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The science of work

Why do we work? For money, right? Certainly that’s true for most people, but why do we choose the careers that we do? Why do some people prefer to take some jobs that pay less than other jobs? Scientists and researchers have been finding that the ways in which people work, and their working environments, play a big role in personal productivity and happiness.

Emotions matter

Psychologists Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer found that 95 percent of 600 interviewed managers felt that money was the largest motivating factor for employee productivity – a stark contrast the to fact that the number one factor for motivation, as reported by the 12,000 employees interviewed in the same research, was emotion.

And it might be the case that the more creative the work, the more those emotional factors take center stage. Research conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that by paying people more money, employees are more motivated to excel at their tasks – but only if their tasks are purely mechanical. Once cognitive and creative requirements were added to the tasks in their research, money became less of a motivating factor for productivity. So what really drives us to walk out the door and into our work every day? Author Dan Pink boils it down to three factors:

  • Autonomy: The desire to be self-directed
  • Mastery: Our urge to become betterat something
  • Purpose: Ethics, passion and inspiration are highly motivating to individuals

Did you know?

Positive work environments aren’t just a nice perk, they’re better for business. Psychologist Alice Isen found that positive moods facilitate creative problem-solving skills, while negative emotions can lead to narrow thinking.

This is your brain on teamwork

Our brains are hardwired to venture down the path of least resistance. But since that pathway is a little bit different for everyone, it can pose difficult challenges for effective teamwork. Based on research, teamwork consulting firm 5 Dynamics has identified four different pathways people use when processing a task. For your next team project, try to align collaboration based on these individual pathway preferences:

  • Explore: Someone who enjoys brainstorming sessions and off-site meetings. They work on creative solutions to problems by looking at a problem as a complete situation.
  • Excite: These individuals are people-focused, and are excited about conversations and connections to create teamwork.
  • Examine: This is the person on your team who loves spreadsheets, historical context and schedules. They enjoy analyzation techniques and can predict problems.
  • Execute: These are the people who want to make something happen and set plans into action. They excel in holding others accountable and measuring performance.

er·go·nom·ics

ˌərɡəˈnämiks/

noun: the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment

As the ways in which people work change, ergonomics are playing a key role in helping people to maintain safe working environments and minimize injury. Sitting at a desk all day? Adapting an ergonomically sound sitting posture can help prevent long-term strain. Here’s some tips for a healthier desk-life.

  1. Adjust your chair height so that your knees are level with your hips. Try resting your legs on stacked books or a footrest to help. 
  2. Keep your computer monitor an arm’s length from your eyes.
  3. Keep your mouse on the same surface as your keyboard. While typing, make sure your wrists are straight and your upper arms are kept close to your body.
  4. Tired of sitting? Try using an exercise ball or a standing desk for added movement in your day.

Work smarter, not harder

Every week, Lynda.com publishes a new episode of Time Management Tips, a series that provides actionable time management techniques. Browse these and hundreds of other business tutorials free with your Anythink card. Click here to get started. 

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Walter Chen, Dan Pink, Business Insider

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