Researcher and consultant Shawn Achor has helped lead the positive psychology movement. He studied the habits of hundreds of successful students at Harvard, and then helped design and teach the famed “happiness” course that has been one of the university’s most popular since conception. Now, he aims to take the science of happiness to the business world, showing companies and individuals how to invest in positive thinking and community building in order to boost both productivity and general well-being. His recently released book The Happiness Advantage thoughtfully lays out the steps to increasing workplace positivity. In the first of a two-part series, I’ll take a look at the companies that are investing in the happiness advantage.

The term “happiness” often feels too soft in a business context, notes Donna Morris the SVP of human resources at Adobe Systems. That’s why, when she brought Achor in to educate Adobe’s executives in “positive psychology,” she was pleased to learn some of the tangible results that increasing employee happiness can produce.

According to Achor, research shows that positive employees outperform negative employees in terms of sales, energy levels, turnover rates and health-care costs by as much as 30%. In fact, the benefits can be seen across industries and job functions. Optimistic salespeople outperform their pessimistic colleagues by up to 37%. Even medical doctors are three times more creative and 50% more accurate at diagnosing patients when positive.

“Positivity is such a high predicator of success rates,” Achor notes. However, he laments that most companies are behind the curb in setting their employees up for psychological well-being, and the momentum may have been stunted in the economic recession. He says, “The idea of investing in the positivity of employees is often low down on companies’ priority list.”

Some businesses are catching on. Many are adopting fairly easy strategies to improve social connection and workplace environment, which are both contributors to employee happiness, Achor says. In a year-long study, MIT researchers analyzed the social ties and habits of almost 3,000 IBM employees. They discovered that employees who were socially invested earned more for IBM—an average of $948 per email contact. After realizing the calculable returns, IBM began a program to facilitate the introduction of employees that don’t know each other or work together

“If you infuse fun into the work environment, you will have more engaged employees, greater job satisfaction, increased productivity and a brighter place to be,” says Stacy Sullivan, the chief culture officer of Google, who has a telling and rare title at a company often celebrated for its campus and perks.

Full article by Jenna Goudreau available on

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