Happy at Work

What are the factors that impact employee happiness? The scales that global census takers use to determine happiness at work show different aspects of working life and satisfaction. Most global scales use several measures that translate well across cultures- pay, working hours, and paid sick time or vacation. This last metric is used to determine satisfaction with work-life balance. 

What is work-life balance?

Work-life balance means different things for employees at different stages of life. For young parents, child care benefits and time off caring for sick children is important. For those caring for aging parents, a liberal use of family leave is important. For all workers, the ability to have the time and money to live the life one desires- without too much pressure from either time or finances- seems to be the key measure of happiness at work.

For professionals, autonomy is the factor that is most important in determining work-life satisfaction, and so it is no surprise that self-employed professionals are the most satisfied with their work. For those who are not working for themselves, opportunities for advancement and a clear career pathway is an important factor for work happiness.

Company values and culture

Company culture and values such as social responsibility, environmental stewardship, and transparency are especially important for the younger generation in the workforce, and diversity and inclusion remain powerful predictors of a satisfied workforce. Though some measures are more important to one generation, an understanding that the workplace values employees and wants them to be happy, and is willing to work toward that goal is a measure that crosses generations to give satisfaction at work.

Personal Happiness

When psychologists study happiness as a personal phenomenon, the metrics evaluated include life expectancy, social support, freedom, and living without the threat of conflict, as well as the factors that influence happiness in the workplace–enough money and enough time for family. Not surprisingly, the countries that measure highest on personal happiness also rank highest on work happiness. These include Finland, Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, and Switzerland, as well as Iceland, New Zealand, and Australia. Those areas of the globe that are experiencing high levels of extreme poverty and armed conflict, as well as significant social disruptions such as civil wars and natural disasters have the lowest.