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The happy and productive worker

September 17, 2011

As a member of the Psychological Testing Centre, I receive a publication called Assessment & Development Matters, published quarterly. I am a bit behind on my reading (!) and whilst sorting through some papers, I came across an edition from 2010 which caught my eye. The article was entitled ‘Why leveraging the science of happiness at work matters: The happy and productive employee’ (Pryce-Jones & Lutterbie, 2010).

For the past 5 years, Pryce-Jones & Lutterbie have been running research regarding happiness at work attempting to provide a definitive answer to the question: is the happy worker a productive one too? After gathering 5000 responses they provided an overview of the findings thus far.

They found that there were 5 clear factors providing a ‘concrete and practical understanding of happiness at work’. These factors are:

  1. Contribution
  2. Conviction
  3. Culture
  4. Commitment
  5. Confidence

In addition to these five factors, they found there to be associations for each factor with pride, trust, recognition and achieving ones potential. Perhaps an unsurprising link here with happiness and employee engagement literature?

In their research they found that people who reported being happier at work spent more time on tasks at work. In fact, they found that happier groups spent 78% of each day on tasks, whereas those from the least happy groups spent just 53% of each day on tasks. So, it could be thought of in these terms: happy employees spend around 4 working days working and unhappy employees spend only roughly 2.5 days working! Wow!

In terms of turnover of staff, then from collecting data on this too, the researchers have found that due to jobs being currently more scarce, the least happy employees are less likely to move on to other jobs so employers look like they may be stuck with unproductive employees for a bit longer than usual...

These are certainly interesting findings. The key take home message then? Well, if these results can be trusted, then happiness at work is not something that can be considered a nice to have any more, it is a need to have if we are to get the best out of our employees. More employee engagement needed perhaps to harness that untapped happiness in the least happy of groups, after all there is some clear overlap?!


Pryce-Jones, J. Lutterbie, S. (2010). Why leveraging the science of happiness at work matters: The happy and productive employee. Assessment & Development Matters, Vol.2(4), pp.6-8

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