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The business case for happiness at work

28 Jul 2010 | Psychology Today

Last week I met someone I'd coached a few years ago for a catch-up dinner. Her face was glowing and she was radiating enthusiasm and energy. Her organization had been through a very tough time with job losses, new management, high levels of uncertainty. And she had been given lots of new challenges to deal with, responsibilities and in areas she'd had little knowledge of. She was loving it all and told me that she was incredibly happy at work.

But what is the general effect that supposedly post-recessionary times are having on happiness and productivity?

At iOpener the research and consulting company I run, we've been collecting data about happiness at work and productivity since before the recession started. So we can compare some before, during and after recession numbers, all of which are really interesting.

One of the main ways we measure the effect of happiness at work is by looking at time people spend on task - or doing what they're there to do. Before the recession, people who were really happy at work reported that they spent 78% of their day on task. The rest was taken up by sorting diaries, doing mundane stuff like waiting on calls, for frozen screens - the kind of thing that gets in the way of real work. In contrast people who were most unhappy at work said that they spent only 53% of their time on task. That's a 25% difference between both groups.

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