Despite a large body of positive psychological research into the relationship between happiness and productivity,[1][2][3] happiness at work has traditionally been seen as a potential by-product of positive outcomes at work, rather than a pathway to business success. Happiness in the workplace is usually dependent on the work environment. During the past two decades, maintaining a level of happiness at work has become more significant and relevant due to the intensification of work caused by economic uncertainty and increase in competition.[4] Nowadays, happiness is viewed by a growing number of scholars and senior executives as one of the major sources of positive outcomes in the workplace.[5][6] In fact, companies with higher than average employee happiness exhibit better financial performance and customer satisfaction.[7] It is thus beneficial for companies to create and maintain positive work environments and leadership that will contribute to the happiness of their employees.[8]

Happiness is not fundamentally rooted in obtaining sensual pleasures and money, but those factors can influence the well-being of an individual at the workplace.[9] However, extensive research has revealed that freedom and autonomy at a workplace have the most effect on the employee's level of happiness,[9] and other important factors are gaining knowledge and the ability to influence the self's working hours.



Ryan and Deci offer a definition for happiness in two views: happiness as being hedonic, accompanied with enjoyable feelings and desirable judgements, and happiness as being eudemonic, which involves doing virtuous, moral and meaningful things.[10] Watson et al. claims that the most important approach to explain an individual's experience is in a hedonic tone,[11] which is concerned with the subject's pleasant feelings, satisfying judgments, self-validation and self-actualization.[12] However, some psychologists argue that hedonic happiness is unstable over a long period of time, especially in the absence of eudaimonic well-being.[13] Thus, in order for one to live a happy life one must be concerned with doing virtuous, moral and meaningful things while utilising personal talents and skills.



Organisational culture


Organisational culture represents the internal work environment created for operating an organisation. It can also represent how employees are treated by their bosses and peers. An effective organisation should have a culture that takes into account employee's happiness and encourages employee satisfaction.[14] Although each individual has unique talents and personal preferences, the behaviors and beliefs of the people in the same organizations show common properties.[15] This, to some extent, helps organisations to create their own cultural properties.

Jarow concludes that an employee feels satisfied not through comparisons with other peers, but through his/her own happiness and awareness of being in harmony with their colleagues.[16] He uses a term called "carrier" to represent lack of happiness, life in constant tension and never-ending struggle for status.[16]

Employee salary


There are many reasons that can contribute to happiness at work. However, when individuals are asked with regards to why they work, money is one of the most common answers[17] as it provides people with sustenance, security and privilege. To a large extent, people work to live, and the pecuniary aspect of the work is what sustains the living. Locke, Feren, McCaleb Shaw and Denny argued that no other incentive or motivational technique comes even close to money with respect to its instrumental value.[18]

The income-happiness relationship in life can also be applied in organisational psychology. Some studies have found positively significant relationships between salary level and job satisfaction.[19] Some have suggested that income and happiness at work are positively correlated, and the relationship is stronger for individuals with extrinsic value orientations.[20]

However, others don't believe that salary, in itself, is a very strong factor in job satisfaction.[21] Hundreds of studies and scores of systematic reviews of incentive studies consistently document the ineffectiveness of external rewards.[22] The question regarding this subject has been recently studied by a group of people, including Judge and his colleagues. Their research shows that the intrinsic relationship between job and salary is complex. In their research, they analysed the combined impact of many existing studies to produce a much larger and statistically powerful analysis. By looking at 86 previous studies, they concluded that while it is true to say that money is a driver of employee's happiness, the produced effect is transitory. Judge and his colleagues have reminded us that money may not necessarily make employees happy.[23]

Job security


Job security is an important factor to determine whether employees feel happiness at work. Different types of jobs have different levels of job security: in some situations, a position is expected to be offered for a long time, whereas in other jobs an employee may be forced to resign his/ her job.[24][25] The expectation of the job availability has been related with the job-related well-being[26] and a higher level of job security corresponds to a higher level of job satisfaction alongside a higher level of well-being.[27]

Career development


The option for moving or shifting to alternative roles motivates the employee's participation in the workplace[28] meaning if an employee can see the future potential for a promotion, motivation levels will increase. By contrast, if an organisation does not provide any potential for higher status position in the future, the employee's effectiveness in work will decrease. In addition, the employee may consider whether or not the position would be offered to them in the future. On the other hand, not all of the opportunities for transferring into another activity are aimed to obtain the upward movement. In some cases, they are aimed to prevent the skills obsolescence, provides more future career possibility, as well as directly increasing the skill development.[29]

