Positive Connections and Productivity

I recently read, “Are You Fully Charged”, by Tom Rath. I am struck by the data that shows how important our interactions are to our productivity and good feelings. (They are not mutually exclusive by the way).

Particularly interesting to me is the research his team did that demonstrated that small positive interactions throughout the day can be more powerful to an individual’s well-being than on major experience. It reminded me some days when my wife goes shopping. She is always better when she visits Whole Foods and interacts with a specific checker, Garran.

I have observed that this checker often has a longer line than others.  From a utilitarian point of view why would someone join the longer line? I surmise it is due to the positive experience. OK so that’s good for Whole Foods what is the broader scope?

More and more research is coming out that the way we communicate has an effect on our productivity. For example the word “NO”, lights up the reptilian brain and it releases a flood of Cortisol and Adrenaline. And it takes 4 – 8 positive reactions to counterbalance that effect, depending up the study.

The opportunity here, is that when we are feeling good, we are more engaged, we are more productive and our firms are more profitable. Research varies but it seems that engagement has the effect of improving productivity and financial return somewhere in the neighborhood of 40%.

Whenever I speak with someone about these findings they are in agreement that it makes sense, that it is a great idea and then they go back to work. Most often in an environment that does not support their well-being.

Rath again, references a study from Bank of America and their call center (an environment I am very familiar with). The study found that when they set it up they did so such that the phones were always covered; by not scheduling breaks with co-workers in your team. As a result bonds were not formed. Turnover became unacceptable. So they reworked the schedule so that employees could break and lunch together.

The result; speed to answer improved by 23%, group cohesion improved 18% and these metrics translated into an additional $15.0 Million in revenue.

I get it. I have lived through the move from centralized sales offices to virtual (working from home). I have seen and sold the rise of virtual call centers where people are working from home. And I also have experienced the loneliness that comes from not being present with a team. The isolation in pursuit of efficiency is perhaps affecting performance in ways we did not anticipate.

I make time every week to connect locally in person with other “virtual” employees some in my industry some not. I also schedule a virtual cup of coffee to connect with team mates and to share best practices and opportunities. It is not perfect and I am not sure I have found the sweet spot yet. But it has made a big difference in my productivity and well-being.

What are you doing to manage your connections and productivity?

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