Are happy employees productive?

#Wellbeing at work is based on two philosophies. The first one is the hedonic view of pleasure and experience of positive affects and the second is the eudaimonic view of wellbeing as personal growth and a sense of meaning.

There coexist four patterns of relationships between performance and wellbeing:

  1. Happy-productive,

  2. Unhappy-unproductive,

  3. Happy-unproductive, and

  4. Unhappy-productive.

It is shown that when people are more satisfied with their jobs, they show higher performance. Therefore the quality of the task performance can be affected by these states because “happy” workers should have better performance than “less happy” ones.

Moreover, higher productivity over time is found on people who are more satisfied with their jobs. Whereas, people who feel better than usual at work have been found to make more effort on their tasks and achieve a higher level of task performance. Feelings of positivity and happiness in the morning are shown to increase levels of creativity during the day. As a result employees with higher levels of life wellbeing show better performance at work.

However, another hypothesis supports the idea that happy employees are less productive. Job satisfaction and job performance are treated as there are separate variables that are not directly relate to each other. Therefore, some scholars view the connections between happiness and job performance as questionable, suggesting an apparently low and non-significant satisfaction–performance relationship.


Public Health 2019, found that over 50% of the respondents of the study belonged to the unhappy-productive or happy-unproductive clusters. Hence, it is important to consider the antagonistic patterns of wellbeing and performance when re-defining the happy-productive worker thesis.

However, employees do not belong to analogous clusters in different operationalizations of wellbeing and performance. Some employees are classified as unhappy in a hedonic way and, simultaneously, happy in an eudaimonic way or vice-versa. Therefore, wellbeing is too complex and it is important to consider both, hedonic and eudaimonic dimensions in studies on wellbeing.”

Moreover, self-rated performances of the employees are often not reflected in their supervisor’s evaluation of their performances. Employees might be more lenient when self-rating their general performance as well as their responses reflect not only their past behavior, but also their expectations of the current and future behavior.

Interestingly, women, workers in the production sector, and management or highly qualified professionals are more likely to be included in the happy-productive profile. Whereas men, workers in the services sector, employees with a low education level, and technicians/administrative workers are more likely to be included in the unhappy-unproductive cluster.

Source: The Happy-Productive Worker Model and Beyond: Patterns of Wellbeing and Performance at Work.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019
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