Why a joyful workforce is a more productive workforce

Making the effort to ‘focus outwards’ can have wide-ranging benefits

If you hear people emitting peals of laughter at this time of year, or talking animatedly about their plans for the festive season, you might be tempted to think they’re slacking off. In reality, your joyful employees are also most likely to be your best-performing employees.

That’s because allowing employees to experience moments of joy not only makes them harder working, but also more productive – 12 per cent more productive according to research by Warwick University.

The reason joyful employees are so much more productive is because when we’re feeling joyful our brain releases chemicals that suppress the part of our brain that’s preoccupied with worrying, significantly boosting our capacity for creative thinking and problem solving.

So if you want to test out the benefits of having a joyful workforce for yourself, here are three tips you can easily put into practice this festive season:

Harness the power of praise

Negative comments at work can cause us to enter into a protective mindset, where we’re so worried about where the next negative comment is going to come from that we’re unable to tap into the creative thinking and powerful problem-solving skills associated with a more joyful state of mind.

Research published by Harvard Business Review shows that top-performing teams give out nearly six positive comments for every negative or disparaging comment. Middle-performing teams give out 1.9 positive comments for every negative, while the worst-performing teams give out three negative comments for every positive one.

By encouraging managers to comment on what they like and value about the individuals working for them, instead of preserving praise only for when they’ve done something exceptional, you can make people feel safe and valued in a way that allows them to tap into their full potential.

Celebrate success stories

Most of us won’t have to think that far back to remember a defining moment at work when we felt fantastic about closing that deal, hearing great customer feedback or mastering a new skill. The chances are we felt so good about it we even made an effort to share our good news with someone else at work, only to get a half-hearted ‘well done’ before they changed the topic or got stuck back into what they were doing – leaving us feeling a little bit flat and dejected.

Imagine instead that someone took the few minutes required to let you really relive an experience by asking you how you made it happen, what that means for you or the business and how proud you must feel. They would have multiplied your joy, allowing you to relish the moment, instead of zapping it.

By taking a moment to celebrate joy wherever it rears its head, we all have an important role to play in becoming ‘joy multipliers’ instead of ‘joy zappers’.

Show gratitude

One of the most effective ways to spread joy is by showing gratitude. When we genuinely thank someone, whether it’s a big smile for holding the lift for us, a thank you card and small gift for working late, an end-of-year bonus or Christmas celebration, it feels good to be thanked. Indeed, we set far greater store by genuine thanks than we do the monetary value attached to any associated gift.

And it feels good to say thank you. Numerous studies show that willingly giving to others releases dopamine, the same chemical responsible for the ‘high’ associated with cocaine.

Humans are social animals. We’re hardwired to help each other. In our complex modern society, it’s easy to focus inwards on ourselves and our own challenges and issues, but it’s been scientifically proven that by focusing outwards on others we can actually create more personal joy.

The upshot is, the more you give your workforce to feel joyful about, by expressing gratitude, praising them for work well done and celebrating success, the more happy, healthy and productive they’ll become.

Karen Matovu is head of mental health training for managers at Validium