I was thinking about last week’s post on Keeping Your Mental Health in Shape. As a staffing company, part of our mission is to place the right candidate with the right company and position to create a positive and rewarding experience for both our clients and our talent. So, I was thinking about how work contributes to our overall happiness.
There are so many clichés that relate work to drudgery. Like Garfield the cat, we are supposed to hate Mondays. It's back to work day.
Many people work to live – to pay the bills, to put food on the table, to be able to afford a vacation or to send our kids to college. So we put in our forty hours a week – whether we want to or not. One survey recently made headlines by reporting that fewer than a third of American workers felt engaged.
It’s not just in the United States either. In Gallup’s 142 country survey State of Global Workplace, the bulk of employees worldwide -- 63% -- are "not engaged," meaning they lack motivation and are less likely to invest discretionary effort in organizational goals or outcomes. And 24% are "actively disengaged," indicating they are unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to coworkers. In rough numbers, this translates into 900 million not engaged and 340 million actively disengaged workers around the globe.
That is not good news for employees or employers. For employers, disengaged workers cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars each year. For employees it’s equally depressing to be in a job in which you are bored, underutilizing your talents, or where you feel unappreciated.
What's Love Got to Do With It?
Rewarding work is incredibly important to our happiness and it has nothing to do with money. Franklin D. Roosevelt said “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”
If you can marry your passion to your skills and earn a living, you will be happier than those who don’t. Again, it’s not about earning a living that makes you rich. Danile Kahneman, and Angus Deaton, scholars at the Center for Health and Well-being, Princeton University, wrote an article High Income Improves Evaluation of Life but not Emotional Well-Being that found once people reach a little beyond the average middle-class income level, even big financial gains don’t yield much, if any, increases in happiness. My best friend's husband is a professor of Engineering at a distinguished academic institution. He earns a very nice annual salary. The fact is, he could quadruple that salary, if he left academia for the private sector. But he has found enduring happiness and satisfaction in the work he does and the idea of changing careers for more money would be unthinkable.
In America with our free labor market, we have more opportunities to finding happiness through work. There are more paths to choose from that allow us to use our abilities in a meaningful way. It's something we should cherish and use to our advantage.
Time to Take Stock
As the year draws to a close, it may be the time to take a moment to reflect on how happy you are at work. There may be some things you could do differently in your current position to make your worklife more meaningful and therefore increase your happiness. Or perhaps it's time to take a risk and think about another job or another career. Just remember how much our worklife contributes to our level of happiness. If you're miserable at work, it is permeating the rest of your life. Is it worth it? Only you can answer that question.
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