Happiness in the Workplace is Key to Employee Productivity, Study Says

November 27, 2012

The Source and the iOpener Institute for People and Performance are conducting a survey to find out how happy readers of The Wall Street Journal are at their jobs. To complement this study, The Wall Street Journal examined the role that happiness has in workplace productivity, and how both employees and employers can improve workplace satisfaction, motivation, and output. Considering the fact that, according to The Wall Street Journal, happy employees are 36% more motivated, 31% more successful in achieving their goals, and 33% more likely to assist their coworkers when compared with their unhappy counterparts, workplace contentment is an important objective for many companies.

The Wall Street Journal described several key elements of employee happiness and motivation, which include having well-defined goals, consistent and constructive feedback, ownership of certain projects, and a sense of purpose and positive impact. Other significant factors, include how well employees feel they fit into their company’s culture and align with its values and mission, and how confident they feel in their qualifications and the tasks they are given.

Several other studies and publications have discussed employee happiness, indicating an increased public interest in how to boost and maintain worker morale.  For example, Forbes reported that the career website Careerbliss.com conducted a 2011-2012 survey asking 69,000 employees from 22,000 companies to provide information on ten factors that impacted their workplace satisfaction, such as work-life balance, benefits, career advancement and growth opportunities, degree of job security, and quality of senior management. The survey revealed a direct correlation between salary and employee happiness, possibly due to the fact that higher paying positions have other advantages such as flexibility, autonomy, and more advanced and engaging work.

Yet another survey—Gallup’s annual Work and Education poll—found that workers are the most dissatisfied with their salaries and levels of workday stress. Deseret News elaborated on the poll’s results and its implications for the workplace, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s discussion of challenge vs. stress: “Challenge energizes us psychologically and physically, and it motivates us to learn new skills and master our jobs. When a challenge is met, we feel relaxed and satisfied.” In contrast, job stress is defined as “the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.” Thus, while challenges in the workplace can spur productivity and employee confidence, stress has a negative influence on workers’ performance. The American Psychological Association noted that job stress can cost U.S. businesses billions every year. In addition, the Gallup poll found that only 47% of American employees are completely happy with their job.

Approaches to increase employee satisfaction have long been a topic of discussion and debate among career and business experts. What most people agree on, however, is that it takes a combined effort on the part of employers and employees to make a positive difference in the overall happiness and productivity of a company. For example, while The Wall Street Journal called for action on the part of employers to encourage employees and help them grow professionally, it also emphasized the role of employees in crafting their own sense of purpose and motivation. In addition, Deseret News highlighted the importance of finding adequate work-life balance—through hobbies, work breaks, and a healthy lifestyle—in counteracting the effects of stress and maintaining high levels of productivity.

Compiled by Kaitlin Louie


“Can Money Buy You Career Happiness?” forbes.com, November 14, 2012, Jacquelyn Smith

“It's too much: One-third of workers say stress their biggest complaint, according to Gallup poll,” deseretnews.com, November 15, 2012, Michael De Groote

“U.S. Workers Least Happy With Their Work Stress and Pay,” gallup.com, November 12, 2012, Lydia Saad

 “Ways to Be Happy and Productive at Work,” blogs.wsj.com, November 25, 2012, Jessica Pryce-Jones

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