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Happiness vs work

As many of you know, here at NixonMcInnes, in our attempts to prioritise people before profit, we measure happiness of the workforce.

As every ‘normal’ business should, we also measure how much chargeable work we’re doing.

I wondered – when we have tonnes of work to do, do we get stressed and unhappy? So, I mapped the two figures. I’ve protected our company financial data by converting monthly figures into an index against the lowest point in the data. So we have:

Happiness vs workThe graph can be read in a few ways. We can see that where we had 1.55x work, people were the least happy, at only 75%. However, when we had even more work than that, 1.69x work, we were 81% happy. If we add a trendline to the data:

Happiness vs work trendline

It appears that we like more work, but it reaches a peak, and we get unhappy with too much work. Particularly if the final point was an anomaly, and there isn’t a big dataset. So we’ll keep an eye on that one. Should we be setting targets of work based on what correlates with our optimum happiness? I think more data is needed…

So, next I wondered if the income targets we have as a company add pressure or reward to the workforce, by making us unhappy when we’re not meeting our targets, and happy when we’re meeting / surpassing our targets. We talk about the targets on a weekly basis with the whole company, so we’re all quite conscious of how the company is doing. Remember, the horizontal axis here is what % of our target was met.

Happiness vs targets trendlineWow. OK, this is clear evidence in favour of my hypothesis. The green trendline shows that happiness peaks when we deliver 100% of our targets. If we go over our targets, we get stressed and less happy (because we have too much work to do?), and if we’re not meeting our targets, we’re less happy (because we feel we’re failing, and we worry about the implications?).

It’s also quite reassuring that the 100% target line is roughly in the middle of our data – i.e. we missed our targets four times (four points are to the left of 100% line) but surpassed them for another four times (four points to the right of 100% line), so they roughly even out.

Has anyone got any alternative ways of interpreting the data? Or hypothesis on the connections between chargeable work, targets and happiness? And for the other companies measuring happiness – what datasets have you mapped happiness against and what have you found?

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  1. Julian Newby

    On the ‘Happiness vs. chargeable work’ chart, I think 1.65 index saw an increase in happiness, because we used freelancers to ease the pressure.

    Posted 6th December 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink
  2. Hi Paul,

    RE the base sizes, there is only one metric of delivered work and target per month. Happiness figures were therefore averaged across the whole month into a single figure. The base size for happiness varied each month, because it’s optional, so some days would have 5 people’s happy/unhappy vote and some days would have 15.

    RE the method, there’s lots of implications here. For me the main one, which has been raised by others too, is that it’s not totally anonymous – the happy buckets being by the door mean passers by can see how you vote, which puts a pressure on you to vote ‘happy’… we’re considering ways to make it more anonymous. A booth perhaps….

    Posted 15th December 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink
  3. tris

    what happens if you increase the target? Does the trend stay the same? I.e. is it related to an absolute amount or the achievement of a goal?

    Posted 2nd January 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink
  4. Ruth

    It might also be worth mapping consecutive years and patterns of holiday etc on to these graphs:

    Does super-busy have the same effect in the middle of summer as it does in winter?

    Are there general trends in happiness that continue irrespective of targets met/not met?

    Are there ways of making the most of those trends? (e.g. variable targets across the year, adjusted for optimum happiness and productivity)

    Posted 6th January 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

One Trackback

  1. By The promised land « Deep ecology on 6th January 2013 at 7:34 pm

    [...] In a business context, the bottom line is likely to retain centre stage for quite some time, as the businesses that survive are inevitably those that remain profitable most of the time. However, there are a growing band of people who believe that a happy workforce is more likely to result in a successful company. This seems to make logical sense; on a basic level employees who are happy at work are surely more likely to show up each day willing to put plenty of effort into achieving the aims of the organisation. Imagine a marketing team that are trying to promote a company that they loathe, day after miserable day. Now imagine trying to recruit and retain the very best staff in a workplace that is a genuinely happy place to be. I love the low tech approach to measuring happiness found here.   The same company also offers some interesting thoughts on happiness and productivity. [...]