Linking Employee Happiness and Productivity: What is IT’s Role?

Linking Employee Happiness and Productivity: What is IT’s Role?
March 14, 2022

It’s no secret that employee happiness and productivity often go hand-in-hand. But just how much impact does an employee’s happiness have on productivity – and is this a question that should concern IT leaders?  

It’s not exactly news that employees want to feel happy at work – but during the Great Resignation, we’re now seeing what lengths they’re willing to go to when they’re unhappy with their current employers. 

But employee happiness has a greater impact on business success beyond employee retention. Employee happiness and productivity are inextricably linked: 

  • Research from University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School found that happiness at work can lead to a 13% increase in productivity. 
  • Subsequent studies have looked at the impact that a positive outlook has on motivation and productivity. They found that individuals with positive outlooks have a stronger ability to overcome obstacles in pursuit of their goals and have increased productivity over extended periods of time. 

And although employee happiness hinges on the strategies of more than one department, IT teams undoubtedly have a central role to play. 

Improving employee happiness starts at the top.  

Discussions on employee happiness tend to focus on the employees responsible for the day-to-day operations—writing the code or manning the phones. But it’s just as important that business leaders are happy – as their experiences end up influencing the people who work for them. 

In this study from 2016, researchers recorded the self-reported mood-states of 357 managers over a month and found that managers who experienced more “pleasantness” at work – that is, who felt happy, satisfied, or calm—were more likely to be described as “transformational” by their employees. 

The research is clear: prioritizing the happiness of your employees from the top down will lead to greater productivity across the board. 

How to Promote Employee Happiness 

There’s no magic method for business leaders to “make” their employees happy. We can, however, identify the key aspects of our work environment that impact our happiness. By focusing on these targeted areas, leadership can create an environment that promotes rather than inhibits happiness:  

  • Offer competitive salaries and benefits packages to let your employees know that their contributions are valued. 
  • Cultivate an open company culture where all employees feel heard, can give voice to any issues they have, and receive recognition for personal or team achievements. 
  • Promote the dignity and wellbeing of your employees through programs focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. 
  • Invest in your employees’ digital experiences. 

This last one is where your IT team comes in. Technology is one of the biggest facilitators of, and inhibitors to productivity – which means that IT has a substantial influence on the overall experiences that employees have throughout the day. A people-focused IT team has the capacity to create a digital employee experience that reduces stress, enhances happiness, and creates a platform for productivity. 

Promoting Productivity Through A Positive Digital Employee Experience 

A healthy digital employee experience is one where technology facilitates and even energizes an employee’s work. But too often, the reality is the exact opposite. Devices are slow to start, applications crash, and connectivity is interrupted.  

Read more: 23 Minutes Lost: The Real Consequences of Workplace Distractions 

We often talk about how a DEX-focused IT team can prevent these issues from hampering productivity. But IT teams should also consider the ways in which a proactive strategy makes employees happier – and how this in turn facilitates greater business success. 

Take this example: an engineering team has a deadline approaching for a new product release. They’re down to the wire and the leader of the team, Sarah, is feeling the pressure. But that’s okay. She thrives under pressure. She is happiest when she really sinks into that concentrated state of flow where time flies by, work is getting done, and she can see the positive result around the corner. 

Only today, there’s an issue. Sarah can’t connect to the VPN. On top of that, Teams keeps crashing. She’s feeling stressed and annoyed. She really doesn’t need this today. 

Then someone from her team calls. An issue has come up that could set the project back. Stressed out, she responds poorly, failing to offer the calm guidance that her employee needs. Now her stress is impacting the happiness and productivity of her entire team.  

It’s the exact opposite of where they needs to be, just days before a crucial deadline. 

Now imagine how a people-focused IT team could have prevented this spiral of unhappiness and stress from taking place. With the right DEX strategy and tools in place, IT can see and contextualize the full scope of issues impacting the entire enterprise. In this case, they notice that 8% of staff are having VPN issues. Not an alarming number at first glance – but they realize that 8% is made up of mostly product engineers. 

So they prioritize this issue and deploy a solution before the engineers ever notice a problem with their VPN. Then an alert lets them know that Teams has crashed on an employee’s device – and they recognize that the employee hasn’t installed the latest version. They deploy a targeted message to employees with the outdated version of Teams, allowing them to update the app within seconds. 

Now, Sarah has a device that’s working perfectly—facilitating flow, not impeding it. And when her engineer calls her about that last-minute issue, she is calm and clear-headed. She’s back to doing what she loves, and her team has a calm, transformational leader who gets her across the finish line right on schedule. 

Megan Brake is a Content Strategist at Nexthink, interested in the intersection of technology and humanity.Learn More

Subscribe to the DEX Hub