Google is known for offering employees perks that will make them happier, such as great food and play rooms. This strategy is based on the belief that happier people are more productive. Is it worth investing in your employees’ happiness? And, as a recruiter, should you prefer happier candidates?
A recent study by Oswald, Proto and Sgroi published in the leading journal in labor economics in 2015 offers some answers based on a series of clever experiments:
1. Showing employees a comedy clip makes them 13 percent more productive.
In this experiment, the researchers showed employees a comedy clip. Not everyone found it funny, but on average there was a 13 percent increase in productivity. The increase in productivity was higher among those people whose mood was boosted the most by the clip.
2. Free food and drinks also boost productivity by 15 percent.
Researchers gave workers chocolate bars, fruit, and water, and 10 minutes to enjoy them prior to the work session. Getting food and drink made people 15 percent more productive compared to those who did not receive this benefit. This result confirms that Google’s strategy of offering good food may well be an effective way to increase productivity.
3. People who are unhappy in their personal lives are less productive at work.
Are unhappy people less productive? In this experiment, researchers compared the work performance of students from the same university. Students who had recently had a death or illness in the family reported lower levels of happiness and were 10 percent less productive than students who did not experience such sad events.
Should you therefore invest in free food and drinks for employees, or perhaps allow more internet browsing to lift people’s moods? This is probably going to make them more productive if they get working right after the benefit is given. What is unclear is whether the cost to the employer is worth the productivity boost. If you find low cost ways of boosting the mood of your employees, go for it: Everyone will benefit, employees and business alike.