Job autonomy


Job autonomy may be defined as the condition of being self-governing or free from excessive external control in the workplace environment. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that autonomy is important to human beings because it is the foundation of human dignity and the source of all morality.[30] Among the models of human growth and development that are centred on autonomy, the most theoretically sophisticated approach has been developed around the concepts of self-regulation and intrinsic motivation. Self-determination theory proposes that 'higher behavioural effectiveness, greater volitional persistence, enhanced subjective well-being, and better assimilation of the individual within his or her social group' result when individuals act from motivations that emanate from the inner self (intrinsic motivation) rather than from sources of external regulation.[31] For self-determination theorists, it is the experience of an external locus of causation (or the belief that one's actions are controlled by external forces) that undermines the most powerful source of natural motivation and that (when chronic) also can lead to stultification, weak self-esteem, anxiety and depression, and alienation. Thus, health and well-being as well as effective performance in social settings are closely related to the experience of autonomy. Hackman and Oldham developed the Job Characteristics Model, a framework that focused attention on autonomy and four other key factors involved in designing enriched work. Work designed to be complex and challenging (characterized by high levels of autonomy, skill variety, identity, significance, and feedback) was theorized to promote high intrinsic motivation, job satisfaction, and overall work performance.[32] Two decades of research in this tradition have shown that job scope or complexity, an additive combination of autonomy and the four other job characteristics: (a) is correlated significantly with more objective ratings of job characteristics; (b) may be reduced to a primary factor consisting of autonomy and skill variety; and (c) has substantial effects on affective and behavioural reactions to work, mostly indirectly through critical psychological states such as experienced responsibility for the outcomes of the work. It is possible to infer from this line of research that the experience of autonomy at work has positive consequences ranging from higher job performance to job satisfaction and enhanced general well-being, which are both related to the concept of happiness at work.

Work–life balance


Work–life balance is a state of equilibrium, characterised by a high level of satisfaction, functionality, and effectiveness while successfully performing several tasks simultaneously.[33] The non-work activity is not limited to family life only but also to various occupations and activities of which one's life is composed. Scholars and popular press articles have started promoting the importance of maintaining a work–life balance beginning in the early 1970s and have been increasing ever since.[34] Studies suggest[35] that there is a clear connection between the increase in work related stress to the constant advancements in digital and telecommunications technology. The existence of cell phones and other internet based devices enables access to work related issues in non- working periods, thus, adding more hours and work load. A decrease in the time allocated to non- work related activities and working nonstandard shifts has been proven to have significant negative effects on family and personal life. The immediate effect is a decrease in general well- being as the individual is unable to properly allocate the appropriate amount of time necessary to maintain a balance between the two spheres. Therefore, extensive research has been done on properly managing time as a main strategy of managing stress. It is estimated by the American Psychological Association[36] that the national cost of stress for the US economy is approximately US$500 billion annually.

Research recommends there are five stressors related to the workplace (perceived job intensity, limited workspace, technostress, work interdependence, and professional isolation) and three stressors unrelated to the workplace (intensity of housework, care work, and emotional demands).[37]

Some of the physiological effects of stress include cognitive problems (forgetfulness, lack of creativity, inefficient decision making), emotional reactions (mood swings, irritability, depression, lack of motivation), behavioural issues (withdrawal from relationships and social situations, neglecting responsibilities, abuse of drugs and alcohol) and physical symptoms (tiredness, aches and pain, loss of libido).[38]

The condition in which work performance is negatively affected by a high level of stress is termed 'burnout', in which the employee experiences a significant reduction in motivation. According to Vroom's Expectancy Theory, when the outcomes of work performance are offset by the negative impacts on the individual's general well-being, or, are not valued enough by the employee, levels of motivation are low.[39] Time management, prioritising certain tasks and actions according to one's values and beliefs are amongst the suggested course of action for managing stress and maintaining a healthy work–life balance. Psychologists have suggested that when workers have control over their work schedule, they are more capable of balancing work and non- work related activities. The difficulty of distinguishing and balancing between those spheres was defined by sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild as Time Bind.[40] The reality of constant increase in competition and economic uncertainty frequently forces the employee to compromise the balance for the sake of financial and job security. Therefore, work–life balance policies are created by many businesses and are largely implemented and dealt by line managers and supervisors, rather than at the organizational level[41] as the employee's well-being can be more carefully observed and monitored.

