Productivity & Happiness

Are happy people more productive?

The professor of economics Andrew Oswald from the University of Warwick answers the question clearly: yes! He deals with the topic of happiness for more than twenty years. More concretely he examines the correlation between happiness and labor economics. In the last decades research has rather neglected the concept of the happy-productive-worker. This came about because the close correlation between happiness and productivity could not be supported sufficiently in science. There are many reasons why science should turn the attention to the influence and effects of human emotions and feelings. That should eventually make it easier to bridge psychology and economics. Every person has days on which he works more or less efficiently and powerfully. Sometimes a person is so dynamic and full of energy that work goes quite easily off hand. After a productive day people are generally more satisfied and in a relaxed state of mind. On the other hand there are days on which work demands appear to be overwhelming. This feeling is often accompanied by negative stress, inner restlessness and performance pressure. The relaxation is wanted badly though often stays out. Additionally, a feeling of unproductivity joins the persistence stress.

Professor Oswald showed in several studies that happy people work far more productive and are, upon reversion, much more satisfied. In the experiment the study participants are divided into two groups. The scientists make half of them watch comedy-clips. They wanted to investigate how strong the productivity of the participants in the following task would change. Especially, they were eager to discover if they would differ from the other participants who did not saw the comedy-clips. The result was that the participants who saw the clips were twelve percent more productive. The outcome surprised the scientists. After that, the experiment was repeated a few times- with the same outcome. Thus high spirits, satisfaction and happiness are significantly in correlation with productivity.
In a second experiment the scientists chose another approach renouncing consciously an action which might provoke positive or negative feelings. The participants completed their task which measured their happiness. Subsequently, the participants were asked about their personal background and on the other hand how happy they momentarily are. Participants who suffered from a tragedy as death or illness in the family were, as one can expect, less happy. On the other hand, they also found out that these participant were less productive. There seems to be a considerable correlation between happiness and productivity.

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  • Prof. Dr. Andrew Oswald Professor of Economics, University of Warwick
  • Prof. Dr. Ronnie Schöb Professor for International Public Economics, Free University Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Ruut Veenhoven Emeritus Professor Social Conditions of Human Happiness, Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Prof. Dr. Carmelo Vazquez President of the International Positive Psychology association
  • Prof. Dr. Marc Hassenzahl Folkwang University Essen
  • Dr. Martijn Burger Academic Director Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organisation
  • Dr. Adam Okulicz Kozaryn Researcher Rutgers University
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