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The Happy Worker: Exercise and Thoughts about Performance leading to Positive Emotions

Conference paper
Authors Danilo Garcia
Trevor Archer
Patricia Rosenberg
Saleh Moradi
Published in 6th European Conference on Positive Psychology, Moscow, Russia, June 26-28, 2012
Publication year 2012
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Call Centre, Exercise Frequency, Happy Worker, Subjective Well-Being, Performance, Physical Activity, Psychological Well-Being
Subject categories Psychology


Background: Most call centers define performance as the percentage of the scheduled “time on the phone”, this specific type of work design might imply unfavourable working conditions for employees that might affect learning how to cope with the rapid external and internal changes in working life. For this reason, the call center environment makes for a remarkable field in order to test if happier people are more productive. Although positive emotions foster productivity under many conditions (Fredrickson, 2001), this effect is probably not ever-present. Although, pleasant emotions might bias cognition and behavior in some ways, the relationship can be the other way around. Moreover, physical activity has been found related to performance on cognitive complex tasks, perhaps because frequent exercise reduces stress symptoms and improves mental states, and in the long term, enable arousal levels to be more appropriate adjusted for cognitive work and by increased stress resistance. These suggestions are investigated in two studies among workers at a call center. Aims: Study 1 aimed to investigate if happiness (i.e., Subjective Well-Being; SWB), Psychological Well-Being (PWB), and exercise frequency predicted workers’ performance. Study 2 aimed to test if priming thoughts of own performance lead to positive emotions. Method: In Study 1, workers (N = 107) self-reported how often they engaged in physical activity, SWB (Life Satisfaction, Positive and Negative Affect), and Psychological Well-Being. Each worker’s performance (average percent of time on the phone) was then assessed by the same system handling the calls each day over a five month period. To understand which factors contributed to performance over the five months period, we conducted structural equation-modeling analysis. In Study 2, workers (N = 104) were randomly assigned to two different conditions. In the “performance” condition participants were asked to report their own performance for the last five months, measured by the same system handling the calls, and then to report how often they had experienced different positive and negative emotions at work. In the “control” condition, participants were first asked for emotions at work and then for their own performance for the last five months. We conducted a condition (performance vs. control) x gender between-subjects ANOVA in order to test differences in positive and negative emotions at work. Results: In Study 1, high exercise frequency and high PWB predicted performance. Moreover, physical activity was also related to PWB. In Study 2, workers in the “performance” condition reported experiencing more positive emotions at work than workers in the “control” condition. Moreover, no differences in negative emotions were found between conditions. Conclusions: At least in regard to performance at call centers, the happy worker seems not to be the most productive worker. Instead, frequent exercise and characteristics such as environmental control and self-acceptance (i.e., PWB) seem to play an important role when organizations measure productivity of this type. More important, thinking about their own performance seems to boost positive emotions at call centers. In other words, the productive worker seems to be the happy worker.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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