5 Weird Habits of Happy Employees

  • By Quentin Fottrell, Marketwatch
  • October 15, 2014

happy employees

Workers will sacrifice promotion and even a pay raise for a nice place to work. Sure, a better salary will turn a frown upside down for most workers, but new research finds it’s only a temporary effect.

American workers appear willing to give up a lot to be happy in their jobs. Some 76 percent are somewhat willing to work in a less private office space, reduce their workplace flexibility (60 percent) and even accept a lower position or title (60 percent) for a chance at corporate contentment, according to a new survey by recruitment company Spherion. And 41 percent of workers will give up benefits such as their vacation time, accept a reduction on 401(K) contributions from an employer and other job perks. Fewer workers are willing to take a pay cut (only 36 percent would) or relinquish health benefits (31 percent).

Some 22 percent of workers say compensation is the major factor determining happiness in the workplace, Spherion concluded, followed by passion about their work (19 percent), job security (15 percent), the company’s work culture (13 percent) and the ability to work with people they like (10 percent). However, career advancement was only rated by 5 percent as the most important contributor to being happy at work among the 2,000 respondents aged 18 and over polled by Harris Interactive for Spherion. And companies like Google and Facebook know food is a way to a worker’s heart: 30 percent say the availability of food throughout the day keeps them happy.

And they’re dedicated — maybe a little too dedicated. Employees already only use 51 percent of their eligible paid vacation time and paid time off, according to a recent survey of 2,300 workers who receive paid vacation carried out by research firm Harris Interactive for the careers website Glassdoor. What’s more, 61 percent of Americans work while they’re on vacation despite repeated complaints from members of their family; one-in-four are contacted by a colleague about a work-related matter while taking time off, while one-in-five have been contacted by their boss.

The good news: Most workers (92 percent) said that they are at least “somewhat happy.” And just over half say they are “very or extremely” happy, the Spherion survey found. But only one-quarter of workers described their workplace as “happy,” while more workers noted it is “fast-paced” (29 percent) and “stressful” (28 percent). Employers can often offer small, but meaningful, opportunities to help workers be happy in their current roles that have nothing to do with money, says Sandy Mazur, Spherion division president.

MarketWatch asked some experts in happiness and workplace trends about some of the habits that make happy workers:

Walk Out That Door at Five O’Clock Sharp
Remember when Pavlov’s dog salivated at the sound of the dinner bell? The same is true for employees when it’s time to go home. Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project,” spent a year trying out studies and philosophy about what makes people happy. When it comes to work, she has one takeaway: Establish a quitting time like Pavlov’s dog (or high-school students) and stick with it.

“We used to work from nine to five and for a lot of people now that’s not the case,” Rubin says. “You could end up working all the time with no relaxation and no feeling of being off-duty. Of course, doctors on call can’t say, “Nobody interrupt me.” But after a certain time of day, Rubin doesn’t check email or do any social networking.

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