Thinking of work as a source of happiness and personal satisfaction is a relatively new concept. Can you imagine asking that question to somebody 50 years ago?
The correlation between the two became a mainstream conversation less than two decades ago as companies searched for the golden formula of what makes us more productive. This came hand in hand with the rise of the application of psychology in the business world and the broader spread of information to the masses through the internet.
Google turned 25 this week. Take a second to consider how different the world was before that and how accessible information is to us nowadays. It's mind blowing, right?
Extensive empirical research has taken place since then, and many sources have proven a direct link between happiness levels and productivity at work. An Oxford University study conducted earlier this year found that happiness at work increased sales and the levels of customer service by 13%.
So, we’ve established that mood and satisfaction, indeed, have an impact on productivity and employee retention. But is productivity all that matters in this new world where innovation and creative thinking set organizations apart?
We’re seeing an unprecedented change in how we think about the place work has in our lives. Indeed, work-life balance has become one of the most discussed topics and hot requirements when looking for a job.
And businesses are slowly catching up.
Traditional productivity metrics—hours worked, product delivery, time on task—fall short in a fast-evolving workplace. The formula of ‘reducing input and increasing output’ feels outdated in an environment like tech, where innovation, creativity, and dynamism are critical.
The fact is that pushing for more output may not necessarily lead to better results.
Measuring only productivity may tell us if the work is being done but not if it’s the right work. We need to shift the focus from productivity to performance—this is where company objectives, values, and individual satisfaction merge.
The questions about happiness and how to obtain it are centuries old. The tricky thing is that no answer, and every answer is correct because each human being will have their own. However, research has uncovered some commonalities.
I’m sure that a free buffet or nap pods will contribute to employee mood—who wouldn’t want to eat delicious food and play games with their colleagues on the breaks?
However, in my view, the main factors for happiness at work are related to our sense of purpose, our relationships, how aligned we feel with the company values and the impact we can create in the organization.
Alignment: Employees who feel connected and aligned with the company values and the organization’s objectives will feel a greater sense of belonging, satisfaction, and accomplishment when they achieve their objectives that are part of the bigger picture and overall business success.
Appreciation: Feeling seen and heard is one of our primary human needs. Why would work be the exception? Being acknowledged and valued immensely impacts the levels of engagement, performance, and satisfaction at work.
Freedom and ownership: In my last blog article, I wrote about how ownership and trust are crucial in our remote culture. This is a big one for me. Giving our employees the freedom to do their jobs and how it works best for them creates a sense of freedom that’s then matched by execution and ownership. The impact you can cause in a team or organization is a source of accomplishment and satisfaction that is hard to match.
Psychological safety: If you encourage people to be creative and innovative, you must create a safe space to exchange ideas and make mistakes without fear. At Primer, we have a Slack channel dedicated exclusively to sharing and celebrating our mistakes and learning from each other (while laughing at ourselves!).
It is quite a unique experience to be in the center of this work revolution and see firsthand how things are dramatically changing so quickly. Between the wide range of possibilities that came in hand with remote working and companies like ours, shifting from hours worked to impact made, I cannot wait to see what’s next.