How to be happy at work

A rewarding, yet challenging, role in an engaging workplace can make the difference between misery and joy; happiness at work isn’t just about money.

The recipe for happiness has a surprisingly short list of ingredients, but getting the mix right is not so simple. Measuring and weighing the elements of happiness is a tricky task, but the United Nations gives it a crack each year with its World Happiness Report



The 2017 report ranks the happiness of different countries based on six interrelated social and personal factors — per capita gross domestic product, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, social support and the absence of corruption.

Happiness report co-author, economist John Helliwell, says a large part of how happy we are depends on our work. “Job conditions are strong factors in the support of life satisfaction,” Helliwell says.

Unsurprisingly, researchers found income plays a significant role; those in well-paying jobs report being happier and more satisfied with their lives and jobs. But there are other, even more significant factors at play.


Helliwell says workplace trust is as important as trust in neighbours and trust in police. “People are generally happier in workplaces where there are flat structures with lots of scope for teamwork and whole-team engagement.”



Perhaps the most important of all happiness attributes, freedom is the ability to make life decisions. The happiest workers have a sense of autonomy in their role as well as a degree of control over working hours and the pace of their work.


Work-life balance

Health and happiness go hand in hand and workers who say their job interferes with their personal lives or that they “bring the job home’’ just aren’t as happy as those with a better work-life balance.



Unsurprisingly, people who feel their health and safety is compromised at work are among the most miserable. Feeling safe at work is a major foundation of happiness.


Social capital

If things go wrong, we like to know a support network is ready to help out. Social support is closely linked to mental and physical health and has far greater positive effects on our happiness than a fat pay cheque.



The need to learn new things is innate. People with more variety in their jobs are more satisfied with their lives and their work; and they experience more positive emotions day to day.


Job security

Unemployment has devastating effects on wellbeing, so those who fear for their jobs are among the unhappiest workers.


Employers are getting it

Employers around the world are cottoning on to a growing body of research that suggests workplace happiness lifts productivity, stimulates innovation and improves performance. Fostering an environment that values happy workers leaves everyone smiling.