Happiness is a nebulous concept. For many, of course, happiness is about not being at work, especially when there’s the World Cup to get excited about. But, given that we all – or at least most of us – accept the necessity to work to live, what do you need in a job to make you happy? Here are our five steps to find workplace happiness:

1)    Don’t Stress Out

One of the quickest routes to unhappiness at work is stress. While pressure can be positive, especially when it’s related to things such as rising to a challenge or successfully meeting a goal or deadline, stress is different. Pressure and workload can, certainly, contribute to stress but, as the Health and Safety Executive has identified, stress tends to be related to six defining characteristics of a working environment:

  • The demands put upon you
  • How much control or say you feel you have over your work
  • How well your role is understood or communicated
  • The support you feel you get in your job
  • Your relationships (or conflicts)
  • Whether your organisation is going through flux or change, and how well that is being managed and communicated.

It stands to reason, therefore, that to be happy you ideally need all or some of the following: manageable demands, at least a modicum of say or control, a clear and defined job description, support from your boss and friends (or at least people you can get on with), and stability or, at minimum, an understanding of why change is happening.

2)    Rewards and Incentives

Compensation, of course, can contribute to happiness in our work. But, while a decent salary is certainly an important part of work satisfaction – as much for what it says about the value an organisation puts on your contribution as for its actual monetary value – it’s by no means the only reward or incentive important for happiness in work.

Feeling you are doing something valuable or worthwhile – for the public, your community or a cause perhaps – or feeling rewarded in other ways, maybe in terms of personal motivation, interest, responsibility or career progression, can all put a spring into your working day.

Non-monetary rewards and incentives can be valuable, too, whether formal team away-days, gifts or vouchers, “invisible” benefits such as pensions or flexible working or just the occasional, simple “thank you”.

3)    Your Role and Responsibilities

This is a contentious one. Are particular jobs “happier” than others? Recent research by the UK government, for example, suggested vicars and priests enjoy the most satisfying working lives, with telesales workers, bar staff, rent collectors and leisure assistants unhappier, by and large.

The research made the point that take-home pay and life-satisfaction are not necessarily linked. Arguably it is factors associated with a role – control, support, demands and so forth, as again highlighted above – rather than a role itself that will be important in determining how “happy” you are. But it may well be some roles lean more towards offering those determinants than others.

4)    Your Work Environment

Your work environment, both the physical space and emotional landscape (in other words your friendships and relationships), can have an important effect on your sense of happiness or wellbeing at work.

Office design can directly affect your health, as Science Daily reported earlier this year. Certainly, a pleasant environment, good facilities, a nice location, convenient commute, that great little place to pick up a coffee on the way in, can all feed into how you feel about your work, even if none is likely to determine how long you stay.

But the emotional environment of your workplace – your relationships and friendships with colleagues, the similar “psychological contract” you have with your managers and bosses –can go a long way towards determining how happy, or not, you feel on a day-to-day basis.

As Forbes recently highlighted, if you had to distil “happiness” at work down to two things it’d be: results (in other words achieving your goals and being thanked, as above) and your relationships.

5. Work-Life Balance

Clearly, if you get to Sunday night and a pit starts to form in your stomach about the week ahead, that’s not a good sign. But, at the same time, if you have something to look forward to outside of work – a hobby, friendships, family and so on – it can help make even the most unpleasant job more bearable.

Whether yearning all day for what you do outside work is going to make the long hours stuck at your desk happier is a moot point. But ensuring work isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of your waking hours can often, counter-intuitively, make it much happier.

Special thanks goes to Glassdoor for sharing interesting and insightful ideas for all interested about the job market. 

The Davidson Group is an executive placement agency specializing in the legal services industry.  Let us strengthen your organization with talented professionals.  Or, if you are a candidate looking to make a change, give us a call.  We can be reached at 415-893-1020 or jobs@davidsongroup.com.