Would it surprise you that in the midst of a pandemic 89 percent of American employees said they were either “completely” or “somewhat” satisfied at work? In 2020, this response to Gallup’s annual survey of workers represented an increase from 55 percent who answered affirmatively in 2019 to the question “how much do you like your job?” This 34% increase in job satisfaction might make you wonder what leads to happiness at work.

Sense of Accomplishment

While the tendency is to believe that job satisfaction is only possible when you have your dream job, feeling a sense of accomplishment in whatever job you’re in overrides that expectation. Simply having a job, no matter what it is, can lead to happiness at work. Unemployment has been linked to higher suicide rates and a decrease in wellbeing. To experience a sense of accomplishment in your job, it’s important to set goals like increasing your skills or responsibilities. Intrinsic motivation, like earned success or working in service to others, provide longer lasting satisfaction and happiness at work. 

Recognition for a job well done

The recognition you receive for your work matters. According to Arthur C. Brooks, professor of management at Harvard Business School, employers who give clear guidance and feedback, reward merit, and encourage their employees to develop new skills are the most likely to give you those feelings. Gallup’s research has found that employees who are ignored are twice as likely to be disengaged at work than those who receive negative feedback. Encouraging the use of strengths and natural talents and recognizing when they show up leads to happiness at work. 

Work-life balance

The shift to remote work contributed to the increase in job satisfaction in 2020. While it brought with it some challenges, it also highlighted to many what was most important to them in life. Spending more time with family, removing long commutes, and having more flexibility in work hours leads to happiness at work. Conversations about employee retention have led employers to re-think how to support this work-life balance value so many have come to expect in the new workplace. 

Managers who are coaches

Who you work with matters as much as who you work for or what you do for work. Managers have the most significant impact on happiness at work and job satisfaction. Gallup has discovered that 70% of the variation between great workplace engagement and poor workplace engagement can be explained just by the quality of the manager or team leader. Managers are most effective when they make a shift from manager to coach. Engaged employees report higher levels of wellbeing and experience more happiness at work. 

Values Match

Personal values and organizational values alignment leads to happiness at work. Employees expect their company to take a stand on the issues that are at the forefront of conversations across the world about gender, race, politics and other hot-button issues. The more aligned personal values are with the stance or mission of the organization, the more likely it is to experience happiness at work. 

Happiness at work is possible, despite the challenges the evolving workplace is facing. Rather than waiting for the perfect job to come along, consider how these factors can bring you that same workplace happiness right where you are today.