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I read story after story about people quitting their jobs. It’s safe to say that people who are happy at work, putting aside relocations, don’t usually quit. Is happiness at work the same thing as joy at work? I recently had a day when I felt incredibly joyful all day long and I’m not sure why. I was just clearly happy and sailing along at work.

And yet, I wasn’t sailing along. My productivity was disastrous, despite being focused all day. I was just dealing with problems that were not easily solved. Despite best efforts, I finished the day unable to check off a single important item from my To Do list. Why did I still feel joyful? And is happiness the same thing? I don’t know. I don’t see the distinction.

In this blog I want to explore whether we really need to feel more joy at work by considering three questions.

Is happiness at work the same thing as joy at work? Does it make us more productive? #joyatwork #happiness #productivity #smartprojex Click To Tweet

1. Does being happy at work increase productivity?

In a study undertaken at Warwick University (England), with results published in 2015, people who were happy were more productive. And people who had experienced recent tragedies were less productive. But as I read the paper, which went on to discuss other studies with similar findings, I wondered about the results.

How do we measure productivity? If I work all day to solve a problem and don’t solve it, does that mean I wasn’t productive? And how do we measure productivity?

In the Smart Projex world, activities which don’t move a project forward aren’t very valuable. We can’t keep spending a client’s money on activities which don’t generate results, though I will agree that many times the result is a lesson learned on what doesn’t work. But lessons learned must be cataloged in some meaningful way so that people aren’t making the same mistakes again and again.

Let me give you a simple personal example. I work from home and have an eight-year-old printer that keeps acting up. And I decided I needed an upgrade, so I started researching new printers. Supply chain issues can make it hard to buy the one that you find after all of your research. After too long working on this, I realized that I kept circling back to the same printers, because I wasn’t using a particularly good strategy for what I had hoped was a simple task. At least for your work projects, where clients (or your company) are paying you for results, you need a strategy that includes documenting lessons learned.

Basics of the Warwick study

This was a study of college students, from an elite university to determine the impact of happiness on productivity. So, to begin, it was not a diverse study. Also, the method they used to measure happiness was a simple survey – not a particularly objective method.

To measure productivity, organizers conducted four experiments and participants were paid for each math problem that they solved correctly. I’m just not sure that math tests require the same kinds of skill sets that we are called to use in project work, where we are trying to create new products, programs, or services. Furthermore, this is not typically the compensation structure in most businesses. Perhaps, if we moved to compensating project teams based on work completed instead of hours worked, the study might have more relevance. I don’t see that happening in the short-term.

In two of the four experiments that were done, participants were shown a comedy clip and productivity was measured. Productivity was higher in the group that watched the film. As I have discussed in a previous blog, there is some evidence that connects an increase in productivity to laughter. That could explain the results.

2. Why should companies not spend big monies to help employees feel more joy at work?

If people who are happy at work are more productive, it follows that it makes sense for employers to spend money focusing on employee happiness. I’m just not convinced that happiness is the right barometer to use.

There are several factors that cause me to believe that investing in candy, beer, and game tables may not be the wisest use of company funds.

  • People are different and what makes one person happy may not make another person happy.
  • We need to focus on empowering people and setting up the notion that the company will make you happy creates a dependency that may not be healthy.
  • We don’t want to create workplaces where people prefer to be at work over spending time with their families and loved ones.

3. Do companies have any responsibility to help employees feel more joy at work?

If we decide that companies should not spend mega dollars to help employees be happy at work, do these companies have any responsibility in this area? Yes. Companies do have a responsibility to build healthy cultures, where employees can be productive, make a difference, be challenged, solve problems, and enjoy doing it.

Do companies have any responsibility to help employees feel more joy at work? #joyatwork #happiness #productivity #smartprojex Click To Tweet

I posit that employees who are focused will feel more joy at work. And companies are well-positioned to increase focus – through proper strategy planning, effective communications, and the use of some aspects of the Smart Projex methodology.

If you want to know more about how to do that, sign up for breaking news announcements on an upcoming project of mine.