People happier in their work since pandemic began

An international survey suggests workplace happiness has increased markedly since coronavirus lockdowns started. However, the survey also raises concerns around the uneven impact on jobs and wellbeing.

Happiness at work map WorkL
In some positive workforce and wellbeing news amid the Covid-19 pandemic and recent unemployment figures, data from participants in an online Workplace Happiness Test from WorkL, a digital tool and website to help people better enjoy their working lives, shows people’s happiness at work has increased to a global average of 72% from its pre-pandemic level of 64%. WorkL’s annual report, set up by Lord Price, former MD of Waitrose and trade minister, and launched later today with a lecture from Bank of England Chief Economist, Andy Haldane, finds the happiest workforces are in Switzerland (75.20%) and India (73.05%). The UK ranks third, at 69.29%, rising from from eighth. Employees in Ireland (54.41%), Canada (58.16%) and the USA (59.69%) currently express the least happiness with their work.

Flexible work and happiness

With happiness linked to engagement and productivity, WorkL's figures show people feel:
  • more empowered at work now compared to before the pandemic struck
  • more content in their working environment
  • that more of their employers care for them (60% to 72%), despite an increase from 58% to 61% of people saying they feel anxious anxious about their work.
It believes the jump in happiness could be down to a number of factors, such as dropping commutes and being able to manage their own time and work in a comfortable space.  WorkL’s findings echo other recent studies that show the positive benefits of more flexible working practices. A report from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, suggests home working is more or as productive as working in an office. Meanwhile, a survey of almost a 1,000 company directors by business leaders’ body, the Institute of Directors, finds 40% asserting that home working is more effective than their previous set-up. Three-quarters say some form of home working will be retained once the pandemic has passed.

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Who is happiest at work?

Both the CIPD and IoD reports acknowledge the downsides to home working. WorkL’s annual report also highlights how the growth in happiness, while welcomed, is not necessarily evenly spread.Men have become happier over lockdown compared to women. When comparing men and women in the workplace, men aged 19-24 are happier (62%) than women of the same age (59%), with women from this age group feeling least heard at work compared to all other age groups. People who are Asian and British Asian have also become happier than any other ethnicity over lockdown.WorkL’s happiness test also reveals an emerging ethnicity gap. Data shows women who are Black are the least likely to feel empowered at work, while men who are Black are the least happy at work. The data also identifies a worrying pay gap amongst ethnicities, with white men and women happier with their pay than all other groups. Age is also a key factor in workplace happiness. WorkL reports that 19-24-year olds have benefited the least over lockdown. Although they have a good average score of 66%, they had the lowest increase (+4.92%) of overall happiness score out of all demographics. The happiest demographic is among 55-64 year-olds.By sector, Hospitality is the least happiest industry. This isn’t surprising, considering the impact lockdown restrictions continue to have on hotel, food and beverage businesses. People working in technology are the happiest, which compares well to last year's figures where Technology placed fifth.

Positive findings, but more to be done

Commenting on the findings, WorkL’s founder, Lord Mark Price, says, “This year’s annual report has never been more important as we reflect on the impact the pandemic has had on our working lives. I’m pleased to see that happiness has increased, but it’s important to reflect on the worrying ‘ethnicity gap’.  "Business owners and employers must act upon improving inclusion and diversity in the workplace and address particularly concerns of pay."As we continue to work in a ‘new normal’ employers should take note of how happy people have been working more flexibly. Government must realise this positive shift to home working but also the impact this is having on the economy. As a society we must continue to reflect on how important being happy at work is, not just for employees but businesses and organisations too."  

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