It’s a fact; happier employees work harder

Why balanced employees are good for business

POPSCI: A scientific slant on what’s trending in popular culture

Once again, recent research has shown that working Americans have never been more stressed about their finances. And that’s despite the fact that nearly half of US workers say they slog it out for more than 50 hours at work each week. So how come everyone’s working so hard and still not getting enough in return?

Researchers at the University of Warwick designed a randomised control experiment that showed a causal link between human well-being and human performance; happier people work harder. They also work smarter. It’s even been suggested that working fewer hours would make us more productive overall — it’s been proven that productivity drops sharply after 50 hours of work a week anyway, rendering anything above 55 almost useless. Again and again, It comes back to maintaining a balance.

This isn’t about a work-life balance — even the phrase implies that these are two separate aspects of ourselves. People can choose when they perform work tasks, but they can’t separate how work affects their overall life; pay, mood, sense of purpose and value. According to behavioural economist Dan Ariely, it’s about rest versus effort. ”A way to think about it is to think about how much time we get to execute things, versus how much time do we get to think about things that might turn out to be useful in the long run, and are investment in our own development,” he says.

Big companies are reacting to these findings in support of their employees, attempting to ease the struggles of life both in and out of work. Starbucks’ Home Sweet Loan programme offers an interest-free loan to UK employees looking to become homeowners. In practice, the loan — which amounts to around £1,300 — isn’t going to get a Team Leader on the property ladder, but it may ease the afore-mentioned financial stress in a tight month.

Brazilian company Semco does one better, letting employees set their own work hours and pay levels. CEO Ricardo Semler believes that people know what they are worth and that the productivity and loyalty benefits are immeasurable for company performance — and the figures back him up. Ultimately, there’s a causal link between employee well-being and company productivity. And the employers that remember it see the benefit in their bank balance.

See how businesses are applying insights like this at Canvas8.com

Written by Alex Caminer, senior analyst at Canvas8