Here’s an interesting piece of trivia. Researchers in Japan have discovered that people who have pictures of kittens and puppies on their desks are 10% more productive. Oh yes. Researchers at Hiroshima University split volunteers into three groups: the first group was given a picture of a kitten or puppy to put on their desks; the second group had a picture of an adult animal and the third group were given a photo of some tasty food. The work rate of the first group increased by 10%, the second group by 5% and the food group stayed the same. The researchers believe the emotion triggered by looking at a cuddly animal transfers into a more positive approach to work. Personally, I’d be interested to know whether pictures of family and loved ones on your desk makes you more productive. I wonder if anyone has studied the emotional wellbeing and productivity effects of having images of ‘life outside of work’ on your desk. Of course, office life has changed dramatically since I was a wet-behind-the-ears admin assistant in an insurance company in the eighties. When I started out, we had mainframe computer terminals, strip lighting, duplicated memo pads and smoking in the office. Now we have these incredible open plan layouts, coffee-shop collaboration spaces, optimised lighting and recycling bins on every corner. And we’re finding out more about office productivity every year, such as the wellbeing impact of pot plants! The kitten revelation may be trivial but it demonstrates the very fragile and malleable nature of human engagement and productivity. I love cats so I might try it out for a week.
I’m reading this book at the moment by neuroscientist David Eagleman* in which he says it’s been proven that people are more likely to be attracted to someone if their first name begins with the same letter as themselves (ie. John and Jenny, Tom and Tina). In another study, researchers asked people to taste two (fictional) brands of tea. One of the brand names always began with the first three letters of the chooser’s name, so that Tommy might sample tea with the brands Tomeva and Lauler. Almost always, the chooser would select the brand corresponding closely with their own name, so that Tommy would choose Tomeva and Laura would choose Lauler. This is called ‘implicit egotism’, an unconscious type of self-love. Surely not? But hey, it goes further. A selection of students were asked to read an essay about Rasputin (above). For half the students, Rasputin’s birthday was mentioned in the essay and ‘fixed’ so that it always corresponded to the reader’s own birthday. For the other half, a different birthday to the reader’s own was used. Afterwards the students were asked to answer questions about what Rasputin was like. Almost overwhelmingly, the students who thought Rasputin shared their own birthday gave him a more positive review. They simply liked him more. Believe that? Well how about this …. research has also shown that people are attracted to professions that sound like their name! So Denise and Dennis are more likely to be dentists, Laura and Laurence will end up as lawyers and George and Georgina stand a good chance of being geologists. A disproprtionate amount of roofers have a name beginning with R and more doctors have a name starting with a D. Sounds hard to believe doesn’t it? But maybe we should find out how many communications professionals are called Colin, Charlotte, Claire, Chris etc? And is there a learning here for employee engagement? Maybe only hire people whose first name matches the organisation name?!
* Incognito by David Eagleman