This week is International Week of Happiness at Work. The organization behind this global initiative believes that happy employees are more productive, flexible, resilient, creative and work better with customers and colleagues. With this is mind, they state that happiness at work should be a top priority for all companies. Yet many companies still often overlook this simple message. Furthermore, employees don’t always see their jobs as a vehicle to a happy life. They might be content with their jobs, and like what they do, but happiness is found at home, with family or with friends.

It’s science

It all sounds a bit floaty and new-agey maybe too. The titles of the numerous scientific and academic publications don’t help either. ‘How to be Happy at Work’ sounds like a self-help book Bridget Jones would read, rather than a 272-page work by award winning business author Annie McKee, published by the Harvard Business Review Press. They saw the importance of its message for success in business, and with reason. Numerous studies conducted worldwide over the last couple of decades, back the important connection of happiness and productiveness. Some data even suggests that stocks of a company with a high and upbeat morale perform 19% better than those of companies with a low morale. Another study, by global analytics and advice firm Gallup, showed that employees who experience an overall sense of wellbeing, cost a company 62% less than staff members who were struggling or facing issues in the workplace. Basically, not only does happiness at work pay off, unhappiness at work costs money.

How to measure?

But how can you measure happiness at work? Will a bigger pay-check make people happier? Most likely, yes, it will. But maybe not in the long run, and it also will cost you money. Luckily, there are other, possibly even more efficient drivers to promote a happier work life. Robert Half, one of the world’s leading staffing and consulting firms, conducted a global survey on employee satisfaction. 23,000 employees from eight countries answered questions about happiness in the job and what factors play a role in it. The results identified six factors that directly affect employer satisfactions.

  1. The right job. A job should fit the employee, but the company should be a match too. Staff should know what to expect.
  2. More responsibility. More than half of the respondents in the survey wish to have more influence and more freedom of choice.
  3. Honesty and appreciation. Constructive and honest recognition of achievements create lasting moments of wellbeing and happiness in a job
  4. When work makes sense and contributes to change or visible advance, employees feel better
  5. Fairness and respect. This is high on the list of the most important factors for most respondents.
  6. A positive working environment. Good workplace relationships equal more enjoyment, innovation and collaboration, even outside of team boundaries and working hours.

They are very similar to the motivators psychologist Abraham Maslow distinguishes in his famous hierarchy of needs pyramid where self-realization and appreciation are the top two.

Trust and flexibility

A recent study in Germany, conducted by German current affairs publication Die Zeit further shows that for the younger members of the work force, freedom is a key factor. This translates to freedom of choice and responsibility, like in the study by Robert Half, but also the freedom to determine working hours and to work remote. In essence, it means they value flexibility and trust.

Most common complaints

It all sounds so simple, but a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that many of these factors are often overlooked or neglected. Lack of security, lack of trust, under-appreciation, the sense of being stuck without opportunities for advancement and lack of communication are the most commonly mentioned complaints people have at their jobs.

Take action

Whatever the reason, unhappy employees affect a company’s performance, and not in a good way. It might be worth your while to take notice and to try to take action if your employees are not happy. Likewise, if you are not feeling happy at your own job, try to see if there are things you can do to change this for the better. Happiness pays off, literally.