How does being happy make you more productive?

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You know those days when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? From that moment on, nothing seems to go smoothly that day, right?  I sure do. Then there’re those fantastic days when you wake up happy and everything, at work or otherwise, goes like a dream.  Have you ever wondered why?  Well, it turns out to have a lot to do with how mood relates to efficiency. As Shawn Achor, CEO of Happy Think Inc. suggested in a TED talk in 2011: ” Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than at negative, neutral or stressed.”

So clearly, happiness and mood must have an impact on productivity. Cool, right?

A bit later on, we’ll find out more about how your mood can influence productivity.

Right now though, let’s answer the question.

Being happy makes you more enthusiastic, alert and attentive, which boosts both productivity and creativity. Research suggests that positive emotions can be spread by the simple act of polite, pleasant interaction. This can stimulate activity in mirror neurons in others’ brains and improve their mood. This implies it may be possible to increase the productivity of whole groups through the diffusion of positive emotion in a workplace.

Let’s explore this further by looking at one case study.

Is there really a link between mood and productivity?

Yes.  Let’s look at one example to explain this in more detail.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Ohio State University studied the moods of customer service representatives. They worked in a call centre on behalf of an insurance company. They used mood surveys to gauge mood both first thing in the morning, and after talking to customers.

They found:

  • Staff who indicated being in a better mood at the beginning of the day gave higher quality customer service compared to those who reported being in a bad mood.
  • Those in a good mood were more articulate and made fewer grammatical errors when speaking to customers.
  • Happier employees took fewer breaks than their more unhappy workmates.
  • Unhappier colleagues typically took fewer calls than those who said they were in a good mood.
  • On average, happier employees were 10% more efficient than their unhappier colleagues over the course of the day.

The study did find a surprising thing, too. Employees who said that they were in a bad mood still reported having an uptick in their mood after serving customers who were also in a negative frame of mind.

This suggests — to me, at least— that the relationship between mood and productivity isn’t that simple.

We’ll investigate the real-world implications of Rothbard and Wilk’s work more when we look at whether a good mood can be catching. 

For now, let’s turn to the effect of mood on efficiency.

How can mood affect productivity?

To answer this one, I should clarify what I mean by being in a good or bad mood.

  • A good mood is whenever you’re feeling happy. This makes you enthusiastic and improves your focus and alertness.
  • When experiencing a negative emotion, such as anger, sadness or anxiety, you’re in a bad mood.

If you’re in a bad mood you are likely to become stressed and, in more extreme cases, can become depressed. If you’re in a low mood, research suggests you’ll have more difficulty making decisions about what you do. This is sometimes called decisional procrastination. Unsurprisingly, this makes you less productive. 

Conversely, when people are happy, they’re not only more efficient, they actually produce better work. This is evidenced by the high employee satisfaction rates reported from within Google. 

It seems finding joy in your work is an especially good thing to strive for. Because even being in a temporarily bad mood can worsen productivity. Let’s find out more.

Why can a temporarily bad mood be bad for efficiency?

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest a bad mood of any duration can slow cognition and reduce cognitive flexibility, as demonstrated by von Stumm. This affects both creativity and productivity. If you’re not thinking as fast, your ability to make speedy decisions is impaired. Thus your productivity and effectiveness suffer.  She found this to be true, no matter how determined you are to get things done.

Can a good mood be catching?

Moods are made up of a vast number of low-intensity, elusive feelings that are hard to define. Therefore, you can’t really say that a mood is catching in itself.  The good news is that there is research to support the idea that positive emotions can spread amongst groups.  

This positive effect is more pronounced if someone in a good mood communicates with someone else who is also in a good mood. The effect is also perceptible if people who simply appear to be in a good mood talk to someone who is giving off positive, cheerful vibes.

If we ourselves display positive emotion we can actually trigger activity in mirror neurons in others. This implies we can perpetuate positive emotions across a team, to use a workplace-based example.  

Sometimes a bad mood can perpetuate in a similar way.

Later on, I’ll give you some tips on what you could do to improve your mood if you do find yourself in the doldrums. Next, let’s look at what you can do if you think your work is suffering because of your bad mood.

What can I do if my bad mood is making me less productive?

Here’s what you can do if you suspect you are in a spiral of unhappiness and low productivity.

  • Figure out why you are procrastinating and thus not producing your best work.
  • Set yourself more achievable goals using to-do lists and the power of prioritisation.
  • You can use time management software to help with this.
  • Remember to build some time into your schedule to tend to your own needs. In other words, don’t organise your entire life around being productive at work.
  • Give yourself permission to have some fun!

Remember, it’s vitally important to seek help if you find yourself in a consistently bad mood, regardless of how hard you try to find a solution.

” Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed.”

Shawn Achor, Psychologist and CEO of Good Think Inc.

How can I improve my mood and boost my productivity?

There’s absolutely no shame in searching for help if you get stuck in a depressive spiral. That being said, how could you try to lift your mood if you are having a bad day at the office?

Here’re some tips on how to banish a temporarily poor mood.

  • Try to see the funny side of life.  The old adage, ‘”Laughter is the best medicine’” may sound corny, but it’s true. No matter how bad things may seem there’s usually something to smile about. Even just trying to be sincerely happy for someone else can be improve your mood.
  •  Eat a bit of something that typically makes you happy. Think, chocolate, biscuits, crisps, fresh fruit or anything else you fancy.
  • Listen to some music you love on your way to work to get off to a good start.
  • If you normally pick up a coffee on your way into work, make an effort to engage with your server by greeting them and making eye contact. Simply being nice to others can make you feel better.

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage to haul yourself out of a trough though. Attitude may be something of a conscious choice, but mood is a more complex and subconscious, indefinable concept. We don’t have the same control over our mood as we have over our attitude. Mood changes — to a certain extent— are natural and should be expected.

You’re human, and no one should expect you to be perfect. So, just follow these tips and do your best.

Summary

By addressing some of these questions, I hope I’ve helped you learn a little more about the close relationship between mood and productivity. If you’re struggling, never be afraid to seek help. I hope these tips will help you manage your mood more effectively.  Before you know it, you’ll be creating high-quality work with a smile on your face. What’s more, you’ll be doing so lightning-fast!

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold a MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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