Well I can’t really say “We” since this study focused on Brits and I’m a Yank but in terms of work attitudes we really aren’t so different from our neighbors across the pond. A five plus year study of tens of thousands of British people which included over a million responses revealed that the only thing we like less than work is being sick. According to the study people hated working more than doing housework, commuting, or even waiting in line.
University of Sussex economist, Dr. George MacKerron, explains, “Although we may be positive about our jobs when reflecting on the meaning and purpose they give us, and the money they provide, actually engaging in paid work comes at a significant psychological cost.”
Researchers found work to be so painful that our happiness decreases by 7% to 8% compared to when we are not working. Ouch! Admittedly I might rather be at the beach than writing this post but I can’t say I’d rather be standing in line.
Since 2000, Gallup has been tracking employee engagement in the U.S. and for the past 15 years our engagement has remained low. According to their survey, engagement, meaning the worker is enthusiastic and committed to their work and workplace, stands at 32% for 2015. This is up a staggering half percentage point from 2014. Worldwide engagement rests at only 13%. Workers outside the U.S. must either have deplorable work conditions or their leisurely activities in which they’d rather engage must be way better than ours.
So if we make an assumption that happy employees tend to be more engaged, and evidence suggests this is true, then we shouldn’t be surprised to see such low engagement numbers if sitting in traffic is considered more fun than working.
Could happiness have a downside though? According to this article happiness provides several drawbacks:
- Pursuing happiness can leave us unfulfilled when we don’t achieve it.
- Happy people are worse at picking out acts of deception
- Happy people aren’t as good at negotiating
- People happy with their jobs are more devastated when they lose them
- Research shows that happy people act more selfishly
The bottom line here is that not everyone feels fulfilled by their job and you can’t make all the workers happy all the time. Even if you could, research suggests that constant happiness sometimes puts one at a disadvantage.
Are you really happy worrying about your employees’ happiness or would you be happier thinking about something else? That’s right, doing something else. Work is called work for a reason. We aren’t necessarily supposed to be happy while doing it, but happy with what it gives us.