Imagine this. It’s 8 am on a workday. As you step inside the office, a wave of emotion floods over you. How do you feel about working today? Would you say you feel excited? Or perhaps you’re worried? Maybe even nonchalant?
The simple process of checking in with your emotions could predict how much you’ll accomplish in one day. Consequently, your persistent and dominant feelings about work will determine whether or not you succeed in that role. We know this because, in recent decades, a growing body of evidence is pointing towards a relationship between happiness and productivity.
Intuitively, we know happiness and productivity are linked. We are motivated to work, and we play better with others when we are filled with positive emotions. When we’re happy, we can find pleasure in even the most mundane of daily tasks.
You’re probably wondering: what is the link between happiness and productivity? Is happiness really the key to productivity? Well, the answer may surprise you.
Humans evolved with four hormones that play a major role in the success and happiness of our species. These hormones are endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Experts call them appropriately as the happiness or success hormones.
These hormones reward us with happiness when we do things that benefit ourselves and especially when we do things for others. Their existence explains why we can achieve greatness despite our fears and why we feel pride when we achieve our goals.
This may be hard to believe because work often leaves us feeling tired and defeated, but the truth is, our bodies are primed for happiness and success.
In this article, you’ll see 7 reasons why happiness makes us more productive. You’ll also understand how the four hormones work together to help us become happier and successful people.
Let’s dive in.
Happy workers bounce back quickly from adversity.
When happy workers experience failure, they don’t let the experience affect them negatively. Happiness makes them more resilient, allowing them to pursue their next goal without feeling stressed.
This happens because of endorphins, the happiness hormone that is also a natural pain-and-stress-reliever. Experts refer to endorphins as the determination hormone because it increases our drive for achievement and keeps us motivated.
Endorphins help us push past obstacles by tricking us into perceiving pain as pure pleasure. The phenomenon called runner’s high is one such example. Endorphins block pain receptors in the brain, giving runners a sense of euphoria so they can push past the muscle pain and get closer to the finish line.
Happy workers stay motivated to reach their goals.
Happy workers have clear goals, and they are relentless in tracking their progress. Crossing an item off their to-do list seems like standard practice. But some experts claim that seeing goals on a list and crossing them out when completed can boost happiness. This effect is caused by dopamine. The hormone experts refer to as the achievement hormone.
Dopamine is highly responsive to visual cues. When we see our goals, like the items in our to-do list, we feel a rush of dopamine. The dose is increased each time we look at our goals. Until finally, we are rewarded with a massive dopamine hit when we achieve the goal.
Happy workers work well with others.
Happy workers are more productive because they are comfortable working with other people. In fact, the third happiness hormone, serotonin, pushes us to extend ourselves and seek out other people. Why? Well, the reason is a little bizarre.
Unlike dopamine and endorphins, we can only produce serotonin with the help of other people. Serotonin is released in our bodies when we feel supported in a safe environment. For example, if our team has our back, we feel confident and less afraid to make mistakes. We could express ideas freely and reach for something bigger than ourselves.
Serotonin is also responsible for the pride we feel when our team recognizes our contribution. So, while personal goals give you a surge of dopamine and endorphins, achieving with other people makes you even happier because of serotonin.
Happy workers are generous of their time and energy.
Happy workers give more than they take, sometimes without expecting additional rewards or recognition. They do this because helping others feels good. When we perform acts of kindness and generosity, our body releases oxytocin, the most powerful of the four happiness hormones. Interestingly, oxytocin is released even if we are only witnessing acts of kindness. We can feel happy just watching people around us being kind to each other.
Oxytocin helps a team bond with their leaders in the same way that children bond with their parents. It enables us to develop trust and friendship in the workplace. Like serotonin, we need other people to produce oxytocin. But unlike serotonin, oxytocin develops over time. We don’t trust and bond with others in just a few days. But nature is clever — small acts of kindness over a long period of time helps to build higher oxytocin levels.
Happy workers make better decisions and fewer mistakes.
Someone who is happy is more capable of making informed decisions. We’ve already seen the importance of feeling safe and supported by the people we work with. Happy workers focus on doing a great job rather than feeling afraid of committing blunders. On the other hand, someone who is unhappy could lose sight of the bigger picture and make poor decisions.
Happy workers are healthier.
Experts agree that happiness boosts the immune system. When you’re healthy, you will be present at work more often and have the energy to produce quality work.
On the other hand, unhappy workers are more likely to suffer the effects of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for the fight or flight response. When cortisol is present in the system, the immune system shuts down, and the organism’s growth is stunted.
When workers are exposed to prolonged stress at work, their cortisol levels rise but never drop. Experts have already established that sustained levels of stress lead to chronic illnesses.
Happy workers have mental clarity.
Two of the biggest companies in the world, Apple and Google, are known not only for great products; they’re also known for their investment in employee well-being.
Happy workers can be innovative and imaginative because their minds are free from distraction. It is easier to get into the zone and easier for ideas to flow in a mind that is calm and receptive. As a result, the employee can focus all of his mental faculties to the task in front of him.
Happiness comes in many forms. It can feel like safety, belongingness, the absence of stress. Likewise, the evidence of productivity isn’t always easy to pinpoint. Some employers measure productivity by the output produced, the numbers on their bottom line, or the tasks completed.
Regardless of measurement, many companies are already investing in employee happiness. Are you one of them? If not, what would you do to make yourself and your employees feel happier at work? The rewards for investing in happiness may be a surge in productivity. Or it could just be a feeling of happiness every time you step into your office.