Happiness at work: the Basics and Strategy

happiness at work - Toolshero

Happiness at work theory: this article explains happiness at work in a practical way. Next to what it (definition of happiness) is, this article also highlights organizational culture as a indicator, the aspect salary, the importance of Job security and Career development, Happiness at work and the Work-life balance and the Benefits. After reading, you’ll have a basic understanding of this human resources philosophy. Enjoy reading!

What is happiness at work? Basics and strategy

Happiness at work is when an employee’s happiness level is positively influenced by the job and the work environment. Some people believe that happiness at work means that there are no negative feelings at work, but that is not the case. Happiness at work means that the balance between happy and unhappy tilts in favor of the positive.

Happiness in the workplace almost always depends on the work environment, but also on the general conditions for happiness, as described in the theory of the pyramid of Maslow.

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In recent decades, the topic of happiness at work has become increasingly important due to the intensification of work due to increasing competition and economic uncertainties. A growing number of scientists and experts see happiness at work as one of the most important sources of positive outcomes.

Companies that are able to increase employee happiness at work see higher than average performance and customer satisfaction. So it is profitable for companies to invest in the happiness of their employees. Investing in this context means creating a positive work environment and attracting leadership that contributes to employee happiness.

Happiness does not equate to getting money and other things, but these factors can positively influence an individual’s well-being in the workplace. Research shows that freedom and autonomy have the most effect on the happiness level of employees.

Happiness at work is also not only about job satisfaction, but also about maintaining a healthy and happy state of mind. Positive psychology emphasizes the importance of finding happiness in both our personal life and professional endeavors. Surprisingly, some people turn to horoscopes to navigate their career paths and achieve happiness in their professional lives.

Recognizing that happiness plays an important role in our levels of productivity, some organizations have even introduced the role of a Chief Happiness Officer to foster a positive work environment and enhance overall well-being.

Definition of happiness

Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, two researchers who developed the self-determination theory, define happiness through two views: happiness as hedonistic, accompanied by pleasurable feelings and desirable judgments, and happiness as eudaimonic, meaning that people do virtuous, moral and meaningful things.

Some argue that the way to pursue happiness is a hedonic affair, with the pursuit of feelings of self-validation and self-actualization. Others argue that hedonic happiness is often unstable, especially when eudemonic happiness does not occur.

Thus, to live a happy life, people must engage in virtuous, moral and meaningful things while making use of talents and skills.

Organizational culture as a indicator for happiness at work

Achieving happiness at work is only possible when the immediate environment of an individual allows it. The organizational culture is a good indicator for this. An organizational culture represents the internal work environment created for running an organization. It also says something about the way employees are treated by their supervisors and senior management.

An effective organizational culture takes employee happiness into account and aims to stimulate employee satisfaction.


Although money alone cannot provide happiness at work, a good monetary reward for the work is indispensable. If you ask a hundred people why they go to work, money is one of the most common answers. Money ensures that people can meet their livelihood. It provides security and other privileges. For a large part of the people, work is a way to stay alive.

While money isn’t the only indicator of happiness, there doesn’t seem to be any driver other than money when it comes to instrumental value. Some studies have found positive relationships between happiness at work and income level, others show that salary in itself is not a strong factor for achieving happiness at work.

It is clear that the relationship between happiness at work and income is complex. It can be concluded that money and reward can be a positive driver for happiness in the workplace.

Job security and happiness at work

Job security, or job guarantee, is also important for experiencing happiness at work. Different types of jobs have different levels of job security. In some situations, employees can expect to be able to hold a job for a longer period of time, but in other situations people are forced to leave a job.

Career development

The opportunity to grow in a position or to take on a new position also provides motivation among employees. In other words: having promotion opportunities in sight, increases the motivation of an employee. If an organization does not offer opportunities for this, motivation will slowly decrease. Not in all cases where another position is offered, is an increase in motivation the goal. Sometimes shifts are intended to prevent obsolescence or loss of certain skills, to develop more career opportunities for the future, or to develop new or existing skills.

Autonomy at work

Autonomy at work is defined as the ability to be self-governing or free from excessive control at work. The German well-known philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that autonomy is very important for man because it is the basis of human dignity and the source of morality.

One model that focuses on job autonomy is the Job Characteristics Model, developed by Hackman and Oldham.

Happiness at work and the Work-life balance

A work-life balance is important and is characterized by a high degree of satisfaction and effectiveness. Private life is not only about family life but also other activities that a person performs. Not maintaining a good work-life balance creates stress. Stress in private life can also be caused by work-related stress.

A major cause of work-related stress is digital communication technology. The existence of smartphones and other internet-based devices means that employees are more often confronted with work-related problems, even when they are not working.

Some of the physiological effects of stress include forgetfulness, lack of creativity, poor decision-making, emotional reactions such as mood swings and irritability, behavioral problems such as withdrawing from social situations and neglecting responsibilities. In severe cases, people turn to drugs, including alcohol.

Benefits of happiness at work

Below are described some consequences that occur when job happiness cannot be sufficiently achieved among the employees.

1. Work performance

Numerous studies have shown that happy employees are more efficient than those who are not happy. iOpener Institute found that the happiest employees are loyal, physically and mentally healthy, and genuinely enjoy what they do. They are also proud of what they deliver.

2. Absence

People naturally want to feel happy. People’s behavior is strongly influenced by the extent to which a person is happy or unhappy. When people feel unhappy, it turns out that they call in sick and are absent more often.

Absenteeism is usually associated with work-related well-being, or happiness at work. Yet in many cases there are also other factors that play a role, such as health limitations or social influences, such as family problems.

3. Staff turnover

Employee turnover is the percentage of employees who leave an organization during a period of time. Usually this ratio is measured over a period of one year.

An organization in which employees are happy will most likely have lower employee turnover than organizations in which employees are unhappy. Because people spend a significant amount of time in the workplace, factors such as relationships with colleagues, organizational culture and work performance can have a major impact on happiness at work. If an employee is unhappy in the workplace for a longer period of time, it is likely that this employee will look for another job at some point.

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Now It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Do you recognize the explanation about happiness at work? Do you experience happiness in your job? How important is experiencing happiness at work do you think? Does the degree to which you are happy influence your performance? What could your employer improve to make your work environment more attractive? Do you have any tips or comments?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Fisher, C. D. (2010). Happiness at work. International journal of management reviews, 12(4), 384-412.
  2. Robertson, I. T., Cooper, C. L., & Johnson, S. (2011). Well-being: Productivity and happiness at work (Vol. 3). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  3. Warr, P. (2007). Searching for happiness at work. The Psychologist.
  4. Fried, Y., & Ferris, G. R. (1987). The validity of the job characteristics model: A review and meta‐analysis. Personnel psychology, 40(2), 287-322.

How to cite this article:
Janse, B. (2022). Happiness at work. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero: https://www.toolshero.com/human-resources/happiness-at-work/

Original publication date: 07/29/2022 | Last update: 05/08/2024

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Ben Janse
Article by:

Ben Janse

Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.


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