HAPPINESS QUANTIFIED: A 1% HAPPIER WORKFORCE COULD BOOST UK ECONOMY BY £24 BILLION A YEAR 1
- A new study has calculated the value of happiness using data from over 56,000 responses
- The data categorised four ‘tribes’ of workers and outlined ways to better ensure a thriving workforce
- A Seedrs campaign for the tech platform used in the study is at 75% of target on opening day with the ambition of helping more businesses improve employee wellbeing
THEY say you can’t put a price on happiness, but an app-based study of UK employees by research company Psychological Technologies (PSYT) has quantified the potential value of happiness has on a business’ bottom line. If every employee in the country was 1% happier it could in fact add an extra £24 billion to the UK economy per year, boosting the profits of the average company of 10k staff by an extra £7.38 million2. With UK productivity stalling3 and the country facing a “significant” mental health challenge4 – could a focus on workplace wellbeing hold the key to both?
The study was conducted by Nick Begley, former Head of Research at Headspace, and Dr. George MacKerron, one of the UK’s leading academic experts in the economics of happiness. While at LSE, MacKerron ran the world’s largest study into momentary happiness, Mappiness, and found from 3.5m data points that the nation’s unhappiest activity, second only to being ill in bed, was working5. To solve this problem, they set up PSYT and built [email protected] – an app designed to better measure and improve psychological wellbeing in the workplace. The company has today launched a crowdfunding campaign to take [email protected] to more businesses around the world and opens with 75% of its target investment.
The study tracked the mood of more than 1,500 employees using a data collection method – now considered to be the gold standard in measuring wellbeing6 – where respondents are asked to reflect on their wellbeing briefly throughout the day, over a period of four weeks. From more than 56,000 responses, PSYT was able to develop a unique understanding of workplace environments and what creates happier and more productive staff. The data also categorised four ‘tribes’ of workers by their happiness and productivity:
- ‘Thrivers’ – happy and productive. These are the most engaged workers and interestingly have the the lowest levels of stress of all the groups. They are the greatest advocates of their company and demonstrate the greatest willingness to stay.
- ‘Stoic Contributors’ – also very productive, but unhappy. Remaining productive while unhappy is difficult and therefore this group are the most stressed, suggesting they could be at risk of burnout and being off on long-term sick leave.
- ‘Ineffective Passengers’ – happy, but not very productive. They are often loyal to the company and are great advocates, but not the most productive.
- ‘Treading Water’ – unhappy, unproductive and often highly stressed.
Happiness and the bottom line
According to PSYT’s study, a 1% increase in happiness equates to a value of £738 per employee p.a. to the average company7 from productivity gains and staff turnover reductions alone. This is without factoring in the further value likely to arise from reduced absenteeism8, increased creativity9, collaboration10 and company advocacy11. Applying this to the 10 largest UK registered companies by revenue, it is clear that a small increase in happiness could result in large returns:
|Name||Potential financial impact per annum of a 1% increase in employee happiness12|
|Legal and General Group||£391,000,000|
|Lloyds Banking Group||£204,000,000|
What are the factors that can impact happiness?
The study revealed that a person’s own behaviour had a significant impact on happiness, for example:
- Exercise – employees exercising three times a week for 20 minutes or more were 4.9% happier, on average, than those who didn’t exercise
- Sleep – those averaging more than 6.5 hours of sleep a night were 5.0% happier than those getting less
- Self-reflection – the self-awareness generated by being asked to reflect daily on wellbeing through the app, improved employee happiness by 4-5% and productivity by 8-10% over a period of four weeks
Beyond the actions of the individual, the research also found workplace culture had a huge impact. Having a supportive team and personally buying into the mission and strategy of the company were the most important factors in predicting whether employees are ‘thriving’13. Those who felt this were a significant 10.3% happier than those who didn’t14.
