Happy workers are up to 13% more productive, researchers at Oxford University have found.
The study by Saïd Business School, conducted in the contact centres of British telecoms firm BT over a six-month period, is the first to conclusively link happiness to productivity.
BT employees were asked to rate their happiness on a weekly basis for six months, via an email survey, while data on attendance, call-to-sale conversion and customer satisfaction were tracked, along with the worker’s scheduled hours and breaks.
Happier employees worked faster by making more calls per hour, and managed to convert more calls to sales.
Happier workers do not work longer hours than less happy workers but are much more productive during their working hours, the research found.
The research was carried out by Professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve from Saïd, George Ward from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Clement Bellet of Erasmus University Rotterdam.
The link between happiness and productivity has long been discussed, but this is the first “causal field evidence” of it, the report’s author said.
“There has never been such strong evidence,” said Professor De Neve.
Recent research shows paid work is one of the things least likely to make Brits happy. While improved happiness is in the best interest of employees, Oxford’s research indicates it is also in the interests of employers – especially as the UK faces an ongoing productivity crisis.
Research suggests companies are contributing to this crisis by refusing to meet modern work demands – such as flexible working, which would allow employees to pick their own hours and work from home when desired.
The study also uncovered a link between bad weather conditions and unhappiness in workers.
The research was presented to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics on Thursday morning.