The Global Happiness Policy Report 2018 was presented at the World Government Summit in Dubai in February. It covers a wide range of topics from positive education, happy countries and cities to live in, good corporate governance, social well-being, the cost of mental illness and workplace well-being. Since assisting leaders and companies to develop and maintain happiness in the workplace is my personal passion, I want to focus on sharing the main workplace features of the 2018 global research and trends.
Work plays a central role in most people’s lives which is understandable as we spend one third of our time there. Also, our work impacts our level of happiness and overall life satisfaction by a staggering 83%, and looking at the three core drivers that make up life satisfaction: finances, health and work, that high number speaks for itself. All life satisfaction drivers are closely connected and affect our daily decisions, actions and head space. People don’t always think of their work as particularly enjoyable or find tasks stimulating, but being employed has a crucial impact on our overall well-being. Full-time employees have the highest life satisfaction score (5.7), with part-time employees in second place (5.5). Self-employment comes in third place (5.0) and unemployment (4.75) has the most negative impact on life satisfaction. These scores are all out of 6. Women are generally more satisfied with their lives in all employment categories. As much as we moan about our work, boss and/or colleagues, employment gives people a sense of meaning and purpose. It’s a place where we can connect socially with others and have a daily routine.
The Global Happiness Policy Report compares world regions with regard to work satisfaction. The front runners are New Zealand (87,4%), Europe (86,4%) and North America (85,8%). On the lower end, Russia comes in at 75,2%, East Asia (72,8%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (60,2%).
This makes me wonder which criteria define a good job. Researchers did exactly that – identified 12 criteria across various countries, industries and positions, standardising the statistics, which enabled them to determine which work criteria is more important and impactful on people’s overall well-being and job satisfaction. So basically, in a nutshell, which criteria matter most to employees.
The 12 work criteria, defined by Andrew Clark in 2009, are described below in the order of ranking from the most important to the least.
- Interpersonal relationships: this is the most important workplace criteria and has a huge effect on job satisfaction and our well-being. Our work tasks are generally structured in such a way that we interact with customers, colleagues and supervisors all day and this interaction means a lot to us and will have a negative impact if things are not going well.
- Interesting job: it might come as a surprise as to how important having an interesting job is on job and life satisfaction. The fact is that having an interesting job matters to everybody, regardless of position, education or the company you work for.
- Pay: this is universally important to people’s life satisfaction and it’s no surprise that it receives a high ranking. It is made up of two components: the actual income earned for work produced, and the subjective assessment if one’s pay is perceived as fair and equitable. People view pay as proof of their level of input and productivity.
- Work-life imbalance: this has the most negative impact on job satisfaction and overall life well-being. It is divided into three aspects: work interfering with one’s family is the most prevalent, then the difficulty of taking time off work at short notice. and finally having to work on weekends.
- Difficulty, stress and danger: this is made up of two elements: physically straining work and stressful work. Stressful work is the most dominant component and has a significant relationship with employee workplace well-being. Physically straining work is a concern but one that can be mitigated with good health and safety policies.
- Job security: surprisingly this is also in the middle of the rankings. The reason for this could be because underemployment (the condition in which people are employed at less than full-time or regular jobs) in some countries overshadows over employment (a condition in which the demand for labour exceeds the available supply) in others.
- Opportunities for advancement: this seems to become more important for job and life satisfaction the higher one’s education level. What is relevant is the perceived progress an opportunity provides and is determined by clear goal-setting including well-defined, measurable goals.
- Independence: this is also known as autonomy. It’s about the employee being able to make decisions as to what extent they want to work independently, at home or at the office, with the choice of organising their own work tasks and how many hours they want to work. It’s about allowing employees to craft and structure their jobs and increases employee engagement and job satisfaction to a large degree while reducing burnout.
- Skills match: this is moderately important for employee well-being. On the one hand there is participation in skills training, and on the other hand, whether the skills learnt match the requirements of the job. That being said, a leader’s level of effectiveness has a 72% effect on an employee’s level of engagement and use of their skills, which might justify why this criteria is ranked in the middle.
- Usefulness: this refers to pro-social behaviour that is intended to benefit one or more individuals other than oneself. Common activities would be helping others, sharing information or co-operating in a team environment. However, the component that matters the most is volunteering and doing good for others outside of the work environment.
- Working hours mismatch: this is the difference between the actual hours you work versus the number of hours you would like to work. This criterion has a negative effect on life satisfaction. Also, things such as over employment and underemployment arise and it is no surprise that over employment has a hugely negative effect on an employee’s well-being and the members of their household.
- Working hours: this is surprising, but the working hours mismatch and work-life imbalance have absorbed this criteria.
You might be surprised by some of the rankings. I know I was, but in the end what is important is what you decide to do with this information. It’s not often that we have the privilege of seeing this type of employee research on workplace well-being, job satisfaction and happiness. But knowing what matters most to employees enables leaders to stop assuming or focusing on less relevant criteria.
Now that you have this information, you can work with the criteria and establish how you as a leader can influence and increase the criteria that matters the most to your employees.