Work is a 4-Letter Word—W#*K!—Productivity is where it’s at

Work is a 4 letter word blog image

When you wake up on a Monday, how do you feel when you say “I’m going to work?”

Does it make you happy or motivated? Or do you immediately feel stressed and fatigued? Maybe that 4-letter word even makes you want to utter a few more 4-letter words?

For many of us, even just the word “work” often seems to have a negative implication—it’s something we aren’t excited about doing to say the least.

But what if instead you woke up and said “I’m going to be productive?” How would that new wording make you feel? Would it make you feel more happy, optimistic, or even needed? I know it would for me.

Why is there such a discrepancy in the feelings these two similar words generate? Maybe it’s because we associate work with bad that sometimes comes out of it—such as the inefficiencies in your tasks or the perception that you aren’t adding value through them. And we associate being productive, or productivity, with more positive thoughts, like getting a lot of things done, better work management, or being able to cause beneficial outputs, which makes us feel happier.

Is it possible to turn the 4-letter word connotation of work into the more opportune one that productivity incites? That change could open a lot of personal constructive possibilities, which in turn could radically reshape the way we go about accomplishing the tasks that come with our jobs—and give us a more productivity management mindset.

Historically, work and productivity are drastically different

Before making this seemingly simple word swap, we need to understand that historically, work and productivity have had drastically different meanings and connotations.

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, work is defined as “to exert oneself physically or mentally in sustained effort for a purpose or under compulsion or necessity.” It also describes other meanings as:

  • To make way slowly and with difficulty
  • To get into a specified condition by slow or imperceptible movements
  • To cause toil or labor

When you look at these definitions, they also seem to generate negative feelings. In fact, looking further down in the definition, the dictionary lists words related to the word work, which include drudgery, labor, toil, responsibility, handle, duty and function. All of these also are likely to inspire negative thoughts—and maybe a few other 4-letter words to boot.

Conversely, productive, or productivity comes with a much more inspiring definition.

According to Dictionary.com, productivity is the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services. And it defines productive as producing readily or abundantly. Further, the words it lists as related to productivity are:

  • Profitable
  • Beneficial
  • Useful
  • Effective
  • Dynamic
  • Valuable
  • Gratifying
  • Rewarding
  • Worthwhile

Wow, these definitions and connotations are so different when compared to the ones offered for the word work! Don’t you feel inspired to make the change to saying productive rather than work just by reading all those words?

Changing the perspective around work

Shawn Achor, Co-Founder and CEO of Good Think, an expert on the connection between happiness and success, has given TED Talks on happiness and worked with many Fortune 100 companies on positive successful psychology.

He wrote in his book Before Happiness, “research shows that by simply changing your perspective in the workplace, you can achieve greater long-term growth, 37 percent higher sales, and 31 percent more productivity, and perhaps even increase your likelihood of living to age ninety-four by up to 40 percent.”

Can it be just that simple to gain all this by changing one little word in your vocabulary? Probably not, but there are other things your organization can do to change your enterprise mindset from one of work to instead one of productivity.

And it may be increasingly essential for enterprise executives to take the lead in encouraging employees to also think this way to generate further business success.

According to research from Bain & Company, most employees want to be productive, but organizations often get in their way. Its study indicated that the average company loses more than 20% of its productive capacity — more than a day each week — to what it calls “organizational drag,” the structures and processes that consume valuable time and prevent people from getting things done.

If businesses could remove some of that drag, maybe by removing some common productivity obstacles such as rote activities, ad-hoc meetings, or a lack of consistent workflows with automation solutions for operations, they might inspire employees to have more of a productivity mindset, rather than just one that involves getting work done.

However you choose to inspire yourself and others to move away from work to instead focus on productivity, it can’t hurt.

Bain also found that inspired employees are 125% more productive than employees who are merely satisfied. That essentially means that one inspired employee can produce as much as 2.25 satisfied employees!

Maybe that’s because it determined that, like in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs pyramid, satisfied employees merely have their basic job security and safety needs met, while inspired employees also are getting their self-fulfillment needs met by being inspired from their company’s mission and leaders.

We all can be more productive; just turning the word “work’ into the word “productive” can help bring that mindset to life in our own daily tasks.

But having added organizational support to do so can inspire an entire enterprise mindset of productivity and result in happier employees and a more successful business.

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