Did you take a holiday this summer, or were you too busy at work? You're hardly alone if you fall into the latter category. In the U.S., 42 percent of us fail to use up our paid vacation days—to the tune of more than $52 billion in unclaimed benefits a year, according to a 2014 analysis by Oxford Economics. We work long days, too: the average full-time employee clocks about 47 hours a week.
It would be one thing if we labored so much out of love. But a survey of 5,000 households published last year by the nonprofit Conference Board revealed that more than half of working Americans found their job unsatisfying.
Fortunately, science may offer an antidote for the weary worker. Behavioral research is coalescing around the idea that being productive and happy actually go hand in hand. As the writers in this three-part special section explain, many of the same tactics that foster an employee's fresh thinking and improve time management and performance also bolster his or her social support, autonomy and job satisfaction. Each story offers practical, research-backed advice on matters such as how to promote greater collaboration through technology, how to work more effectively from home, and how to boost creativity with mental and physical breaks.
The lesson, in essence: a happier, less stressed worker is also a more successful one.