Why Happy People Are More Productive

In the competitive work environment, where productivity is everything, the secret to upping your game could lie in lifting your mood.

Why Happy People Are More Productive
Why Happy People Are More Productive. Image credit: Photo by True Agency on Unsplash

Johannesburg, 7 May24: When it comes to boosting productivity in the workplace, there’s a lot of emphasis on processes and tools, but what many fail to recognise is the significant impact that a person’s mood and emotional wellbeing can have on productivity levels.

“Being in a positive mood not only enhances cognitive function but also fosters creativity, problem-solving skills, and resilience,” says Nisha Rodgerson, a clinical psychologist with a special interest in neurodiversity and neuropsychology, and a psychology consultant to digital wellbeing platform, soSerene. “When we’re happy, we’re more likely to approach tasks with enthusiasm and energy, leading to greater focus, efficiency, and effectiveness. Additionally, a positive mindset enables individuals to adapt more readily to challenges and setbacks, maintaining momentum and productivity even in the face of adversity.”

Your Brain Under Stress

It all has to do with brain chemistry. “The brain undergoes remarkable changes depending on our emotional state,” explains Rodgerson. “When we experience happiness, the brain releases neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which are associated with feelings of pleasure and contentment. Conversely, during periods of sadness or stress, the brain may produce higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can impair cognitive function and decision-making abilities.”

While some people may work well under pressure – and may even profess to work better under pressure – there’s a difference between the thrill of an imminent deadline and the chronic stress that comes with feeling like you’re constantly behind or working in an environment that makes you unhappy.

“During periods of stress, the brain’s stress response system, primarily involving the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, becomes activated. This leads to the release of cortisol and other stress hormones, which can have profound effects on brain function,” says Rodgerson. “Chronic stress has been associated with structural and functional changes in brain regions such as the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex, which are involved in memory, emotion regulation, and decision-making.” Cue missed deadlines, difficulty focusing, indecision and work that’s not up to scratch. Unhappy workers are also more likely to have higher rates of absenteeism, as well as presenteeism (where you’re physically present but not doing anything constructive), says Rodgerson.

Building a Happier Workplace

Fostering a workplace culture where people have a positive attitude towards work can go a long way towards improving the productivity of the business as a whole. “One’s attitude towards work plays a pivotal role in determining productivity levels,” says Rodgerson. “By prioritising happiness and wellbeing in the workplace, employers can unlock the full potential of their workforce, leading to increased productivity, creativity, and overall organisational success.”

This goes beyond having a pool table or a fancy coffee machine. While these are nice to have, what will go further is demonstrating a deeper understanding of people’s needs and giving them the tools to solve the problems that are causing their stress. According to Rodgerson, this may look like:


  • Encouraging work-life balance: Offering flexible work arrangements, paid time off, and wellness programmes or applications like soSerene, can help employees manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  • Providing opportunities for growth and development: Investing in employee training and development opportunities demonstrates a commitment to their professional growth and fosters a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
  • Cultivating a supportive and inclusive workplace culture: Promoting open communication, recognition of achievements, and collaboration can enhance morale and create a sense of belonging among employees.
  • Offering perks and benefits: Providing benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and employee assistance programmes demonstrates care for employees’ overall wellbeing and can improve job satisfaction and retention rates.

Taking Charge of Your Destiny

As an individual, there are several wellbeing strategies you can use to boost your own mood and productivity, says Rodgerson. The good news is they’re all accessible – it just takes commitment.

  • Move more: Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters and stress reducers, says Rodgerson.
  • Practise mindfulness and meditation: These techniques can help alleviate stress, promote relaxation, and cultivate a positive outlook.
  • Seek support: Spending time with friends, family, or colleagues can provide emotional support and enhance feelings of connection and belonging. Seeking out therapy is also a form of support.
  • Set realistic goals: Breaking tasks into manageable chunks and celebrating small victories can boost confidence and motivation.
  • Prioritise self-care: Getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and engaging in hobbies and activities that bring joy can significantly impact mood and overall wellbeing.
  • Use technology to your advantage: There are applications available that can assist in goal setting, progress tracking, mindfulness and increasing overall physical and emotional well-being. SoSerene is a digital platform that makes wellbeing accessible to busy people through resources like home workouts, guided meditations, journalling, sleep aids, and nutrition advice.

Understanding the connection between happiness and productivity can not only benefit individual workers but also empower employers to create a more positive and conducive work environment.

*Nisha Rodgerson is a clinical psychologist at The Couch, with a special interest in neurodiversity and neuropsychology. She is also a psychology consultant to digital wellbeing platform soSerene.


soSerene is a wellbeing management system (WMS) for companies, communities and individuals that helps integrate healthy living into busy modern lives, with a special focus on supporting mental health. It offers a holistic solution for companies and organisations looking to provide accessible healthy lifestyle tools to their busy staff, customers and community members. soSerene offers wellbeing across three primary pillars:

  • Calm: Mental health and mindset guidance to regulate stress, improve clarity, optimism and purpose.
  • Move: On-demand workouts for all fitness levels and body types, including high-intensity interval training, mobility & flow, low impact and reduced intensity workouts.
  • Nourish: Enjoyment-led food recipes that balance personal needs and preferences.

Visit www.soserene.com for further information.


Mantis Communications

Kerry Simpson

Tel: 079 438 3252

Email: [email protected]