What’s Most Important for Happiness on the Job?


What factors have the greatest impact on happiness on the job? According to a new study by the web site CareerBliss.com, money doesn’t even rank in the top three.

CareerBliss evaluated more than 1.6 million data points from 200,000 independent employee reviews in multiple job categories to determine what keeps some people thoroughly engaged in their careers while others hate their jobs. The top three factors were present in a majority of reviews:

1) The actual work: The specific tasks one must do on a day-to-day basis.


2) The way one works: How much control one has over his or her daily tasks.


3) The people one works with: Their relationship with co-workers.


The study closely tracks a deep body of psychological research. First, the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, director of the Quality of Life Research Center at Claremont Graduate University in California, has shown the most engaged people have found “flow” — a state in which one is so engrossed in a task that time seems to disappear. Flow involves a great deal of focus, immediate feedback on one’s performance, and a sort of ideal equilibrium between being frustrated by a challenge or too bored. Flow experiences are key to happiness.

Second, a number of studies suggests that autonomy is one of the essential components of life satisfaction. A sense that we are guiding our own activity, and in a larger sense, our own destiny, is crucial to psychological well-being.


Third, relationships are perhaps the most important factor in well-being. The University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center found that people with five or more close friends (excluding family members) are 50 percent more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” than respondents with fewer friends. When you can find true collaborators at work, it lifts the experience to another level (while back-stabbing can bring it to a new low).

In comparison, salary did not rank on the same level of importance in the majority of the job type categories reviewed, nor was salary ranked as an important value when measuring overall job satisfaction levels.

“Salary is always an important component of every job, however, the CareerBliss research shows that money is not enough to keep good employees happy,” stated Heidi Golledge, CEO and Co-founder of CareerBliss in a press release. “Before accepting a new job, it is imperative to know a company’s culture and truly understand what the new job entails.” It’s also key to find a position that matches your personality.

Finally, CareerBliss found that certain professions yield happier employees. Average happiness scores were highest in these ten fields: biotech, customer service, education, administrative/clerical, purchasing, accounting, finance, nonprofit, healthcare, legal.


What I enjoy most about my own job is that it engages my best skills and I have a lot of autonomy, which helps with life balance (I have three kids). On the downside, I often work alone from a home office, hashing out story ideas with my dog Sammy (who is an excellent listener, but a little light on the feedback). What factors are key to your happiness on the job?

Laura Rowley