Working relationship


According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, feeling a sense of belonging to groups is a significant motivation for human beings. Co-workers are an important social group and relationships with them can be a source of pleasure.[42] Three Need theory also suggests that people have a Need for affiliation. Also, person-job fit, the matching between personal abilities and job demand, has important effects on job satisfaction.[43][44]

Group relationship


Herzberg's Two-Factor theory indicates that co-workers relationship belongs to hygiene needs, which are related to environmental elements. When environmental elements are met, satisfaction will be achieved. Employees tend to be happier and more hardworking when they are in good working environment, for instance, being happy to work in a good working relationship.[45]

Group relationship is important and has effects on employees' absenteeism and turnover rate. Cohesive groups increase job satisfactions. Mann and Baumgartel state that the sense of group belongingness, group pride, group solidarity or group spirit relates inversely to the absenteeism rate. Among the target groups, group with high cohesiveness tend to have low absenteeism rate while group with low cohesiveness tend to have higher absenteeism rate.[46]

Seashore investigated 228 work groups in a heavy-machinery-manufacturing company. His findings suggest that Group cohesiveness helps employees solve their work-related pressure. Seashore define cohesiveness as '1) members perceive themselves to be a part of a group 2) members prefer to remain in the group rather than to leave, and 3) perceive their group to be better than other groups with respect to the way the men get along together, the way they help each other out, and the way they stick together'. Among the target group, the less cohesive the group, the more likely its employees are to feel nervous and jumpy.[47]

Different communication ways in groups contribute to different employees satisfaction. For example, the chain structure results in low satisfaction while the circle structure results in high satisfaction.[48]



In relations to the work place, successful leadership will structure and develop relationships amongst employees and consequently, employees will empower each other.[49]

Kurt Lewin argued that there are 3 main styles of leaderships:

  1. Autocratic leaders: control the decision-making power and do not consult team members.
  2. Democratic leaders: include team members in the decision-making process but make the final decisions.
  3. Laissez-faire leaders: team members have huge freedom in how they do their work, and how they set their deadlines.

Management plays an important role in an employee's job satisfaction and happiness.[50] Good leadership can empower employees to work better towards reaching the organisation's goals.[51] For example, if a leader is considerate, the employees will tend to develop a positive attitude towards management and thus, work more effectively.[52]

Feelings, including happiness, are often hidden by employees and should be identified[53] for effective communication in the workplace. Ineffective communication at work is not uncommon, as leaders tend to focus on their own matters and give less attention to employees at a lower rank. Employees, on the other hand, tend to be reluctant to talk about their own problem and assume leaders can figure out the problem. As a result, both leaders and employees can cause repetitive misunderstandings.[53]



Job performance


Research shows that employees who are happiest at work are considered to be the most efficient and display the highest levels of performance. For instance, the iOpener Institute found that a happy worker is a high-performing one.[54] The happiest employees only take one-tenth the sick leave of their least happy colleagues as they are in better physical and psychological health than their colleagues. Furthermore, happier employees display a higher level of loyalty, as they tend to stay for far longer periods in their organizations. Happiness at work is the feeling that employee really enjoy what they do and they are proud of themselves, they enjoy people being around, thus they have better performance.

Absence from work


Employees' behaviour can be influenced by happiness or unhappiness. People would like to participate in work when they feel happiness, or in the converse, absenteeism might occur.[55] Absenteeism can be defined as the lack of physical presence at a given place and time determined by an individual's work schedule.[56]

Although employee absenteeism is usually associated with the job-related well-being or simply whether the employee feels happiness during the work, other factors are also important. Firstly, the health constraints such as being ill would force the employee absence from the work. Secondly, social and families pressure can also influence the employee's decision to participate in the work.

Employee turnover


Employee turnover can be considered as another result derived from employee happiness. In particular, it is more likely that individual employees are able to deal with stress and passive feelings when they are in good mood.[57] As people spend a considerable amount of time in the workplace, factors such as employee relationship, organizational culture and job performance can have a significant impact on work happiness. What is more, Avey and his colleagues use a concept called psychological capital to link employee satisfaction with work related outcomes, especially turnover intention and actual turnover.[58] However, their findings were limited due to some reasons. For example, they omitted an important factor, which was emotional stability.[59] Additionally, other researchers have pointed out that the relationship between work happiness and turnover intention is generally low, even if a dissatisfied employee is more likely to quit his/her job than the satisfied one.[60] Therefore, whether or not employee happiness can be linked with employee's turnover intention is still a moot point.



