What Makes Americans Happy at Work?

09.05.2014
HR & Safety

And what will they sacrifice to achieve it?

Though employers may believe more money will make their employees happy, new survey findings released by national staffing company Spherion revealed other factors also play a role in making workers happy at their jobs, and workers will make monetary and other career-related sacrifices to achieve job happiness.

According to the second “WorkSphere” survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Spherion among employed adults, in addition to compensation being a factor in determining job happiness (22%), about one-fifth of workers reported that it’s important they work in a field that they are interested in and passionate about (19%).

Job security (15%), the company’s culture/work environment (13%), and the ability to work with people they like (10%) were ranked almost equally as high among workers.

Yet, factors such as workplace flexibility (7%), the ability to work with people they work well with (6%), and opportunities for career advancement (5%) were reported as less significant when it comes to job happiness.

Sacrifices to Achieve Happiness

Additionally, workers will go to various lengths when accepting a new job for the sake of being happier in their careers. Workers would be at least somewhat willing to work in a less private office space (76%), reduce their workplace flexibility (60%), and even accept a lower position or title (60%). And, almost half of all workers will give up benefits such as their vacation time, 401K contributions, and other job perks (41%). In contrast, workers are much less willing to take a pay cut (36%) or relinquish their health benefits (31%).

“In our first WorkSphere survey, we found that workers are willing to sacrifice their careers for love, and now this WorkSphere survey revealed they will go to extreme lengths and make sacrifices for the sake of finding job happiness,” says Spherion Division President Sandy Mazur. “Employers have a unique opportunity to capitalize on these findings and offer small, but meaningful, opportunities that can help workers be happy in their current roles. And, that can pay big dividends for the employee and the employer.”

More findings:

  • Most workers (92%) said that they are at least “somewhat happy” at their jobs. And 52% said they are “very” or “extremely” happy. But, only a quarter of workers described their workplace as “happy, “while more workers noted that it’s “fast-paced” (29%) and “stressful” (28%).
  • Other common characteristics to describe workplace culture included “results-oriented” (25%) and “open” (25%). Only 11% of workers described their workplace as “competitive.”
  • Happy workers may rub off on their colleagues. Sixty percent of workers noted that they are somewhat or much happier when they see others happy at work.
  • Most working Americans said they would be happier in an established company (81%) over a startup (19%), a collaborative environment (84%) over a competitive one (16%), and a smaller organization rather than a larger one (64% vs. 36%).
  • If you want a happy worker, feed them: 30% of workers reported that the availability of food throughout the day contributes to their workplace happiness. Workers also reported that a visually pleasing environment (46%), an organization with a mission or purpose aligned with their values (42%), and a lounge where they can get away or have time to themselves (29%), among other characteristics, are also important.

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