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July 26, 2016

How your morning mood may influence your work quality

Daily Briefing

    Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on Sept. 20, 2018.

    Being in a good mood when you come into work can make a big difference in your work quality and productivity, Nancy Rothbard, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, writes in Harvard Business Review.

    To evaluate the effect of mood on work performance, Rothbard and Steffanie Wilk, a professor at Ohio State University, sent customer service representatives at an insurance company's call center short surveys throughout the day asking about their mood, how they viewed work events, and how customer interactions affected their mood. The researchers then compared the data to the company's performance metrics.


    Rothbard and Wilk found that representatives' who started each day calm or happy usually maintained that mood throughout the day, and that interacting with customers tended to increase their positive mood.

    "By contrast," Rothbard writes in Harvard Business Review, "for the most part, people who started the day in a terrible mood didn't really climb out of it, and felt even worse by the end of the day—even after interacting with positive customers."

    According to Rothbard, employees in a good mood were also more productive and produced higher-quality work, while employees in a negative mood were more likely to take breaks to cope with the day, and as a result were about 10 percent less productive.

    Beat the bad mood

    Rothbard writes that "while it can be difficult, it is not impossible to hit the reset button and try to help employees shake a negative morning mood."

    For instance, she says, managers can create routines to transition workers into a better mood early in the day, such as by holding a regular team meeting to boost morale in the morning or providing breakfast on some days.

    Rothbard also recommends allowing employees a bit of time in the morning to chat with colleagues and improve their mood before they begin to work. The time spent socializing can help reduce productivity losses later in the day, Rothbard says.

    Employees can also take steps to ditch their negative moods before work begins, Rothbard says. She recommends workers create a morning ritual to help transition them into the workday, such as listening to uplifting music or simply stopping before work for a cup of coffee.

    "Finally, the best thing they can do is take a deep breath before walking in the door, to focus on making the most of the new day" Rothbard concludes (Rothbard, Harvard Business Review, 7/21).

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