Business owners hoping to motivate their staff with higher pay packets and other perks have missed a trick for so long. According to new research, nothing motivates employees to work harder than a mouth-watering slice of pizza.

According to a study led by Dan Ariely in his forthcoming book Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations, the prospect of tucking into a pizza as reward for hard work trumps even the promise of receiving a cash bonus.

Ariely based his study on an experiment he carried out at an Intel factory in Israel, where workers were promised they would receive pizza, a cash bonus or compliments if they assembled a certain amount of computer chips throughout the day.

Meanwhile, a separate group that were not promised any bonus served as the control element of the study.

On the first day, pizza was the top motivator, increasing productivity by 6.7% over the control group, while compliments came close behind at 6.6%. The cash bonus (which was approximately £22.6) was a distant third at 4.9%.

As the experiment continued, those who were promised a cash bonus performed 13.2% worse than those in the control group on the second day.

Overall, compliments were the best motivator, though Ariely suggested pizza would have come tops had it been delivered at home to any winning employee.

"This way [...] we not only would give them a gift, but we would also make them heroes in the eyes of their families," he wrote in the book.