Happiness at work

Each year we get given the scores for the latest happiness at work and job satisfaction surveys; each year we seem to be more miserable with our lot, particularly now after the last two years.

Whilst we cannot dispute the findings – if a worker says they are unhappy then I guess they are – we can ask what exactly is ‘happiness at work’ and ‘job satisfaction’ and can it be achieved anyway? Most jobs have a ‘boring’ side to them and if you can keep this below 20% then I guess that could be construed as job satisfaction!

The recent world’s ‘largest study of work happiness’ found only 27 percent of UK workers say they are happy at work most of the time. The data came from Indeed’s Work Happiness Score which currently displays data for over 1,800 organisations in the UK across 25 different sectors and considers factors such as Belonging; Appreciation; Inclusion; Support; Purpose; Energy; Learning; Achievement; Trust; Flexibility; Compensation; Stress Level; Satisfaction and Manager Support.

Interestingly, it found that workers in education are the happiest (must be those long holidays), followed by those in government and public administration (unless you went to one of those parties!), backed up by workers in aerospace and defence. The most miserable workers are estate agents and car workers – begs the question why?

Apparently, we spend around 20% of the year feeling unhappy at work and even if we change jobs, within six months 11% start feeling miserable again!

What to do though? The pandemic has no doubt caused a lot of us to think about our future and whether our current career is the one to keep us happy and motivated; seems half of us are now thinking or looking for a move…

So why are we all unhappy? Reports do suggest that job satisfaction and work happiness for the majority has declined steeply in the last few years: commuting blues, management and colleague issues, long hours, pressured environments and culture, salary, career progression, work-life balance…the list goes on. So, is job satisfaction a myth?

According to the CIPD bad management and a lack of support from employers has a huge part to play in this lack of job satisfaction, but is it all down to ‘someone else’ or are our expectations not out of proportion to what is possible?

Of course, we like to feel appreciated and valued, particularly as we spend a lot of time at work and have our free time encroached upon by our 24 hour connected society (hands up those who find it hard not to check their work emails when not at work), where your employer, and customers, have no issue with contacting you any time of day or night.

So, is it a lack of career progression? This can be an issue with ambitious individuals who feel they are treading water, leading to them becoming less then enthusiastic about working for you, and checking the internet for job opportunities!

The problem seems to be universal across all age groups and generations. Indeed, a recent survey found that almost half of Generation-X employees want to start their own business in the next 10 years. The reason? Freedom, flexibility, challenge and job satisfaction.

This is probably not surprising since the traditional ‘career path’ has all but disappeared with no jobs for life anymore. It is likely that future generations will have a portfolio career where they embrace and follow a diverse path that is forever changing and evolving, taking in different and diverse sectors and functions along the way. Working to live, not living to work. But will they be happy?