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Science Says Pizza Can Make You More Productive at Work

A study carried out on workers making computer chips found that pizza and compliments from the boss were the main motivators for increased productivity.

If you're lacking the will to drag yourself into work in the morning or can't stop from falling asleep on your keyboard come mid-afternoon, science may have the answer. According to a new study, pizza could be the key to getting your ass in gear and increasing productivity in the workplace.

Forget the proverbial carrot on a stick, a study from psychologist Dan Ariely's new book Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations suggests that the promise of a slice of crisp dough laden with gooey, oozy cheese is the thing that'll get you burning through your inbox and striking through the to-do list.


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The study saw Ariely examine workers who assembled computer chips in a technology company in Israel to find out what incentives made them work harder. Participants were sent one of three messages at the start of the week, promising them either pizza, a cash bonus of the equivalent to £20, or compliments from the boss in the form of a text message as a reward for hitting each day's targets. Some workers received no message to act as a control group for productivity levels.

The prospect of pie was a winner from the start.

Compared with the control group, the number of computer chips produced by the pizza group after the first day of the experiment increased by 6.7 percent. However, the workers were also suckers for flattery: the complimentary text message group came in a close second with an increase of 6.6 percent. The cash bonus group, however, lagged behind with an increase of only 4.9 percent.

Over the course of the week, while the cash incentive gradually decreased productivity by 6.5 percent, pizza and compliments made workers stay above the productivity baseline set by the control group.

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Compliments ultimately won out over pizza, but as the New York Magazine notes, Ariely believes pizza would have come first if his original plan for the pie to be delivered to the workers' homes had been seen through. He says 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."

As for the rest of us, we can keep hoping the next thing the boss drops on our desk is a takeaway box and not another pile of filing.