Why Happiness Is The Key To Improved Productivity


There's a large body of evidence which supports the idea that happiness increases performance.

As Shawn Achor demonstrates in his marvellous book, the Happiness Advantage (affiliate link), Psychologists have found many ingenious ways to test this idea.


Here are the details of one experiment.

Three groups of doctors are asked, under time pressure, to review complex paper-based case histories. Each doctor is asked to establish a likely diagnosis based on a set of symptoms.

  1. Group 1 is asked simply to make the diagnosis.
  2. Group 2 is given a medical journal to read to ‘warm them up.’
  3. Group 3 is asked to make a decision having been primed to be happy.

Group 3 performs substantially better than the others. They arrive at the right diagnosis 20% more quickly and with about two and a half times less anchoring.

What Was It That Primed Them To Be Happy?

They were given some sweets, which by the way they weren’t allowed to eat until after they’d finished in case it increased their blood sugar levels and interfered with the result of the experiment.

What Are The Implications?

If you want your organisation to be more productive or safer or more creative, you should be thinking about how to create a more positive culture, where people feel happy at work.

Based on the evidence of this experiment, and many other findings, it’s clear that it doesn’t take much to create a more positive climate. People who are happier at work are more creative and more productive. These are unambiguous conclusions from the scientific literature.

Why Does This Matter?

Too many organisations have cultures which are unhealthy. Driving people harder can make people unhappy. As this evidence demonstrates, unhappy people are less productive. In a healthcare context, they might also be less safe too.


Is your organisation or team happy place to be?