Benefits, pay, relationships and commute key to work satisfaction

Happiness can come from having a life outside work and having the money to afford it

More of us want and expect our job to provide not just a pay cheque but human needs like learning, community and a sense of purpose

More of us want and expect our job to provide not just a pay cheque but human needs like learning, community and a sense of purpose

 

We spend most of our adult waking hours working. Moreover, many of us today expand the role of work beyond just earning a living and expect our careers to provide opportunities for personal growth and fulfilment.

With more of us wanting and expecting our jobs to provide not just a pay cheque but also human needs like learning, community and a sense of purpose, we wanted to know what specifically makes people happy at work. Is it fair pay and benefits? Having a great boss? A clear career path?

To figure out what really matters to employees, we analysed data from our app Happify. The app offers gratitude exercises that prompt users to write about things they appreciate and value in their lives. Our data science team analysed the anonymous data to uncover elusive measures of work satisfaction.

As a first step we extracted 200 different topics from the entire text coming from Happify users who were asked to “jot down three things that happened today or yesterday that made you feel grateful”. Of the topics that were extracted we identified 14 that prominently featured words that are work-related and were used frequently.

The primary themes these topics covered were general job satisfaction, commute and work breaks, positive peer interaction, having time off, achieving high work performance, benefits and compensation, and interviewing and landing a new job.

This detailed analysis showed us that around ages 25 to 34 there is a peak of gratitude for topics related to landing a new job; positive work relationships; and external work conditions, such as an easy commute, breaks or time off.

For ages 35 to 44, we saw a decline in gratitude in several areas, particularly work-life balance, time off and pay.

Different pattern

It seems that early on in a career people appreciate a job that will bring future benefits as they continue to perform.

In midlife things generally get tougher because it’s harder to balance work and life, and people struggle to make ends meet. But as one gets older one grows more satisfied with one’s present job and accumulates more resources to achieve personal aspirations.

The bottom line: satisfaction at work is influenced by factors such as benefits, pay, relationships and commute length. But all of this boils down to two things being important regardless of your circumstances: having a life outside of work and having the money to afford it. If you have a job that grants you both of these, you might be happier than you realise. – Copyright Harvard Business Review 2017

Ran Zilca is chief data science officer at Happify, and author of the book Ride of Your Life: a Coast-to-Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peace

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