Amazing Workplace, a U.S.-Based technology company and workplace consulting firm, offers an employee happiness survey as one of its core products. [61] The survey is based partly on the work of Dr. William Kahn, as well as studies on Positive affectivity and Perceived organizational support. Amazing Workplace's survey measures a set of Happiness Drivers that have been shown to be positively correlated to happiness at work.[62]

While no other companies survey happiness at work, there are a few surveys used to measure the happiness or well-being level of people in different countries such as the World Happiness Report, the Happy Planet Index and the OECD Better Life Index. There are also surveys created to assess the job satisfaction level of employees. Job satisfaction is a different concept from happiness, but it is positively correlated to happiness and subjective well-being.[63] The main job satisfaction scales are: The Job Satisfaction Survey (JSS), The Job Descriptive Index (JDI) and The Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ).[64] The Job Satisfaction Survey (JSS) assesses nine facets of job satisfaction, as well as overall satisfaction. The facets include pay and pay raises, promotion opportunities, relationship with the immediate supervisor, fringe benefits, rewards given for good performance, rules and procedures, relationship with coworkers, type of work performed and communication within the organization. The scale contains thirty-six items and uses a summated rating scale format. The JSS can provide ten scores. Each of the nine subscales produce a separate score and the total of all items produces a total score. The Job Descriptive Index (JDI) scale assesses five facets which are work, pay, promotion, supervision and coworkers. The entire scale contains seventy-two items with either nine or eighteen items per subscale. Each item is an evaluative adjective or short phrase that is descriptive of the job. The individual has to respond "yes", "uncertain" or "no" for each item. The Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ) has two versions, a one hundred item long version and a twenty item short form. It covers twenty facets including activity, independence, variety, social status, supervision (human relations), supervision (technical), moral values, security, social service, authority, ability utilization, company policies and practices, compensation, advancement, responsibility, creativity, working conditions, coworkers, recognition and achievement. The long form contains five items per facet, while the short one contains only one.



University of Kent research show that career satisfaction stems from living near work, access to the outdoors, mindfulness, flow, non open plan offices, absence of many tight deadlines or long hours, small organisations or self-employment, variety, friends at work, working on a product or service from start to finish, focus, financial freedom, autonomy, positive feedback, helping others, purpose/goals, learning new skill and challenges.[65][66]

The University of Warwick, UK, mentioned in one of their studies that happy workers are up to 12% more productive than unhappy professionals.[67]

Doctor, dentist, armed forces, teacher, leisure/tourism and journalist are the 6 happiest graduate jobs while social worker, civil servant, estate agent, secretary and administrator are the 5 least happy. According to one study Clergy, CEO's, Agriculturist, Company Secretaries, Regulatory professional, Health managers, Medical Professionals, Farmers and Accommodation managers are the happiest jobs in that order in another study.[65][68]

On the other hand, social workers, nurses, social workers, medical doctors, and psychiatrists abuse substances and incur mental ill-health at among the highest rates of any occupation. For instance, the psychiatrist burnout rate is 40%.[69]

