Unhappiness as a Business Expense

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Unhappiness is not just all in one’s head: It shows up right on the balance sheet. New research has found alarming conclusions on just how much being dissatisfied at work affects productivity and how companies operate. The second half of this point concerns what companies are doing to combat the scourges of a dour workplaces across the country.

The entire U.S. economy alone loses an estimated $350 billion annually on account of workers not being happier while working. On a smaller scale, happier workers are measured to be 12% more productive than unhappy ones, so the opportunities can likely be felt from business to business too. The second part of this problem concerns fixing it: Now that many companies also realize it is an issue, what are they doing about it? The first tactic is to give more incentives to stay: Think Google’s new juice bar or Airbnb’s $2000 per employee allotment for them to travel. The second method is to find ways to get rid of unhappy employees. Zappo’s and Amazon are planning on experimenting with a pay-to-leave program; they are thinking of paying new hires to leave as soon as either of these companies detect intractable problems with workplace morale. This is to ensure that they do not go through the expense of training someone who will not make proper inroads with other employees.

Fixing any issues from there is also not cheap; the cost of replacing an employee for a position is 20% of the annual sala-ry for that spot. Along with lost productivity, companies should not have to incur this cost. Forgoing that costly opportunity of hiring a potentially unhappy worker is not just for the sake of fit or peace of mind: The bottom line will also be better for it.

-CL