Smile like you mean it

Some people are paid, in part, to smile, like flight attendants and people in the customer service, entertainment and hospitality industries. It’s called emotional labour. But smiling when you don’t really feel like it is draining and can lead to job burnout.

When people fake their smiles a lot, they actually worsen their mood and their productivity falls, according to a new study. Conversely, when people smile because they’re thinking of an amusing incident, their next vacation, or a joke, their mood improves, and with it, their productivity.

Team leaders of people whose jobs expect them to smile should therefore coach their team members to cultivate positive thoughts by recalling pleasant memories or thinking about what they’re currently doing in a favourable way. That way, their smiles will be genuine and they’ll feel better about themselves and their jobs and consequently, do a better job.

Smiling helps in difficult situations. When people are stressed or nervous, their attention tends to narrow and they stop thinking clearly and noticing possible courses of action. That’s when a smile can help.

And if you’re still not convinced, smiling can help you solve thorny problems, too.  According to another study, a smile not only relaxes you, but helps you think holistically and flexibly as well. In that way, a smile can give you insight into a problem or situation and open you up to seeing your best course of action.

So for a happier, more productive workplace, smile at people. Chat about their holiday plans, their kids recitals and soccer games, their plans for the weekend. The happier people are, the better they’ll work.