What Makes Workers Happy?

Happiness at work varies by an employee’s age, gender and field, among other factors, according to a study of more than 12,000 U.S. and Canadian workers by Robert Half, in collaboration with happiness and well-being expert Nic Marks.

Most professionals are generally happy. On a happiness scale of 0 to 100, those surveyed scored a 71. The research found having pride in one’s organization is the No. 1 driver of happiness overall for respondents. Those who feel proud of their organization are three times more likely to be happy than those who are not. The second and third top factors driving happiness are feeling appreciated, and being treated with fairness and respect.

Poor fit employees are more likely to be headed for the door. One-third of workers (33%) say they will likely leave their current employer in the next six months; workers who report that they are not a good match with their employers are the most apt to leave.

People working in firms with 10 or fewer employees have the highest happiness levels, the research found. Organizations with 10,000 or more employees report the lowest. In addition, those in the education and training sector, as well as marketing and design, report the highest levels of on-the-job happiness and interest in their work, while finance professionals were among those reporting the lowest levels on these two factors. Senior executives have the highest happiness levels, while people working in sales and customer service are on the lower end of the spectrum.

NEXT: Happiness by generation and gender

The survey found legal professionals report the highest stress levels at work, while technology employees cite the lowest stress levels. Different professions have slightly different key drivers of happiness at work. For example, feeling appreciated is a primary factor for accountants, while doing worthwhile work is more important for marketing professionals.

Millennials want to make their mark. For those ages 34 and younger, a sense of accomplishment is the strongest determinant of happiness. Generation X workers, ages 35 to 54, are the least happy, most stressed out and least interested in their work. Employees ages 55 and older report the highest levels of happiness on the job.

In the United States, men fare better than women in nearly every aspect of happiness studied, the survey found. The biggest difference was in the influence they have on business decisions, with 55% of men saying they are able to influence business decisions, compared to 47% of women.

"This research shows a high level of happiness at work among professionals overall, but also demonstrates unique challenge areas by occupation and company size," says Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half. "For businesses struggling to attract and retain workers with in-demand skills, the report provides a roadmap for forging deeper engagement and commitment levels among staff."

The research examines key contributors to employee happiness and has been released in a new report, “It's Time We All Work Happy: The Secrets of the Happiest Companies and Employees.” The report may be downloaded from here.