Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

Cause or Effect? A Look at Mental Wellness and Performance

“Success leads to happiness.”

This is the premise under which humankind has been programmed to function. Work hard for a reward. Meet goals and find workplace satisfaction. Mental wellness is a result of achievement. But researchers from the University of California, Riverside, reviewed 225 studies published in the Psychological Bulletin and determined the opposite is true.

Happiness leads to success!

Based on the number of scientific studies performed to explore the association between happiness and achievement, it’s clear how this connection is significant to mental wellness in the workplace. These studies looked to explain:

  • Are happy people more successful than unhappy people?
  • Does happiness precede success? 
  • Does positive affect lead to success-oriented behaviors?

Researchers learned positive moods prompt people to work actively toward new goals and build new resources. These initiatives are the stepping stones of success. Because happy people tend to feel more confident, optimistic, energetic, and sociable, they are also more likely to achieve their goals. Not to mention, others are more likely to find them likable. 

These findings shed new perspectives on how peers and employers review top performers. While it was once believed positive moods result from performing well and being recognized, hitting goals is instigated by employees’ outlook both personally and professionally. And while this may seem like an individual concern, what leaders do to influence employee happiness and mental wellness makes a significant impact on performance outcomes.

High levels of happiness lead to high productivity

There you have it. A study performed by researchers at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, revealed workers are 13% more productive when happy. Data collected through a weekly survey was used to measure how employees rated their happiness level. These metrics were compared against individual productivity. Overall, it was confirmed that employee happiness was reflected in performance.

This makes sense to the science-minded, considering biological factors associated with happiness hormones give us higher levels of energy and focus. Not to mention, numerous external factors have long been linked to workplace satisfaction and employee engagement. Consider the bounty of HR literature available recommending adequate lighting, personal and break space, and cultivating a positive culture.

It seems logical that when employees are set up to work in a space they feel comfortable and to which they feel connected, their performance would improve. Throw in a bit of flexibility and accessibility to family, and you have an obvious recipe for…well, the verdict was out until December of 2020 when a survey performed by PwC was repeated, revealing the majority of employees and employers overwhelmingly agree, remote work improves productivity.

Remarkably, while many professionals predicted a decline in productivity if workers remained at home for an extended period during the pandemic, PwC found the opposite. After six months of remote and hybrid work, 83% of employers stated the shift to remote work was successful for their company, compared to 73% in the June 2020 survey. Furthermore, according to the report, less than one in five executives say they want to return to the pre-pandemic office setting.

Why? Because workers are happy!

This is not to say employees wish to close the office doors for good. Over half (55%) of employees in the PwC survey say they would prefer to be remote at least three days a week.

But the majority (87%) agree the office is important for collaborating with team members and building relationships. This was their top-rated need for an office and keeping roles hybrid. 

It seems a balance can be struck. The pandemic impacts have introduced a data-driven way to determine employee happiness and performance levels in remote roles. Fortunately, you can use these observations to set your team up to achieve happiness so they can work toward success.

Foster employee mental wellness to support productivity

Ultimately, what you put into relationships with employees is what you get out of them in terms of productivity. If you’re positive about your work and you project that energy, employees will pick it up. Beyond productivity, affective mental wellness states are increasingly seen as an important factor in driving human behavior. Even in remote and hybrid workforces, happiness and productivity correlate with a healthy work culture.

Create a space for healthy company culture

Culture doesn’t go to the wayside just because your workforce does not work face-to-face daily. There are plenty of ways to maintain or reinvent your company culture and keep tabs on employees’ mental wellness. For example, your team can take breaks together. This may work to connect more members of the team than could interact in the traditional office. And gaming has gained popularity in the workforce for this purpose over the last decade. 

When managing a remote or hybrid team, you can use gaming to teach new skills, raise employee engagement, and even improve communication and collaboration. You can find plenty of examples for virtual team building on reELIVATE, from online escape challenges to improving listening skills to creativity and just having a laugh together.

You can also host weekly video meet-ups. Of course, you want to keep these meetings brief to reduce Zoom Fatigue, as it’s been officially declared real by Stanford researchers. However, you can discuss a few important topics that are better to address in person and then use the rest of the time to chat. This is an excellent time to announce your weekly team VIP or share some good news. Encourage employees to do some of the talking!

Happy hours are perfectly possible to plan with a hybrid team as well. Your team may choose to meet in person if social distancing allows, but a social hour can be virtual! Just pull together a music trivia game, announce the team cocktail of the week, and connect in a social chat app to blow off steam together.

Invest in communication and streamline collaboration 

Communication is vital in fostering a healthy and happy hybrid workforce. Employees need to feel they have a reliable and frustration-free way to communicate and collaborate to complete their tasks. They also need to feel like they have direct access to discuss issues with leadership, ask questions, and get feedback.

More than ever before, companies are looking for tools to enhance virtual collaboration.  According to the aforementioned PwC research, over 60% of executives expect to raise spending on virtual collaboration tools and manager training this year. And 72% of executives specifically plan to expand budgets for better virtual collaboration tools in the future. 

