As many organisations discover the remarkable effect that a motivated and happy workforce can have on productivity, a new report, ‘It’s time we all work happy™: The secrets of the happiest companies and employees’, commissioned by specialised recruiter Robert Half, reveals the true drivers behind employee happiness and how businesses can nurture a positive work culture.

When asked whether they're happy in their job, few people would claim that they are happy in every moment of every day. But people can be happy in their job, even if they get occasionally frustrated by things not running smoothly. It’s when this dissatisfaction becomes overwhelming that it becomes an issue.

Many companies see happiness at work as an intangible “nice to have”, rather than an important organisational priority. While you can't force employees to be happy – or control every factor that contributes to happiness – it’s still possible to create the conditions that will help to promote happiness and positivity at work.

6 factors that influence happiness at work

Happiness is an individual experience and there is no ‘magic formula’ that works for everybody. However, according to research conducted in Robert Half’s ‘It’s Time We All Work Happy™’, there are some universal factors that have been found to directly affect employee happiness:

  1. Right fit for the job and company:

    When you hire people who mesh well with your workplace culture, they assimilate with greater ease and begin making substantive contributions quickly. Conversely, a poor fit can dampen the morale of the entire team.

  2. A sense of empowerment:

    Empowering staff to make their own decisions improves happiness at work in several ways. It can build their confidence, make them feel more invested in their job, and help them develop critical skills that they can use to advance their careers, while making more meaningful contributions to the company.

  3. Feeling appreciated:

    When you show your staff that you appreciate their hard work and dedication, you instil loyalty and create a positive working environment. For maximum effect, Dr. Christine Carter recommends making your praise sincere, specific, and given as soon as possible.

  4. Interesting and meaningful work:

    Employees who see their work as worthwhile are nearly 2.5 times happier than others – with research by Robert Half finding that it's the biggest driver of happiness for people in the marketing and creative fields. An important part of this is being able to provide employees with a shared vision that helps them stay focused on their goals during both the good and the challenging times.

  5. A sense of fairness:

    Always strive for fairness and transparency in your decision making. That means clear policies around pay, promotions and projects. Make sure employees feel heard, and have a chance to speak out when they feel a sense of inequity.

  6. Positive workplace relationships:

    A sense of camaraderie at work improves employee communication, cooperation and collaboration, and feeds innovation.

While it will never be possible for employers to control all of the factors that contribute to happiness at work, you can certainly help to create the right conditions for it.

Ultimately, happiness is a choice, and a positive, healthy workplace environment is a good starting point. The benefits will be seen in better quality work, and significant improvements in recruitment and retention.

About the research

The It’s Time We All Work Happy study is based on the results of an online survey of more than 2,000 workers in Australia by an independent research company. In analysing the data, a post-sample weighting methodology was used to match respondents by age, gender, education level, occupation/role and job sector.