Whew, you made it. Welcome to the last installment in our five-part series on the science behind great work. Here, we’ve been exploring a) what is going on in your brain during the processes that prime you for focus and creativity b) how to use that feedback to ultimately create meaningful work that makes you happier, more productive, and successful in your job.

Missed parts 1 – 4? Catch up here!

Part 5: Joy

You pack a lot of things into your meeting agendas, but is joy one of them?

Generic team birthday cards, team-building exercises, and dreaded office happy hours don’t always spark the joy that’s intended of them. But why? Isn’t the point of these office incentives to make you feel closer to your teammates and more motivated in your work? 

The problem is that these activities — although well-intended — are often too generic and merely treated as “fun fillers.” Turns out that managers have it all wrong. A survey of 600 managers and 12,000 employees conducted by psychologists Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, found a shocking result: 95% of managers misunderstand what motivates employees. They discovered that the number one motivator was emotion, not financial incentives. In other words, “thirsty Thursday” isn’t any more fun with a higher paycheck, and happiness can’t be bought with a $30 birthday balloon.

You’re never fully dressed without a smile

Managers tend to focus more on success than joy. But how you feel at work is half the battle, 31% to be exact. That’s how much more productive happy employees are, who, not to mention, also have 3x the creativity of the average worker, miss fewer days of work, are sick less frequently, and work more efficiently. Chances are, few business leaders are even aware that interpersonal connection and aspiration could be lacking in their organization and on their team. This is called the joy gap.  

Mind the gap

In 2018, A.T. Kearney conducted a global survey to examine the correlation between joy and people’s experiences at work. Out of 500 employees across a range of high profit-generating industries, nearly 90% of respondents said that they expect to experience a substantial degree of joy at work, yet only 37% reported that is their actual experience. For Gen Xers and Millennials, the joy gap was 57% and 44%, respectively.

Joy connects people more powerfully than almost any other human emotion. And thanks to WFH, companies have identified that technology can help them more closely link their people to each other. Yet many managers still struggle to close the gap because of common office culture pain points like siloed team structures and individually-motivated employees who might be reluctant to work together. 

Jump ball

For a moment, imagine the following scenario: a pro basketball team hits the court, tips the ball, and jumps straight into the first offensive play. No group warm-ups and no motivating locker room speeches. Just a handful of disjointed players going after a ball. Would you bet on that team?

Holding more meetings that are not “all business” can help build camaraderie and should be encouraged. But establishing connections before tackling agendas leads to deeper working relationships. These extra few minutes of genuine engagement will not only change the way your team works together but also motivate you toward better performance and productivity. Take it one step further and try implementing Jeff Bezos’s two-pizza rule: Hold meetings small enough that you can feed everyone with two pizzas. Unless people are incentivized to engage with one another at work, they’re more likely to keep to themselves. That’s no winning strategy.

A better breakroom

Building connections is something that often gets left by the wayside. Be genuine and focus on what you can do, not on what you have to do to spark joy around you at work. You and your teammates have an opportunity to build connections and relationships with one another, which is what brings meaning to your work and makes you the winning team worth betting on.

Summing it all up

Give yourself a pat on the back and a gold star for making it to the end of this series! Now, you can stop here feeling good about everything you’ve read thus far, or you can take it one step further for a recap and refresher on the lessons learned in our next and final post. Your call! Either way, we’re happy you stuck with us.

Liv Huntley is a Content Writer at Surprise.com. Born in the Midwest, raised on NFL and Miles Davis, and lives on Google Drive. A serious journalist, a not-so-serious copywriter, and a social psychology nerd, she formerly wrote for a women’s magazine and always enjoys a bit of storytelling tomfoolery. You can catch her skiing in the winter and chasing cold climates year-round.