Messages that Matter: Can Feeling Happy Increase Your Productivity?


Posted By Dr. Tom Sant | Mar 06, 2012


Want to be More Productive? Put a Smile on Your Face

Can feeling happy increase your productivity? Does feeling stressed reduce it?

Research shows that the answer to both questions is yes. Stress kills productivity, makes it harder to focus, and saps your energy.

If you are a proposal manager who is swamped with "must win" bids, or a sales person with an aggressive quota, you know what stress feels like.

But did you know that you will do yourself and your company a favor if you consciously work on reducing your stress and finding more joy in your daily work?

Just a couple of minutes a day can have a big impact.

In an article published in a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review, Shawn Achor provides both anecdotal and empirical data documenting the positive impact a feeling of well-being can have at work. Achor, who is CEO of Good Think and the author of The Happiness Advantage, reports on an experiment he conducted with tax managers at KPMG during the worst of the 2008 tax season.

He set up a control group which worked as they normally did, and another group which was asked to choose one of five activities:

  1. Jot down three things they were grateful for.
  2. Write a positive message to someone in their social support network.
  3. Meditate at their desk for two minutes.
  4. Exercise for 10 minutes.
  5. Take two minutes to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours.

The stressed out tax managers performed their chosen activity once a day, every day, for three weeks. At the end of the three weeks, Achor's team evaluated both the participants and the control group. What was the general sense of well-being in each group? Of engagement? Were they stressed? Depressed? Upbeat and resilient?

According to Achor, "On every metric, the experimental group’s scores were significantly higher than the control group’s scores. When we tested both groups again, four months later, the experimental group still showed significantly higher scores in optimism and life satisfaction. Just one quick exercise a day kept these tax managers happier for months after the training program had ended. Happiness had become habitual."

Happiness Depends on Ourselves

Aristotle argued in the Nicomachean Ethics that "we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." He also claimed, "Happiness depends upon ourselves." Modern science seems to confirm his view. If we make a habit of doing things that calm us, give us perspective, and open our hearts to joy, we are more likely to experience that joy.

Find Ways to Minimize Your Stress

As people who work in high-stress environments—facing the challenge of bringing in a huge amount of business when the economy is in the doldrums, taking responsibility for writing a great proposal even though that means working long hours with little sleep—we must find a way to minimize our stress. Our situation is probably no worse than accountants dealing with complex tax filings, so we might as well try one of those five techniques and make it a habit.

Your Happiness is Good For You AND Your Business

Ultimately, finding joy in our work is not only good for us individually but is also good for our business. As other articles in that issue of the Harvard Business Review make clear, there is an indisputable link between a happy, thriving workforce and better business performance. Lower stress produces higher profits.

I would be remiss, of course, if I didn't mention another way you can reduce your stress and bring a little more joy into your work life: Simply invest in Qvidian's sales enablement and proposal automation tools! They will enable you to get rid of hours of drudgery and give you quick access to the information you need to be your best. To find out how we do all that, call for a free, no obligation demo of the Qvidian sales enablement products that are right for you.

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