Happiness starts at work: How employee satisfaction leads to increased efficiency at work – and outside of it
October 12, 2023
You’re at work on a Friday afternoon. You’re buried in meetings and project deadlines are looming. You’ve resigned yourself to another weekend working overtime to get through an endless pile of tasks. You remind yourself that your kids will play in more soccer games and dance in more recitals, and you and your spouse will have other anniversaries that you can actually celebrate instead of work through.
Sound familiar? We’ve been there, too. Unfortunately, the folks doing the work are often the ones most affected when streamlined processes are an afterthought. The Smartsheet Future of Work Management Report 2023 finds that when projects go astray, they bear the brunt: workers in these conditions report feelings of frustration (58%), burnout (31%), embarrassment (27%), anger (26%), and apathy (25%), just to name a few. In addition, three in 10 people report direct career consequences, like missing a promotion, because of poorly run projects. The reality is, these feelings don’t just exist at work, they seep into aspects of home life, too, and can have widespread effects on mental health and overall happiness.
The good news: when things are going well at work, employees report increased job satisfaction and engagement outside of work, too. When projects run smoothly, our respondents say that they have more energy for relationships and activities (36%) and spend less time thinking about work once the workday ends (30%) – those are the people who get to attend their kids’ soccer games and dance recitals, or get a night out to celebrate with their partner.
The wide-ranging benefits of effective project management
There are numerous benefits to manageable processes and timelines, including giving more breathing room to team members at all levels and the ability to not only execute on the tasks and projects at hand, but also to show up as their best selves — with their best ideas — at work. Laura Murdock, Manager, Project Management at Smartsheet, says she often sees quality input and ideas from her team members on the PMO: “When people are operating at their best, you can see the results in the way a team comes to the table,” she says.
When employees are happy and morale is high, they naturally cultivate a supportive and collaborative atmosphere and become a tight-knit team. Murdock explains, “When it’s going well, the core project team is talking openly and information flows transparently. Issues are raised early and people are clear about their goals.” Overall, when collaboration is good, people thrive, learn, and feel respected. She continues, “You feel like this group of people really has your back. And that creates a huge ripple effect. It extends into job satisfaction — it impacts how you feel and how you answer when people ask about your work.”
The benefits of smooth processes and well-run projects don’t just make an impact on the employee, but on project teams and departments as a whole. Well-run projects tend to prompt improved work relationships, both among colleagues (47%) and company leaders (41%), according to our study. Overall, project professionals say that well-run projects result in greater efficiency (49%), a higher quality of work (57%), and increased collaboration (40%), as well as making a team better able to stay on time (39%) and on budget (42%).
There are benefits to the business owners, too — the cherry on top is the impact on the bottom line. When productivity increases, costs go down, and revenue generation becomes more efficient. Employee turnover decreases, saving recruitment and training expenses. It's an easy recipe for financial success.
Effective processes help solve problems at work and beyond
Streamlined project management processes are one of the best ways to ensure that projects make it to the finish line successfully. So, what helps the middle work — the work that happens during execution to get a project to completion — get done successfully?
For one, clear communication and expectations help employees know what needs to be done and when, and helps drive effective team collaboration. Realistic timelines and manageable workloads reduce the pressure on those executing projects, helping boost overall morale and improving team members’ efficiency. And when folks feel like they have support for their development and career growth, they perform better than those that do not.
Based on our research, when projects are managed well, people notice that the work feels more satisfying (56%), stress levels are lower (54%), and they have more control over their workday (49%). Smoother-run projects also enable team members to gain better focus on their project contributions while at work (42%).
Additionally, effective project managers — both those who work as titled PMs and those who take on project management for various programs and tasks — help make everyone’s lives easier. They know how to establish and grow trust with their teams and serve as reliable advisors to stakeholders. They set clear expectations up front, and remain involved in conversations and meetings to best understand the entire scope of a project. And, maybe most importantly, they know how to ask the right questions and clear up ambiguity to help the team work together to cross the finish line. All of these facets help projects run better – and that makes a huge difference for those trying to focus on work at work – not outside of it.
So, it's clear that organizations that prioritize well-run projects, clear communication, setting realistic expectations, and support for employee growth and happiness reap a host of benefits, including:
- Increased job satisfaction, engagement, retention, and productivity
- Decreased negative emotions like frustration, distraction, and burnout
- Smoother and more successful project execution
- Thriving work relationships and better team cohesion
- Improved personal well-being and a better work-life balance
By valuing efficient project execution and employee happiness, organizations set the stage for success for both individuals and the organization as a whole.