Debating what makes a worker truly happy has long kept happy hour revelers occupied (and crying in their beers). There's a barometer for that debate -- so you can invoke science to prove your point. But if you look at the pillars of well-being according to researchers -- "environment," "appreciation," and "emotion" -- a global definition of workplace mental health and satisfaction seems rather unscientific. Well-being, it turns out, is a matter of perception.
The World Economic Forum, reporting on the annual Edenred-Ipsos Barometer, concluded that on average, 71% of employees (out of more than 14,000 surveyed in 15 different countries) report feeling positive about their work. Also on average, those employees are more satisfied with their work environments (covering equipment, expectations, reliability of colleagues, and a sense of work/life balance) and less happy with appreciation (feeling respected by employers, for instance) and emotion (enjoy coming to work, for instance). When you combine environment, appreciation, and emotion, some of the nuances fall away-such as Japanese workers who clearly understand what's expected of them, but struggle to enjoy their jobs, or Belgian, French, and German workers who enjoy work/life balance, but feel underappreciated by their employers.
Why does all this matter? In one way, it doesn't -- from the proletariat to the Dilbertesque office drones of the world, workers will always find ways to gripe. In another way, workplace happiness characterized by three (or even three dozen) pillars is critical to a company's success. Happy workers "go the extra mile" -- or, if they simply go the requisite mile, they do so with a generally positive outlook.
Like Turkey, China, Italy, and Poland, the workers of Japan characterize well-being through environmental factors, such as the equipment they are given to utilize, the balance between working hours and personal hours, and the degree to which their tasks are well articulated and defined. To the last point, the Japanese-more than anyone among the 15 countries surveyed-have a very clear idea of their responsibilities. Yet, Japanese workers reported the greatest amount of dread in the mornings before leaving the house, as well as the greatest amount of anxiety about their individual futures as professionals within their companies. Brexit may have strengthened the Yen, but Japan's post-recession recovery is still slow-going, and the link between workplace happiness and economic uncertainty may be worth investigating as a reason for worker ire.
Like Turkey, China, Japan, and Poland, the workers of Italy feel positive about the equipment they are given to utilize in their jobs and the balance between working hours and personal hours, as well as the degree to which their tasks are well articulated and defined. Italy's population has seen modest growth over the last two years (after a degree of panic due to stagnation between 2011 and 2014), as has its GDP per capita in 2015 (a dip that lasted two consecutive years). Its one notable bright spot against the other 14 countries on the list-and it's a feeble bright spot-is that Italian workers feel as though their managers are aware of and pay attention to their skills. Still, with 63 percent reporting a suitably happy work environment, there is room for improvement and growth-as with the Italian economy in general.
Like Japan, China, and Poland, the workers of Turkey characterize well-being through environmental factors, such as the equipment they are given to utilize, the balance between working hours and personal hours, and the degree to which their tasks are well articulated and defined. Against the other 14 countries, Turkey languishes in the bottom third of the list with reportedly below average levels of satisfaction and happiness. Political unrest and acute terrorism threats have created an atmosphere of social anxiety, and a GDP per capita that's trending downward over the five year average has created an atmosphere of economic uncertainty. Economists have mixed outlooks on the country's near-future and the engine of growth-workers, themselves-are none too pleased, with only 65 percent reporting satisfaction.
French workers, like Belgian and German workers, are largely balanced when it comes to environment, emotion, and appreciation. Regarding the latter, however, they report feeling more underappreciated by their bosses than workers in other countries on the list. Even as the government and labor unions continue to clash in what has become a veritable standoff, its GDP per capita is at a five-year high. This dichotomy and others create a somewhat foggy picture of the near-term for French workers, almost half of which report to be concerned about their salaries. Additionally, and according to Edenred-Ipsos researchers, only one in two French employees believe that their employer has an adequate and proactive policy about well-being at work. Neither the economy, nor employers, it seems are pulling in favor of les fonctionnaires.
With their British and American counterparts, Spanish workers registered a balanced take on their work environments and the degree to which they feel appreciated by management. Yet, they tend to be rather unemotional about work-not disinterested, per se, but rather neutral. Like Japan, Italy, Turkey, and France, Spain's average level of employee happiness falls below average over the 15 countries considered by the Edenred-Ipsos Barometer. The country's political sphere is troubled and schismatic (and the electorate can't make up its mind), but economists point to a stable economic recovery in the near-term based on recent performance overall. As a Spanish worker how they feel about their jobs and she might say así-así-neither a ringing endorsement nor a litany of complaints.
Belgian workers, like their neighbors to the south in France and the southeast in Germany, are largely balanced when it comes to environment, emotion, and appreciation. Regarding the latter, however, Belgian workers report feeling underappreciated by their bosses and, at best, moderately interested in their jobs. Where is all this coming from? It can't be les gaufres and the superior beer, so maybe it's the gloomy weather. Could it be the economic anxiety, post-Brexit, since one of its most reliable trade partners just told the EU to sod off? In any event, the Belgians define part of the average for worker happiness, along with the UK, China, and Poland, with few of the abstract uncertainties that workers in Japan, Italy, and Turkey possess.
