Does Happiness Guarantee Productivity?

Working in France, I often hear that “The French are the most productive workers in Europe” (if it wasn’t even “in the World”). I find that very odd. Coming from a culture of a simple “Hello+smile” in the mornings and “coffee at the desk”, I sometimes think the cheek kissing, coffee breaks, and “pesting” about different things, take up a lot of time during office hours and has a tendency to slow a lot of productive work.

Now I have started blogging, and a few days ago I took a bit of a spree in statistics focussing on Europe and work satisfaction, completed by a bit of unemployment, GDP and other data (read the piece here – it turned out a bit long). But I didn’t actually dig into the productivity per worker. Here is a complement to that.

It turns out both the Economist wrote about this not long ago, and the OECD has ready-made statistics to look at (I love the OECD for that). How good is that?

So, here goes. There is data on GDP per hour worked – of course!

The Danes, who have the highest rates of life satisfaction among the working age population in Europe (according to the OECD’s How’s Life publication), score approximately 103.

The French, who rank in the middle, score about 105.5.

The unhappiest Europeans, in Greece and Hungary, score 100 and 109, respectively.

The most productive workers in the world are the Koreans (137.8), followed by Poland, Chile, and the Slovak Republic (all around 126) and then Estonia (at 124.5).

Now, I am not sure that the “per hour worked” includes coffee breaks, cheek kissing, and other interruptions, i.e. the total time in the office (I leave that up to the reader to ponder). The Danes do work shorter hours than the French (more about that here), but do they also take less time for coffee breaks? Here is a little bonus read from HBR  on coffee breaks by the way, saying they don’t actually boost productivity, but the length of the breaks is nowhere to be found…

Regardless, the point is not to measure coffee breaks, cheek kissing, or chatting, but to look at productivity vs happiness. To simplify things, you could say that it doesn’t seem to matter if people are unhappy or happy, they can still be productive. The scary part is that this doesn’t necessarily give any incentives to employers to make their people happier at work if you just look at productivity numbers. Then again, goodwill, “Best Employer”-rankings etc may, so the case is not completely lost.

There we go. Wishing you all a happy – and productive – week at work!

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