Being happy at work

Sonia Lyubomirsky

We’ve recently been taking a more detailed look at our pilot study data and tried to identify the behavioral consequences of practicing positive activities at work. According to some preliminary analysis two interesting relationships seem to be have emerging.

First, we examined peak behavioral rhythm hour and initial behavioral rhythm–in other words, the highest point of movement during the day and one’s movement when first arriving at the office. We found that participants who practiced a positive activity each week (which involved considering “three things that went well at work”) appeared to be more energetic at work. They were more active when they arrived at work, and they also “peaked” earlier, which suggests they were putting more effort into work during the day.

With respect to social interactions, we observed a general trend such that our participants spent less time talking to other people over time. However, this trend for decreasing social activity was more pronounced for people who practiced the positive activity with high effort–that is, those most likely to draw the greatest benefit from the activity. Because we know that these participants were also happier, we speculate that they might be conversing less because they already feel good, rather than seeking out social interactions to obtain a quick boost. Alternatively, the exercise could have inspired workers to be more task-focused.

One implication of these findings is that workers who appreciate their work become more productive. In our next study, in which workers will perform acts of generosity in the workplace, we will get a better idea of what’s actually happening. Also, practicing generosity at work is exciting because it’s a social positive activity, and should have a relatively stronger effect on our participants.

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