What Really Makes Us Happier at Work?By Paula Felps
We spend a great deal of our lives working—and these days, even when we’re not at work, we’re likely thinking about it, texting about it or bringing it home with us. According to sociologist, author and blogger Karl Thompson, we spend about 25 to 30 years of our lives working.
It makes sense, then, that there’s an increased emphasis on finding a job that’s rewarding and personally fulfilling versus one that “just pays the bills.” Our awareness of the benefits and need to find personal happiness has influenced how we feel about the jobs we want and the work we do.
Today, workers would rather have a job that contributes to their personal well-being instead of just improving the bottom line. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace 2017 report, 53 percent of employees say that having a position that allows greater work-life balance and better personal well-being is “very important” to them.
Wanting that balance and achieving it are two very different things, and this year the annual World Happiness Report, published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, added new research on well-being at work to the conversation on global happiness. Chapter authors Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and strategy at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, and George Ward, a Ph.D. student at the Institute for Work and Employment Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, took a deep dive into the topic of work to find out how it affects our well-being—and what we should do differently.
“People…spend the majority of their lives working, so it is important to understand the role that employment [plays] in shaping happiness,” Jan says. “Our research reveals that happiness differs considerably across employment status, job type and industry sectors.” While the report makes it clear that having a job is extremely important for happiness, it also finds that many of us aren’t happy with the jobs we have. Although a common complaint is about money, the researchers found that money isn’t necessarily the driving factor of what makes us happy or unhappy at work.
Where Joy Goes to Work
It’s no secret (or surprise) that workers in some professions are happier than others. The researchers found that around the globe, people in blue-collar jobs were less happy than those in white-collar jobs. This wasn’t true in jus