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Further reading

  • Boehm, J K.; Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). "Does Happiness Promote Career Success?". Journal of Career Assessment. 16 (1): 101–116. CiteSeerX doi:10.1177/1069072707308140. S2CID 145371516.
  • Diener, E.; Biswas-Diener, R. (2002). "Will money increase subjective well-being? A literature review and guide to needed research". Social Indicators Research. 57 (2): 119–169. doi:10.1023/a:1014411319119. S2CID 153679758.
  • Forgas, J. P. (2002). "Feeling and doing: Affective influences on interpersonal behavior". Psychological Inquiry. 13 (1): 1–28. doi:10.1207/s15327965pli1301_01. S2CID 144981955.
  • Iverson, R.D.; Olekalns, M.; Erwin, P.J. (1998). "Affectivity organizational stressors and absenteeism: A causal model of burnout and its consequences". Journal of Vocational Behavior. 52: 1–23. doi:10.1006/jvbe.1996.1556.
  • Fredrickson, B.; Branigan, C. (2005). "Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires". Cognition and Emotion. 19 (3): 313–332. doi:10.1080/02699930441000238. PMC 3156609. PMID 21852891.
  • Baas, M.; De Dreu, C.K.W.; Nijstad, B.A. (2008). "A meta-analysis of 25 years of mood-creativity research: Hedonic tone, activation, or regulatory focus?". Psychological Bulletin. 134 (6): 779–806. doi:10.1037/a0012815. PMID 18954157. S2CID 1104240.
  • Cropanzano, R.; Wright, T.A. (1999). "A 5-year study of change in the relationship between well-being and job performance". Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. 51 (4): 252–265. doi:10.1037/1061-4087.51.4.252.
  • Forgas, J. P. (1998). "On feeling good and getting your way: Mood effects on negotiating strategies and outcomes". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 74 (3): 565–577. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.74.3.565. PMID 11407408.
  • Goetz, M C Goetz; PW; Robinson, M D (2007). "What's the use of being happy? Mood states, useful objects, and repetition priming effects". Emotion. 7 (3): 675–679. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.7.3.675. PMID 17683223.
  • Watson, D (1988). "Intraindividual and interindividual analyses of positive and negative affect: Their relation to health complaints, perceived stress and daily activities". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 54 (6): 1020–1030. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.54.6.1020. PMID 3397861.
  • Kobasa, S (1979). "Personality and resistance to illness". American Journal of Community Psychology. 7 (4): 413–423. doi:10.1007/bf00894383. PMID 495583. S2CID 37457331.
  • Kubzansky, L.D.; Sparrow, D.; Vokonas, P.; Kawachi, I. (2001). "Is the glass half empty or half full? A prospective study of optimism and coronary heart disease in the normative aging study". Psychosomatic Medicine. 63 (6): 910–916. CiteSeerX doi:10.1097/00006842-200111000-00009. PMID 11719629. S2CID 19463805.
  • Danner, D.D.; Snowdon, S.A.; Friesen, W.V. (2001). "Positive emotions in early life and longevity: findings from the nun study". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 80 (5): 804–13. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.80.5.804. PMID 11374751.
  • Argyle M., (1987) The experience of happiness, London: Methuen
  • Casciaro T., & Lobo S. L. (June 2005) Harvard Business Review, Competent Jerks, Loveable Fools and the Formation of Social Networks
  • Staw, B.M; Sutton, R.I.; Pelled, L.H. (1994). "Employee positive emotion and favorable outcomes at the workplace". Organization Science. 5: 51–71. doi:10.1287/orsc.5.1.51. S2CID 16698941.
  • Losada, M.; Heaphy, E. (2004). "The Role of Positivity and Connectivity in the Performance of Business Teams A Nonlinear Dynamics Model". American Behavioral Scientist. 47 (6): 740–765. CiteSeerX doi:10.1177/0002764203260208. S2CID 54020643.
  • Martin, L.L.; Ward, D.W.; Achee, J.W.; Wyer, R.S. (1993). "Mood as input: people have to interpret the motivational implications of their moods". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 64 (3): 317–326. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.64.3.317.
  • Staw, B.M.; Barsade, S.G. (1993). "Affect and management performance: A test of the sadder-but-wiser vs. Happier-and-smarter hypothesis". Administrative Science Quarterly. 38 (2): 304–331. doi:10.2307/2393415. JSTOR 2393415.
  • Cropanzano, R.; Wright, T.A. (2001). "When a "happy" worker is really a productive worker: a review and further refinement of the happy-productive worker thesis". Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. 53 (3): 182–199. doi:10.1037/1061-4087.53.3.182.
  • Folkman, S.; Moskowitz, J.T. (2000a). "Positive affect and the other side of coping". American Psychologist. 55 (6): 647–654. CiteSeerX doi:10.1037/0003-066x.55.6.647. PMID 10892207.
  • Folkman, S.; Moskowitz, J.T. (2000b). "Stress, positive emotion and coping". Current Directions in Psychological Science. 9 (4): 115–118. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00073. S2CID 1288773.
  • Lai, J.C.L.; Chong, A.M.L.; Ho, S.M.Y.; Siu, O.T.; Evans, P.D.; Ng, S.H.; Chan, P.; Chan, C.L.W.; Ho, R.T.H. (2005). "Optimism, positive affectivity, and salivary cortisol". British Journal of Health Psychology. 10 (4): 467–484. doi:10.1348/135910705x26083. hdl:10397/14302. PMID 16238860.
  • Pryce Jones, J. (Forthcoming) Happiness 9-5
  • Ventegodt, Søren, and Joav Merrick. Health And Happiness From Meaningful Work : Research In Quality Of Working Life. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 23 July 2015.
  • Wandemberg, J.C. (1998). Sustainable by Design? Economic development and natural resources use. Ph.D. Dissertation, New Mexico State University.