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Keys to workplace happiness

By Sandra Mumm

October 11, 2019

Happiness at work is something nearly everyone wants, but it can be challenging to achieve. According to findings from Robert Half’s report, It’s Time We All Work Happy, what makes an employee happy varies widely by several factors, including age, gender and field. And, in today’s incredibly hot job market, if employees aren’t feeling happy, they will look for greener pastures.
In a recent Robert Half survey, nearly one in three (29 percent) Minneapolis professionals said they’re likely to look for a new job in the next year. And 82% of Minneapolis senior managers said they were concerned about their company’s ability to retain valued employees. Losing employees, particularly top performers, can be disastrous for business. And, given Minnesota’s low unemployment rate, which was 3.3 percent as of August 2019, replacing them wouldn’t be easy.

The importance of happiness

When employees enjoy their job and feel engaged, they are more productive than those who are just working for a paycheck. Our research outlines three elements of on-the-job satisfaction:
  • Enthusiasm. A high-energy state that leads workers to create and seize opportunities.
  • Interest. A state of deep focus brought on by stimulating and challenging work.
  • Contentment. A state of calm satisfaction that arises after doing excellent work, coupled with appreciation from peers and management.
The good news? Most professionals are generally happy: On a happiness scale of 0–100, the median response was 71. Here’s a snapshot of the findings:
  • The power of pride. Having pride in one’s organization is the No. 1 driver of happiness overall for workers. Those who feel proud of their organization are three times more likely to be happy than those who are not.
  • Accountants just want to be appreciated. Different professions have slightly different key drivers of happiness at work. For example, feeling appreciated is a primary factor for accountants.
  • Millennials want to make their mark. For those ages 34 and under, a sense of accomplishment is the strongest determinant of happiness.
  • Small-business employees are happier. People working in firms with 10 or fewer employees have the highest happiness levels. Organizations with 10,000 or more employees report the lowest.
So, how can professionals transition from an unhappy work environment to a gratifying one? The first step is to scrutinize the reasons you’re not happy. Perhaps you’d rather work less with clients and more with data, or maybe you’d like to earn a certification and boost your salary. Making a tangible list can help identify the problem areas.
Here are four steps professionals can take to achieve workplace happiness:

Take time off

About 65 percent of respondents in accounting, finance and financial services reported they have a healthy work-life balance. That’s a majority, but it’s near the bottom of the list compared to other professions. Not enough play makes for stressed-out accountants. So be sure to use your vacation time to recharge your batteries and come back happier.

Connect with colleagues

When you enjoy the people you work with, heading to the office each morning can be a pleasure, even if you’re not 100 percent enamored with your job. Robert Half’s research finds that people with strong workplace friendships are as much as two and a half times happier than those without.

Be honest with your boss

Your manager may never know your workplace happiness has hit the skids if you don’t say anything. Do both of you a favor by bringing up this sensitive subject. Before you do, brainstorm ways you could be happier in your role, but keep in mind your aim is to create a win-win situation for the company, as well as yourself. Sit down with your boss to discuss career goals and present ideas for greater job satisfaction.

Make a career move

If you’re in an unhappy slump because you no longer love your career, it may be time to launch a job search. Our study found that one of the top factors in workplace happiness is interesting and meaningful work.
Bottom line, happiness isn't about feeling cheerful every day or avoiding challenges. Work can be demanding, but if employees feel proud of their organization, respected as a person and appreciated for what they do, then they tend to be happy and do better work. Happiness at work is a genuine win-win for both employees and employers — and much of it comes down to choosing the right role and the right employer.
Sandra Mumm, CPA (inactive), is the division director for Robert Half Management Resources in Minneapolis. Founded in 1948, Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. This year, Robert Half celebrates 50 years of serving job seekers and employers in the Twin Cities. For more information about our six Minnesota locations, call us at 651-968-4599 or click here.