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Reaping rewards, increasing productivity


All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, is how an English saying goes. Fast-forward to the 21st century and we can adapt it to sound less catchy, but equally valuable: all work and no reward makes people disengaged.

When it comes to effort, we seldom enjoy working in vain, because it essentially means we are doing something for nothing; as such, rewards are a significant part of today’s work environment and culture. But don’t be mistaken, rewards don’t have to be merely monetary – they can also be based on a carefully designed system, which includes among others, appraisals, continuous feedback and various types of benefits.

For journalists, it can be the number of views or comments on a piece of writing. For those who work in design, architecture or the construction industry, seeing a project come to life can also count as a reward.

To give this train of thought more substance, Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist, states that: ”When we think about labor, we usually think about motivation and payment as the same thing, but the reality is that we should probably add all kinds of things to it: meaning, creation, challenges, ownership, identity, pride etc”. In 2008, he designed an experiment, in which he invited groups of students from Duke University and gave them a paid assignment – to build Bionicles, which are action figure toys.

With the first group, after the toys were built, he put them one besides the other, so the students can compare their progress; when it came to the second group, he instantly dismantled the toys and gave the parts back to the students. The results? The second group started to build fewer Bionicles, due to a lack of motivation, knowing it will be quickly torn apart.

Adding to this, Pacific Standard Magazine interviewed a few journalists in this year’s July, asking what goes through their minds when they publish a new piece of writing. Most of them said that they live for the ”high” of seeing their article become viral and that a whole array of emotions flow through them when looking at stats such as comments, likes, shares – general online traffic numbers.

So, as we can see, financial rewards are important, but more often than not, we tend to disconsider the motivational part of our work. Feeling that you are making a change for the better or adding something new and useful into this world can generally be just as important as getting paid at the end of the day for that particular work piece.

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