedies, such as bereavements, to assess whether lower levels of happiness were later associated with lower levels of productivity.

“Companies like Google have invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For Google, it rose by 37 percent; they know what they are talking about. Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off,” says Oswald.

“The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality,” adds Sgroi.

Pronto points out that the research had implications for employers and promotion policies.

“We have shown that happier subjects are more productive, the same pattern appears in four different experiments. This research will provide some guidance for management in all kinds of organizations, they should strive to make their workplaces emotionally healthy for their workforce.”

Source: University of Warwick

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29 Comments

  1. Unhappy Employee

    Can you make something on this site so I can anonymously email this to my company’s CEO? They think that if they lock us in dark building with no windows, no one around, and block all internet access, that we’ll have nothing to do but work. It’s literally making me insane. And I’m supposed to be CREATIVE in this place… a writer/producer/editor can’t work in this environment.

  2. Kelly

    Dear Unhappy Employee,
    That sucks man. Since I don’t work for your boss, I would happily email him/her for you. Just let me know your boss’ email and I’ll forward this link. But maybe you should delete your comment after.
    I hope this helps! And if not, you should just quit your job.

  3. Lindsey

    I think you should go for in Unhappy Employee. Kelly seems like she can help.

  4. bug inn

    I’m right there with you Unhappy Employee. You aren’t alone.

  5. Whaterrr

    Google is right? They have AWFUL employee reviews. Most who work there say it is ultra competitive and full of constant one-upmanship and giant egos. It is not a magical place where all the employees are happy.

  6. Sandy

    that sounds like my work, folks here are cray cray!

  7. James

    Unhappy Employee, I would recommend you just quit, but mailinator.com is available for easy, anonymous email.

  8. facts are facts

    Google employee reviews don’t seem to be all that bad. Whaaterrrr Check them out: http://www.indeed.com/cmp/Google/reviews

  9. Your Boss

    Unhappy Employee,

    Get back to work.

    - Your boss

  10. Happy?

    Is it “happiness” that is helpful here? Certainly it seems this way, but having been in IT management in the S.V. for over 20 years. I have found I get better performance by respecting the employee, valuing their contributions, trusting them, giving them public recognition, a good work environment, and paying them well.

    Top down hierarchical environments, minimized personal space, locking down all forms of communication and the internet, rigid hours, pigeonholing workers, and having a significant difference between the rules for management and employee cause many more problems than a free ice cream is going to fix.

  11. Andrew

    Definitely true, in fact research has shown that a 5% increase in employee engagement has shown to improve net income by .7%, all because of employee morale. If you feel like your employers don’t care enough about their employees, shoot me an email at Andrew@anyperk.com. AnyPerk is an employees platform that provides STEEP discounts on things like cell phones, gyms, all the way to amusement parks, golfing equipment, etc etc.

  12. Ken

    This is so right. Check out “The Happiness Advantage” written by a Harvard professor. It’s one of my favorite books.

  13. Renard Moreau

    [ Smiles ] I hope that more companies can learn from Google’s example.

  14. I'm super, thanks for asking

    Happy?

    I think all the things you described in your first paragraph WOULD make someone happy at work….more so than some simple perks…

  15. inflated job title

    There was a study a while ago saying that having happy employees do not necessarily correlate with productivity. I have always disagreed with that study.. and now finally a counter argument. Yay! I can definitely relate…

  16. Helen

    I’ve just started working for a web design company, it’s online-based but we’re very much a team already, and I love it. Because I am at home, in contact with good-natured people, and doing work I love, I find myself getting much more done than I ever did in my last job.

    My last job tracked communications, sent multiple negative HR emails every day, spent money on everything but the staff, and was one of the worst environments I’ve ever found myself in.

  17. Another unhappy one

    You mean threatening to fire you for making a simple error might affect production? Getouttahere!

    Forwarding this to the entire management staff where I work wouldn’t be the worst idea I’ve ever had.

  18. Pretty Happy Manager

    I can vouch for happiness. We just went through “happiness at work” program and the entire department is on a different level.
    i’m very happy :))

  19. Koby

    I work for a company where the environment is disappointing and depressing. Nobody knows when they’re gonna lay off people even when the company is making Billions of dollars and the execs are paid in millions and there is no bonus or performance reward. This really kills my productivity and willingness to work harder.

  20. Jusme

    Surely happy workers are also more likely to actively think of ways to improve a business. Unhappy workers just shutup and work.

  21. Tytus Wilson

    Interesting article. While I agree with the premise. What does Google do that is different from say Wal-Mart who consistently have poor employee satisfaction rating? What is the reason that more companies aren’t copying their methods?

  22. leslie

    I worked for walmart at theirheadquarters. Mandatory 45 hour weeks but then we were encouraged to eat lunch at our desks so mandatory work week was really 50 hours. We also had to come in every other Saturday to work. I was a bright, young, college graduate when I started there. I lasted 5 months before I was crying myself to work every monday. My cubicle was cramped on an office floor with no windows, etc. I have worked more hours at other jobs since I left but I did so willingly and happily because I was treated well. I don’t know why walmart and others haven’t learned a thing from research on employee morale and working environment. Its too hard tocare about all the people that make you all that money.

  23. Obamu

    I am surprised that no one mentioned like employers &/or companies do not care or don’t care much about their employees its because if they quit there will always be people that are desperate to get a job, and they will pay minimum again for starters thus saving money, atleast thats what I am experiencing in the Philippines.

  24. Jennifer Moss

    I love this post! We’re doing research along the same vein regarding happiness at work but incorporating it into the technology we’re building to help organizations commit to the happiness of their employees! It is amazing how few companies understand the ROI of Happiness. We spoke at SXSW Interactive this year about it and it was incredible to see those “ah-ha” moments on the faces of C-suites in the room. Let’s hope the workplace happiness trend keeps up the momentum because it is a win for everyone! Keep up the great research.

  25. lequan

    This is so right. thanks

  26. Dasha

    This is a really interesting finding! It parallels what we discovered while collecting a list of productivity proverbs: our survey found that 56.7% of respondents are motivated by a good mood, while a possible reward encourages efficiency in just 42.1% of employees (http://www.wrike.com/blog/03/13/2014/10-Encouraging-Productivity-Proverbs-Your-Office-Wall-Part-2). Happiness really does motivate people to get things done!

  27. Yoda

    Dear Unhappy. Stop complaining and blaming your boss. You ultimately control your happiness. Unless he/they have you chained to a desk, you make the decision to walk into that office every day. Either find other ways to change the environment/culture/working conditions, or find a better job. Stop being a victim.

  28. Ms. Xochi

    Great article! I love the quote from ‘anonymous’. ALL CEO’s need to read this, especially in overworked, underpaid places…

  29. Jenny Sanderson

    It’s a fact; smiling, laughing, showing people you care and you want to know they’re okay makes their day. Surely this is going to have a positive effect on their state of being and productivity. Bring on the smiles if you ask me, cos there aren’t enough people doing it!

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