A Happy Worker is a Productive Worker

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by Marilyn Tam

Unhappiness among workers in America is costing a shocking $300 billion per year in lost productivity, Gallup-Healthways estimates. The recent Well-Being Index shows that Americans are increasingly unhappy with their jobs and work environments. When people aren't happy with their jobs or their employers, they don't show up consistently, they produce less, and the quality of their work suffers. A 2011 Harvard Business Review article stated that the level of happiness has a profound impact on workers' creativity, productivity, commitment and collegiality.

work life meaningYou (as well as your company) need a defined mission/reason for being. With an established purpose, you can manage and prioritize your energies and resources to best fulfill the mission. Work and life have meaning when we feel what we are doing creates worth and is in alignment with what we value. There are five life factors that need to be kept in dynamic balance to achieve and maintain happiness and productivity. Understanding people's motivators will help you to structure your work environment and to develop products and services that truly serve your customers.

Money and Other Means of Value Exchange 


In today's world, money is the primary (and sometimes the only) form of work compensation, yet surveys have shown that the most effective motivator for increased performance and creativity is when one feels that his or her work has meaning and value. Understanding what drives people is helpful when designing incentive programs to increase satisfaction, and consequently, performance.


Human beings are inherently social. We need honest and positive connections with others to survive and thrive in the workplace, as well as in our personal lives. Healthy relationships will build trust and enhance openness and collaboration, instead of fear and reluctant compliance. Structure a participatory workplace environment and allow for some flexibility in work hours so that your associates have the ability to adjust their schedules when needed.


The American Psychology Association tells us that stress is a major cause of illness today, and oftentimes workplace stress is the primary culprit. Sick or unhealthy workers are unable to function optimally and their performance suffers. Unhealthy workers also cost the company more through healthcare costs and absenteeism. Encourage everyone to take their allotted vacation days. Ensure that the mission of the company is clearly shared with all employees, so that they understand that their work has meaning. People are happier and will do more when they feel that they are contributing to a worthwhile purpose.


Along with strong interpersonal relationships, we also need to feel a sense of belonging to the larger communities in which we live. When your company is actively involved in the surrounding community you have a source of local support. Your community is also an excellent place to get input and feedback on your products and services. In today's global economy, your community encompasses the whole world, and a corporate culture that supports that perspective will help you develop your company's offerings to best suit the market.


A belief in something greater than ourselves sustains us when we are in pain, scared, or in dire need. That same power enhances positive experiences and gives us more joy, compassion and energy. Recognizing the power of belief can guide your work policies to honor others' beliefs and facilitate their practice of them. When people feel respected for who they are and what they believe, they are happier and more productive individuals.

Increased productivity through happier employees can be realized with only a modicum of energy exerted -- by you and your organization's leadership -- in the five areas above. To help you better achieve success and balance for yourself and for your organization, several resources have been made available to you at no charge.

Adapted from The Happiness Choice (Wiley 2013), by Marilyn Tam, Ph.D. She is a Speaker, Author, Consultant, and Board Certified Executive/Corporate/Leadership Coach. Formerly the CEO of Aveda Corp., President of Reebok Apparel and Retail Group and Vice President of Nike Inc., she is also a successful entrepreneur who has developed and built four companies. www.marilyntam.com

Ed Rigsbee, CAE, CSP, is the author of several books and over 2,000 articles on how to grow your business through strategic alliance development and Implementation. He lectures internationally on the topic. Contact him through www.rigsbee.com

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