Smile for a More Productive Workday

Smiling can change your experience—and make you more productive.

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Think about the last time you went to work feeling really great. How much did you check off your to-do list that day? 

I bet you accomplished a lot. When you’re happy, it’s so much easier to get things done. In fact, research by the folks at iOpener Institute, an international consultancy based in the UK, reveals that happy workers are twice as productive as their unhappy counterparts, spending 80 percent of their time “on task” compared to unhappy employees’ 40 percent. 

But what about those times when you’re feeling tired, cranky, or stressed? Does low energy or a sour mood mean you’re destined for eight less-than-fruitful hours and an even bigger workload the next day?  

It doesn’t have to. 

Just give your mood a jolt and your productivity a jumpstart with a smile! 

Don’t hesitate to recharge yourself throughout the day with additional doses. You definitely can’t O.D. on smiles. And if you find something (a particular image or funny quote) that’s especially effective, bookmark it online or print it out. Keep it somewhere nearby for easy access when you feel your happiness flagging. 

What if I Try This and I Still Feel Bad? 

If you find that you’re unenergized or unhappy more workdays than not, there might be a bigger issue at play. In fact, you may be one of the millions of American employees who are “disengaged” at work. In fact, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, 51 percent of U.S. employees are disengaged and have been for some time. 

If you’re disengaged, you may feel bored by your day-to-day office tasks, unenthusiastic about the organization for which you work, and find yourself merely “going through the motions” to keep your job and paycheck. It’s no wonder you feel unhappy and unproductive!

The Most Effective Smile

Researchers have studied the type of smile that makes the most difference. Usually people think of an open smile (where the lips are open) and can often be categorized as a grin or a large smile as the most effective smile.

Yet, researchers have found that the closed smile (also known as the polite smile) as having powerful effects on work climate. This is also true of workers’ perceptions of an effective leader (when their leader uses a closed smile).

Either way, a genuine smile will always cause the outside corners of your eyes to crinkle up a little.

Easy Steps to Productivity

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help you re-engage in your job—which will improve your mood, making it easier to smile and be more productive. Give these a try: 

  • Practice self-care at work. In less than ideal situations, take good care of yourself. Practice a self-compassion break, and take good care of the basics (eat well, move your body daily, sleep well). 
  • Practice generosity. Is one of your colleagues struggling with a big project? Offer to help! Not only will teamwork improve your engagement, research has shown that helping out colleagues can make you happier at work as well.  
  • Smile—even if you don’t feel like it. While this reiterates my earlier point, it really is true that smiling can change your experience.
  • Talk it out. Think things through out loud with a skilled therapist, or connect with a trusted mentor. The perspective of an advocate outside the situation can help you wisely navigate difficult circumstances.

Whether you “fake it until you make it” or spend a few moments watching or reading something that makes you smile online (funny animal photos usually work for me), you’re likely to feel a change in energy pretty quickly. Take advantage of it and jump right into the biggest task on your plate. 

And when you feel your energy start to sag, just…smile.

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