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Staff in the UK are amongst the world's happiest, despite low ONS satisfaction scores


Even though the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found work provided the lowest satisfaction scores in the UK Government’s ‘Happiness Index’, British staff are among the world’s happiest. Dutch workers are the happiest overall and Italians are the most miserable, according to other research.

Before the release in December of the Happiness Index by the ONS, a survey was carried out in October by the Wall Street Journal and iOpener Institute for People and Performance among 2,000 workers across 80 countries in 30 sectors of the global economy.

The survey calculated five tested components of happiness at work: contribution, conviction, culture, commitment and confidence.

The Netherlands topped the Wall Street Journal/iOpener table by scoring highly in motivation (6.24 out of 10), confidence (5.40) and of doing something worthwhile at work (5.94). They reported a strong sense of liking colleagues (5.52), enjoying a fair culture (5.84) and appreciating their organisation's values (6.29).

In contrast, Italy's unhappy workforce reported low levels of liking their colleagues (4.35) and appreciating their organisations' values (4.42). They also received the lowest score, worldwide, for trusting their leaders' vision (3.65).

British workers are one of the happiest nationalities, scoring at or above average on all measures of commitment (5.14), culture (5.34) and pride at work (5.22). This was in contrast to their Irish colleagues, in the bottom three for commitment (4.76), culture (4.62) and pride (4.45).

Directors, overall, came in slightly lower, Wall Street Journal/iOpener found. Consultants, educators and healthcare providers scored highly across all measures, but particularly in motivation (6.01, 6.08, 5.82 respectively) and engagement (58.6%, 64.1%, 60.0% of the time). They felt their work had a positive impact on the world (5.87, 6.88, 6.89).

Employees in the financial sector and in accounting were the least happy, due to low levels of motivation (4.56 out of 10), engagement (46% of the time) and confidence (4.51 out of 10). They cited an inability to raise issues at work (4.5) and low feelings of job security (4.7).

Simon Lutterbie, director of research at the iOpener Institute, said: "These findings give a global insight into performance in the workplace: the happier people are, the more productive they are. Moreover, when comparing the unhappiest and happiest people at work, employees who are really happy at work tend to stay about five times longer in their jobs, are focused on the task at hand three times longer and take around three times less sick leave."

Other findings from the survey included that happiness at work increases with age. Beyond 40, happiness at work increased through to the 60+ age group. Feelings of being able to get things done efficiently decreased across the 21-50 age groups, returning to above average for those aged 51+.

Three-quarters of adults in Great Britain rated their own life satisfaction with a score of seven or more out of 10, according to a research report published by the Office for National Statistics - and those in employment were happier than the unemployed.

But satisfaction with 'financial situation' (6.2 out of 10) had the lowest mean score, followed by 'work situation' (6.7) and also 'with time to do the things you like doing' (6.8).

When asked about satisfaction with the balance between 'time spent on paid work and on other aspects of life', even lower scores were given, with an average of 6.4. Respondents were most satisfied with 'personal relationships' and 'mental wellbeing', which had the highest mean scores (both at 8.3).