However committed we may be to our careers, sometimes we all find ourselves in need of a little motivation. Whether you’re ill, tired or just having a generally crappy day, an extra incentive in the workplace can go a long way to helping you go the extra mile.
Every company has their own preferred methods. Some offer bonuses, some provide great company days out, and some content themselves with a cursory congratulatory thumbs up. However, as every foodie already suspected, a new study has revealed that the key to effective incentivization lies not through our heads or our wallets, but instead through our stomachs.
A new book by psychologist Dan Ariely alleges that food, and one food in particular, can be a more effective motivator in the workplace than many other ‘traditional’ incentives. “Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations” reveals that pizza has the power to inspire and increase productivity in the workplace more than both money and managerial praise.
For the week-long duration of his study, Ariely tested a series of employees at an Israeli microchip assembly plant to see which at of a variety of incentives would motivate them to work harder. At the start of the week, employees were divided into four separate groups.
Three of these groups were sent different text messages, variably stating that the employee would receive either a £20 ($27) cash bonus, a rare compliment from their boss or a free pizza, providing they hit that day’s targets. The final group did not receive a text at all, in order that they may act as a control for the study.
The first day of the study threw up a number of surprising results. The promise of pizza was proven to increase workers’ productivity by 6.7 percent, whilst the group who were to receive a compliment from their boss came a close second, boosting their performance by 6.6 percent on average. Perhaps surprisingly, money was shown to be the least effective motivator, with productivity in that group on increasing by 4.9 percent.
While pizza began the week as the most effective office motivator, by the time the study drew to a close it had been overtaken by praise. However, Ariely remains convinced that pizza would have remained out in front had the food been delivered to workers’ homes, rather than eaten in the office.
As he puts it in the book, “This way […] we not only would give them a gift, but we would also make them heroes in the eyes of their families.” Certainly, few things are more heroic than regular pizza provision.
While it might come as something as a shock to learn that people are more inspired by margherita than money, it certainly makes sense when you think about it.
While the results of this study may have a profound impact on office waistbands in the near future, for now we can only hope that innovative, progressive businesses embrace the findings with open arms. We may all end up significantly fatter, but companies can at least look forward to a 6.7 percent increase in productivity.