Happy-Productive Teams and Work Units: A Systematic Review of the 'Happy-Productive Worker Thesis'

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Dec 20;17(1):69. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17010069.


The happy-productive worker thesis (HPWT) assumes that happy employees perform better. Given the relevance of teams and work-units in organizations, our aim is to analyze the state of the art on happy-productive work-units (HPWU) through a systematic review and integrate existing research on different collective well-being constructs and collective performance. Research on HPWU (30 studies, 2001-2018) has developed through different constructs of well-being (hedonic: team satisfaction, group affect; and eudaimonic: team engagement) and diverse operationalizations of performance (self-rated team performance, leader-rated team performance, customers' satisfaction, and objective indicators), thus creating a disintegrated body of knowledge about HPWU. The theoretical frameworks to explain the HPWU relationship are attitude-behavior models, broaden-and-build theory, and the job-demands-resources model. Research models include a variety of antecedents, mediators, and moderating third variables. Most studies are cross-sectional, all propose a causal happy-productive relationship (not the reverse), and generally find positive significant relationships. Scarce but interesting time-lagged evidence supports a causal chain in which collective well-being leads to team performance (organizational citizenship behavior or team creativity), which then leads to objective work-unit performance. To conclude, we identify common issues and challenges across the studies on HPWU, and set out an agenda for future research.

Keywords: affect; engagement; happy; performance; productive; satisfaction; team; work-unit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Efficiency*
  • Group Processes*
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Leadership
  • Organizational Culture
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Work Performance*