Good Deeds Can Boost Employee Productivity

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Innovation is often tied to a new technological improvement or product, but innovative ideas can offer as much advantage for businesses as the latest gadget or forward-thinking product. Researchers at Wharton, Yale and Harvard Universities have found that encouraging employees to engage in altruistic activities can improve productivity and make them feel better about managing their busy schedules. 

Researchers asked employees to write a note to a sick child, and the results revealed that it gave the participants a sense of control and confidence in their ability to keep up with demanding workdays. This can in turn boost productivity. Conversely, longer breaks or less mentally-challenging tasks actually diminish employee confidence, leading workers to feel they have even less time to finish their work. 

Altruistic work need not diverge from company goals. Victoria Pynchon, a career litigator, wrote in Forbes that one way employees can enjoy the altruistic advantage is by connecting more closely with clients. Drawing from the legal profession, Pynchon said: 

“Learn something more about your clients than the facts ‘relevant’ to their justice problem. Make their struggles known to your staff and frame their work not simply about making money (the dreaded ‘billable hour’) but also a way to solve clients’ very human and personal dilemmas.” 

In this case, the altruistic effort would not only support employee productivity but could also improve client relations. A strong customer relationship encourages repeat business and can build customer loyalty. And altruistic efforts can support corporate social responsibility (a growing trend), driving community engagement and connections, as well as a positive public perception of the business. In fact, the Chamber’s own Business Civic Leadership Center has long been voice for businesses in this area. 

In a time when all companies are competing for the world’s best and brightest employees, a work environment with a reputation for lower stress and confident employees can help businesses retain and attract new talent. As the U.S. private sector strives for growth and new jobs, exploring this innovative concept could spell real benefits for employees, business owners and customers alike.

[Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on the National Chamber Foundation Blog.]

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