Are you happy in your job?

An email popped into my inbox this morning that identified nine UK based companies where the employees say they are particularly happy. Glassdoor 9 companies with happy employees.

Having spent the last six months studying happiness and it association with career success as part of a Psychology Master’s Degree at the London School of Economics, I was fascinated to find out which companies distinguish themselves in this way and why.  The companies were all selected on the basis of good work/life balance scores. Staff use words like inclusive culture, supportive management, admirable values, and trust to explain their good reviews. “I’m trusted to work when and where suits me best, trusted to wear what I like and trusted to get the job done” said one current employee. The majority are in digital companies working on software development or Fintech, (apart from a notable exception, an award-winning firm providing carers for the elderly in Yorkshire) and tend to be private businesses, with under 200 employees. 

What does this tell us? 

In recent decades, interest in happiness has increased sharply and there now is wide acceptance in society of what happiness is and means to individuals. Contemporary happiness research is focused on both the outcomes and causes of happiness.  Happiness in the workplace has become a significant area of research because higher subjective well-being leads to increased productivity, job satisfaction, engagement, optimal performance and affective organisational commitment. 

How well you fit the job and how the job suits your needs matters. This notion of person-environment fit in organisations has been discussed and debated for many years. This is the idea that individuals want to find organisations that best make use of their skills and meet their specific needs; and organisations want to recruit those who will best meet the demands of the job, adapt to training and changes in job demands, as well as remaining loyal and committed to the organisation.  In my view this still premise still holds. You will be happiest in a job where your skills are well-utilised and you feel valued. 

It is, however, more complex than this. Your genes affect your well-being and a variety of environmental influences affect happiness, including relationships, community, personal freedom as well as work and income. Commuting behaviour for example, affects happiness and there’s some evidence that long commutes affect women more than men (possibly because women with children don’t want to waste time getting home). 

It is widely known that those who have friends and relationships are happier than those without, and interestingly religion (of any type) brings happiness, though it is possible that this is because of the social contact gained by being part of a like-minded group. 

I found in my research (replicating other similar findings) that happiness precedes career success, meaning that the happier you are to begin with, the more likely you are to be successful in your chosen career (having found the right job to suit your skills and needs).  So if you are unhappy at work and want to change jobs, look at the factors or influences on your well-being outside the workplace too.