On Love and Productivity

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the powerful impact of grief on productivity. That got me thinking about how other emotions might affect productivity, and the one that most intrigued me was love. As it turns out, there’s tons of research on how love impacts productivity. What I found most interesting is that the effects vary widely, depending on what kind of love we’re talking about.

Love at First Sight

This first-of-its-kind study examined the consequences of passionate romantic love on individuals’ performance in simple cognitive tasks. The study authors noted that they were the first to find “empirical evidence” that a budding romantic relationship impairs lovers’ cognitive control. At first glance, it may seem that relationships are a bad idea for productivity-seeking workers. However, that’s too drastic a conclusion.

On the contrary, although the passion characteristic of a new relationship may impede productivity somewhat in the short term, loneliness has far worse effects in the long term. This research describes some of the many detrimental effects of loneliness on workers’ job performance. It also notes that loneliness isn’t an inborn trait. Rather, it’s a result of unfulfilled social needs. In light of that research, it may not be such a bad idea to start a new relationship after all. The connection and companionship provided by that relationship can mitigate a lot of concerns.

And that connection is sorely needed. This Forbes article from February 2020, written just before the coronavirus pandemic swept through the nation and drastically altered most worker’s routines, already cites studies reporting that nearly half of young American workers experience loneliness. It also notes that loneliness tends to more frequently affect remote workers. But interestingly enough, the author’s suggestion is not that individuals seek out more relationships themselves. Instead, the call to action addresses workplace leaders.

Companionate Love in Coworkers

That article about loneliness encourages workplace leaders to take initiative in building a warm, connected environment for their employees. In fact, university professors Sigal Barsade and Olivia A. O’Neill do the same in their article from years earlier on love in the workplace. Based on their research on the same topic, they argue that workplaces must cultivate emotional cultures carefully and ensure that companionate love is prioritized for the wellbeing of the workers and the organization.

Barsade and O’Neill found in their studies that employees who felt companionate love for and from their coworkers performed better in the workplace. That companionate love is characterized by “warmth, affection, and connection,” and it leads to more satisfied, cooperative, and present employees. It also reduces workers’ risk of burnout, a serious issue I addressed in my most recent blog.

Furthermore, this article noted that the benefits of companionate love in the workplace extend to the organization as a whole. The research cited demonstrates that organizations prioritizing this kind of supportive, caring emotional environment experience higher productivity, greater job growth, decreased turnover rates, and more job applications. Put simply, organizations that do better at fostering companionate love also do better at attracting and keeping great workers.

Both the HBR articles cited above offer some practical tips for workplace leaders to foster companionate love. They suggest that leaders should be intentional and thoughtful about how they relate to their companies, groups, or teams. They should express empathy, gratitude, and genuine caring. Additionally, leaders can create policies that promote closeness, such as incorporating a system through which employees can reward one another in some way for going above and beyond. The researchers I mentioned earlier point to Zappos as a company that exemplifies this practice in their Core Values for employees, which state that “the best leaders are servant-leaders,” and “the best team members are those that strive to create harmony with each other.”

Do What You Love and Love What You Do… or Should You?

There’s yet another kind of love that might impact the workplace, and that’s your passion for your work itself! This intriguing Forbes article on the subject argues against the popular notion that it’s best to do what you love. In fact, the author suggests several pitfalls that might result from being a little too passionate about one’s work.

For instance, she cautions that working in an area that one cares about deeply can hinder teamwork. A passionate person might feel personally wounded by others disagreeing with their vision or plan, making cooperation more challenging. To increase group productivity, the author suggests that a passionate worker notice this quality in themselves and then set an intention to seek out feedback rather than take it personally so as to stay level-headed in their work.

In addition, a worker who feels especially passionate about their project might get caught up in their desire to achieve perfection, getting distracted by a myriad of ideas about how best to proceed and losing track of time. To prevent this, the article’s author suggests that people leave their favorite parts of the job for the end of the day, ensuring that they will have some time pressure to work efficiently and that they’ll only indulge in this work after completing other important tasks first. If you find that your passion for your work is getting in the way of your productivity, you might want to use Pyrus for its structured approach to tasks in the workplace. Pyrus lets users focus on actionable steps, share tasks with all relevant team members, and keep communication goal-oriented.

I hope this gets you thinking about the things and people you love, and about how you can make your coworkers feel loved too. Let me know what you thought of this post. If I don’t answer right away, it’s probably because I’m writing a quick note of gratitude to a coworker.