4 Things That Will Make You Happy At Work In 2020

. . . and no, it's not more money


Yamkela Mdaka |

You don’t often hear the words ‘work’ and ‘happy’ used in the same sentences, and while this might not be true for some – it’s true for a lot of others.

A study by Universum SA in 2019 found that 47% of South African professionals, in most industries, are actively applying for new jobs externally. The survey also found that job satisfaction levels are averaging around 6 out of 10 of the 20 000 professionals involved in the survey.

Speaking to Fin24, Keshia Serage, Universum SA country manager, said that employers are responsible for boosting satisfaction levels.

“The implications of this are that the employer carries the training and development costs to the benefits of other organisations,” she said. “It goes without saying that employers need to manage their relevance and attractiveness to talent.”

READ MORE: 6 Foolproof Ways To Protect Your Mental Health At Work

Considering these stats, it might be safe to say that a lot of you are coming into your workplaces this year with a feeling of dread and a small sprinkle of hope that things might be better this time around. And while you can try your hardest to get to work in a good mood, keep a positive attitude, leave on time and so on – much of the responsibility of happy employees rests on the shoulders of the employer/senior managers.

Recruitment firm Robert Half in collaboration with workplace research organisation Happiness Works recently released a study that looked at, among other burning workplace topics, what made employees happy at work. The firm evaluated 12 000 working professionals for their research and we’ll be looking at the most common themes that came up.

Here are the key things that will make you a happier and more fulfilled employee in 2020 and beyond:

1/ Feeling empowered

THE STAT: “A sizeable number of workers feel unable to influence important decisions in their jobs. In fact, 23% of respondents say they wield little or no control over their work; 26% feel they have few opportunities to be creative.”

Simply put, employees don’t want to be micromanaged; they want to feel like they are trusted enough to make decisions outside of a manager’s constant direction. According to the study, not only does it help an employee feel like they’re making a meaningful contribution to the organisation, but it encourages new and innovative ideas.

2/ Feeling appreciated

THE STAT: “54% of workers between the ages of 18 and 34 say they receive constructive feedback often; just 44% of those aged 55 or above agree.”

How many times have you done an exceptional job at work, whether it’s bringing in a new client or single-handedly boosting your department’s earnings quite significantly from when you started? Now, imagine not receiving as much as a ‘thank you’ or ‘job well done’ – this can be discouraging for anyone in any life context, but it’s that much more disheartening at work. A simple ‘well done’ can do wonders for an employee’s productivity and output.

“We’re so quick to point out problems, but we need to share when things are going well,” Nic Marks, CEO of Happiness Works, explains in a statement. “Managers should aim to catch employees doing something right rather than wrong. These positive micro-moments are very important and salient. Believe it or not, a bonus is nice, but a kind word can go even further with employees.”

3/ Doing interesting and meaningful work

THE STAT: “Employees who say the work they do is worthwhile are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be happy than those who feel the job they do ‘just work’. Interestingly, our research shows that doing worthwhile work is the biggest driver of happiness for those in the marketing and creative fields.”

Feeling like the work you’re doing is positively impacting someone or something is key to being happy at work. This is why employers need to share and make it clear exactly what the organisation’s vision is, and in what way each person’s contribution feeds into this vision.

The study says that when this isn’t the case, employees tend to “drift and have difficulty investing emotionally”.

4/ Having positive workplace relationships

THE STAT: “Those who say they have good relationships with others on their team are 2.5 times more likely to be happy on the job than those who don’t get along with colleagues.”

Having positive relationships generally improves most people’s quality of life, and this is true for the workplace as well. It improves collaboration, communication and cooperation – three of the most fundamental elements of a successfully functioning workplace. But over and above this, positive workplace relationships are also described as a source of ‘workplace enjoyment’ for employees which, in turn, positively impacts how an employee manages their job demands and work stress.

“Relationships make or break any job. And the number-one reason people stay – or quit – is because of their relationship with their boss,” the study says.

What’s clear from this research is that a good paycheck is not enough (it’s a great start though!) to keep anyone happy at work. Treat employees like humans, and you’ve mastered the formula for a great work environment.

READ MORE ON: Life Life Advice Mental Health

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