Nick Begley, co-founder of PSYT, said: “Recent analysis suggests mental health issues are costing the UK economy up to £99bn a year15. Our research takes it one step further and shows improving the happiness of everyone, just slightly, could have a dramatic impact too. We want to show businesses how improving the mental wellbeing of their employees links directly to profitability within their own companies, giving them permission to make the investments needed to help solve this problem. The technology we’ve developed also provides detailed insights on how to create the best culture and offer effective, scalable, low-cost interventions to immediately boost wellbeing. We’re now looking to roll out our technology more widely.”
With two thirds of organisations planning to implement a wellbeing strategy by 202016, the company is currently raising investment to expand. PSYT opens its public Seedrs campaign today with over 75% (£460k) of the £600k crowdfunding target already secured. The company already has the support of Paul Daniels, former owner of New Covent Garden Soup and Chairman of the Angel Investment Network, Kevan Jones, specialist in organisational behaviour change and partner at a top tier strategy consultancy, and Ruby Wax, comedian and much loved mental health advocate.
PSYT’s Seedrs campaign is live now at: https://www.seedrs.com/me-mybest
PSYT specialises in creating technology to measure and improve wellbeing. The company was founded by Nick Begley and Dr. George Mackerron. Begley was formerly an actuary in London before retraining in positive psychology and neuroscience at UCL. He was Head of Research at mindfulness app Headspace, specialising in improving wellbeing at scale. Dr George MacKerron is a lecturer at the University of Sussex who specialises in measuring wellbeing. MacKerron created the world’s largest research study into momentary happiness while at LSE through an iPhone app called Mappiness.
1This figure has been calculated based on PSYT’s data finding that a 1% in increase in happiness is correlated with a 0.5% increase in productivity and a 0.4% reduction in intention to leave a company (PSYT[email protected] Study, 2017), applied to the average revenue per employee in the UK (£118,000 – Accounts & Legal, June 2017) and the average company cost of replacing staff of (£30,614 – HR Review, February 2014), resulting in an impact of £624 and £114 per employee per year respectively, applied to the 32 million strong UK workforce (Office for National Statistics: UK labour market: October 2017).
2Based on increasing profitability by £738 per person, by increasing per employee productivity by £624 and reducing per employee costs by £114 (PSYT [email protected] Study, 2017)
3Labour productivity: April to June 2017 (Office for National Statistics, October 2017)
4Thriving at Work: The Stevenson / Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers (Department for Work and Pensions and Department of Health, October 2017)
5Bryson & MacKerron (2017) ‘Are you happy while you work?’ Economic Journal 127 (599)
6The Experience Sampling Method (ESM) is considered the gold standard in the measurement of wellbeing (OECD Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Wellbeing, 2013)
7PSYT [email protected] Study, 2017 – see footnote 1
8Lundberg, U., & Cooper, C. L. (2010). The science of occupational health: stress, psychobiology, and the new world of work. (John Wiley & Sons).
9Rowe, G., Hirsh, J. B., Anderson, A. K. (2006) Positive affect increases the breadth of attentional selection, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104, 1, 383-388http://www.pnas.org/content/104/1/383.full OR Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1367. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1693418/pdf/15347528.pdf
10Barsade, S. G. (2002) The Ripple Effect: Emotional Contagion and Its Influence on Group Behavior, Administrative Science Quarterly, 47, 4, 644-675
11PSYT [email protected] Study, 2017
12Estimated from 0.5% productivity gains and 0.4% reduced annual turnover intention based on a £30,614 cost of replacing staff1 (HR Review, February 2014) as (revenue x 0.5%) + (number of employees x 0.4% x £30,614). Revenue figures taken from Fortune 500 List, sources for each employee figure available on request.
13PSYT [email protected] Study, 2017
14PSYT [email protected] Study, 2017
15Thriving at Work: The Stevenson / Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers (Department for Work and Pensions and Department of Health, October 2017)
16REBA/Punter Southall Health & Protection Employee Wellbeing Research 2017, p6