If your company was slow to adopt technologies that support remote work prior to the pandemic, you’re likely playing catch-up now. But even if you were quick to explore ways to optimize the hybrid workplace, your team will continue to benefit in terms of collaboration and creativity as you accelerate investments in improved workforce communication tools.

Here are a few examples of the kinds of tools your hybrid team could benefit from:

  • Slack
    • This chat app makes it easy for teams from small to large to connect individually or in groups working on the same project. Team members can set up channels to quickly search for tasks and projects. And they can even communicate with external teams, such as with clients to keep collaboration flowing seamlessly.
  • Stormboard 
    • This whiteboard (brainstorming) app integrates with Slack and numerous other communication and team collaboration tools with which you may already be familiar. It creates a visual space for your team to work through ideas together, find solutions, and keep everyone on the same page — literally.
  • Video messaging
    • Here is where you can use your video interviewing platform to stay in front of your team. Rather than typing up dry, lengthy emails with weekly updates, you can record personalized video messages. This enhances the employee experience and keeps you more personally connected to your remote and hybrid team members.
    Get to know the types of tools your team needs! .


Simplify scheduling to reduce stress

If you thought scheduling meetings or interviews was difficult when everyone had busy in-office schedules, you will be hard-pressed to find times when everyone is available to collaborate with flexible scheduling. And employees value their new job flexibility. In fact, 79% of employees who responded to the PwC study rated allowing the flexibility needed to manage family matters the most successful way they were able to achieve high productivity when working from home.  

To keep on track with hitting goals while allowing employees the flexibility they need to find work-life balance and mental wellness, you may also need to invest in a scheduling tool that simplifies seeing and setting schedules as a team. Ideally, you want a tool that works well with the calendars your team is used to using.

A few key factors to consider when reviewing scheduling software to fit your team’s needs include:

  • The software integrates with a number of common virtual calendar formats
  • Calendars can easily be shared between team members
  • Employees can put themselves into others’ calendars where availability aligns
  • Bonus if calendars can be branded!

Having access to shared calendars reduces the back-and-forth between team members when scheduling meetings, interviews, or collaborating on projects. Simplifying this step reduces stress and helps teams stay more organized so they can focus on more productive tasks. 

Provide ongoing, quality feedback

This may not come as a surprise, but employees with the least amount of professional experience (0-5 years) want to be in the office more often. According to the PwC report, 30% of employees in this group said they prefer being remote no more than one day a week. This can complicate balancing employee satisfaction if your hybrid team spends more time out of the office. But the solution is simple. Provide more feedback more often!

When working with a team that does not always have access to in-the-moment guidance and recognition, you may need to revise how frequently you provide performance feedback. Waiting for months at a time to hear how their efforts impact the team and company can create unnecessary stress and worse yet, could lead to inaccurate impressions of how productive they are. Regular feedback is the only gauge remote/hybrid employees have of knowing where they stand.

The benefits of performance appraisals to employee mental wellness and productivity are indisputable. That’s why traditional annual and bi-annual reviews have fallen to the wayside in recent years. While many managers have shifted to quarterly or even monthly check-ins, results from a Leadership IQ study found only 29% of employees know if their performance is where it should be. Worse yet, just 14% of respondents said they believe the performance feedback they receive is relevant and meaningful.

The key to boosting employee happiness, especially when working with a hybrid or remote team, is to keep detailed records of employee performance and connect with employees for reviews as frequently as possible. Results from the Leadership IQ study reveal 95% of employees believe performance appraisal comments should reference and cite specific events. And remember, employees want to know how they can improve as much as they need to be acknowledged.

Feedback is a two-way street. Learn from your employees how they can work more productively and have their mental well-being needs met by encouraging your team to give you frequent feedback.

Recognize individual and team success

Just because happiness leads to success, you can’t assume your employees are happy with success alone. They should be recognized for reaching their goals and feel their efforts are making a difference. The Leadership IQ research found that more than half (54%) of employees believe that their leader never, rarely, or only occasionally recognizes their accomplishments. 

Leadership IQ also found that in 42% of organizations, high-performers are less engaged than low performers. One of the reasons they suggest this occurs is that leaders do not do enough to differentiate high-performers from low-performers.

A few ways you can recognize high-performers and motivate the entire team virtually are:

  • Public recognition: post a shoutout to social media or a special leaderboard on your company’s task management system.
  • Three-day weekend: or offer a bonus day off on whatever day of the week works best for your highest performer each month.
  • Home office gift basket: send a mix of fun and practical office goodies to show you recognize their hard work and want them to be truly happy in their workspace.

And don’t forget the power of peer recognition. Encourage your virtual team to support each other, cheer each other on, and acknowledge individual performance.

The Art of Scheduling Interviews

Josh Tolan

Josh Tolan is the Founder and CEO of Spark Hire, a video interviewing platform used by 6,000+ customers in over 100 countries.