Like Japan, China, and Turkey, the workers of Poland characterize well-being through environmental factors such as the balance between working hours and personal hours, and the degree to which their tasks are well articulated and defined. Polish workers were more positive than any other country surveyed about the degree to which equipment and materials at their disposal were "suitable" for them to do their jobs, according to Edenred-Ipsos researchers. The country's economic near-future is imperiled by a few factors mostly surrounding internal political strife and in spite of its post-recessionary growth at a time when other European countries faltered. Still, on the micro-scale of the average Polish worker's everyday life, a 70 percent happiness rating is nothing to sneeze at.
Like Japan, Turkey, and Poland, the workers of China characterize well-being through environmental factors, such as the equipment they are given, the balance between working hours and personal hours, and the degree to which their tasks are well articulated and defined. Chinese workers are reportedly less-than-enthused about reporting for duty each day, but claim to be buoyed by the fact that they can count on their colleagues to help them with daily problems, according to Edenred-Ipsos researchers. Is that an expression of collectivist thinking, or what? GDP per capita has gone up each year for five years straight and many economists project better than a six-point expansion in the economy for the near-term. Are China's workers happy, though? On average, yes-seven in 10 claim to be satisfied, along with their counterparts in the UK, Poland, and Belgium.
With their Spanish and American counterparts, British workers registered a balanced take on their work environments and the degree to which they feel appreciated by management. Like their counterparts in those countries, they also tend to emotionally neutral about the fact that they, indeed, have to work. Worker happiness may only be tangentially related to Brexit if one takes a hard line between macro-economic dominos and micro-economic realities. But, the referendum to leave the EU passed only barely, and at least half the country is gravely concerned about the fact that they lost. Beyond that, workers in the UK report to be less than interested in their jobs, which represents a kind of malaise that may have broader implications with regard to individual economic outlook.
German workers are largely balanced when it comes to environment, emotion, and appreciation, as are Belgian and French workers. But, they, too, report feeling underappreciated by their bosses more than other countries on the list. Unlike their neighbors directly to the west, the Germans enjoy a healthy and strong economy-and analysts predict that it's only going to get stronger in the coming year. Germany is also the only country out of the 15 countries polled whose wellbeing perception (74 percent) matches the perception among workers that their employers have active wellbeing policies (also 74 percent). Even if Germany defines the 15-country average (along with the UK, China, and Poland), it appears to be decent place to work.
As with Indian, Mexican, and Chilean workers, Brazilians express a positive emotion when they think about coming to work in the morning, take an interest in their jobs, find their jobs stimulating, and consider their professional futures. Brazilian workers aren't really enthused about the degree to which their employers supply them with adequate materials and equipment to actually perform their duties, but on par, that doesn't seem to bother them too much. They're happiness level is above average among the 15 countries surveyed. It is unclear how much sick leave they'll rack up during the Olympics, but that's another matter altogether.
As with Indian, Mexican, and Brazilian workers, Chileans express a positive emotion when they think about coming to work in the morning, take an interest in their jobs, find their jobs stimulating, and consider their professional futures. Nobody produces more copper than Chilean workers, but sketchy copper prices have made that economic peg slightly less reliable than in times past. Still, economists see modest growth ahead (even if the GDP per capita has dropped in recent years), and workers there are reportedly more excited than most workers in other countries to come to work each day. Notably, Chilean workers feel more confident than workers in the other 14 countries that HR policies at their companies encourage "integration of young people," according to Edenred-Ipsos researchers.
With their Spanish and British counterparts, Americans have a relatively balanced take on their work environments and the degree to which they feel appreciated by management (sparking productive thoughts about being a "value-add" in the office, and so forth). Yet, their emotions surrounding the thought of coming to work each day are a little south of the average-and they don't seem to be skipping down the street with glee (or battling traffic happily). Brexit affected a number of corners of the American economy, including retirement accounts, but it didn't filter down to the overall good nature and positive attitude embodied by Average Joe and Jane. The divided electorate is troubling to economists, and even if the GDP per capita continues to grow, the perceptions and realities surrounding economic disparity may do more than cloud that positivity.
As with Indian, Brazilian, and Chilean workers, Mexicans express a positive emotion when they think about coming to work in the morning, take an interest in their jobs, find their jobs stimulating, and consider their professional futures. On a macro-economic level, Mexico is in growth mode (despite low oil prices), and workers there are generally happy about their prospects. Eighty-one percent of Mexican workers feel a sense of well-being at work-second only to India in the list of 15 countries surveyed by Edenred-Ipsos-even if they report less-than-stellar workplace support among colleagues when it comes to problem solving. Having said that, there is parity between the number of Mexicans who feel positive about work and the number who believe that their HR departments actively promote well-being. Things are looking good.
By a reasonably big margin compared with Japanese workers, Indians are very happy with their workplaces-88 percent, in fact. As with Brazilian, Mexican, and Chilean workers, Indians express a positive emotion when they think about coming to work in the morning, take an interest in their jobs, find their jobs stimulating, and consider their professional futures. But, the 88-percent figure is staggering-on par with nine-in-ten dentists recommend a certain kind of toothbrush. More staggering is that 90 percent of Indian workers believe that their HR departments are actively pursuing policies that support well-being. If Indian workers feel negative about anything, it's that clear expectations aren't always part of the workplace landscape. That can hardly matter, though, when you consider how strong the Indian economy has been over the last couple of years-and the bright outlook economists see down the pike.