How having interesting work makes a big difference to your Happiness at Work
Do you find your work interesting? If you don’t, then it’s really unlikely that you’re going to be happy in your job. After all, who likes going into work day after day when they find it boring? Who actually enjoys living in a grey world? Being interested in your work is one of the top 10 things which most affect your Happiness at Work, so it’s worth looking into what makes it.
Being interested in a task engages your energy. It’s the go you need to keep working on something until it’s done. Loher et al directly linked it to Happiness at Work, but it’s also been connected to well-being (Humphrey et al, 2007), decreased turnover (Westlund & Hannon, 2008) and even increased workplace safety (Barling, Kelloway & Iverson, 2003). But it doesn’t stop there. Some researchers, including Handel, think that it’s the single biggest predictor of job satisfaction and Happiness at Work over time.
So what makes a job interesting? In TV shows like The Office, characters can only make their work interesting by pranking colleagues and having regular social hangouts. But there’s actually a large amount of research which has identified that you don’t need to play around outside of a job to make the work it includes interesting. There are certain qualities (which can be controlled) which make a job more or less interesting, and which therefore affect Happiness at Work.
In this blog we’re going to look at three of these areas: empowerment, job crafting, and the ability to seek challenges. They’re not the only qualities that directly influence being interested at work. things we could consider, but they’re really important to consider and hopefully interesting to read about.
Pranks might be fun, but don’t necessarily help with overall happiness in the workplace
Empowerment relates to whether you can make your own decisions, and whether you have responsibility for your work. And this study, looking at nearly a thousand service workers, suggests that it’s connected with job satisfaction, motivation and high performance.
There can be different levels of empowerment: you might be able to make recommendations about how you could do your job, or you might be able to actually change how it’s done. Or, in the presence of something like employee ownership, you might be able to directly participate in the management of the business. Whatever the case for you, the research shows that if you have some form of control over what you do then you’re likely to be happier at work than someone who doesn’t have that.
Of course, it isn’t always possible to empower everyone. In this case, participative decision-making can be a really powerful tool (Scott-Lad et al., 2006). This is where employees are encouraged to share their ideas and be involved in decision making. It’s especially useful where you have a large number of stakeholders with different backgrounds and knowledge bases.
Job crafting is your opportunity to define your job and craft it to play to your strengths. It’s about working out what you like doing most, and working out how to get more of those things. If you can craft your job, then you’re likely to add new tasks or change your work processes so that you have more variety and challenge, making it more interesting. And this means you’re going to be happier at work! Organizations which are open to job crafting are likely to have more participation in decision making, which as we saw above is great at sparking interest and increasing happiness. So organizations that go down this route will benefit not only from receiving input into decisions from a wider population, but also from increased levels of Happiness at Work. And as we know, this results in improvements to the bottom line, as people are more productive, have more energy, and want to stay in a role for longer.
Finally, having the opportunity to seek challenges promotes commitment and reduces absenteeism, intention to leave, and turnover. Like most things we’re discussing this week, it feels like common sense, but there’s a solid research base beneath it. Petrou et al (2012), for instance, strongly suggest that there’s a link between seeking challenges and engagement. Using a survey, they discovered that independently of general feelings, seeking out challenges was positively associated with higher levels of work engagement.
Judge & Klinger (2009) also suggest that management should use job rotation, enlargement and enrichment to increase mental challenge further and thus boost employee happiness. So it looks like there’s a variety of ways to improve the result.
Of course, is this a surprise? Who doesn’t know someone who’s addicted to puzzles? People love being challenged!
In our iPPQ survey we specifically ask “Do you have interest in your work?” And when we look at the data we get from that question, it’s clear that your interest has a big impact on your Happiness at Work. And it’s so important that we include it as a constituent part of one of our 5Cs, Commitment.
Commitment is your long-term engagement with an organization. When you’re committed you know what you need to do, and you’ll keep on going until that goal has been achieved.
So what does our data show if you’re more interested in your work? It shows that those who are most interested in their work are 110% more engaged in what they’re doing that the bottom quintile. So thanks to being more engaged, they’re getting more done – they’re happier in their work!
In iOpener Chair Jessica Pryce-Jones’ book about Science of Happiness at Work™ she talks about one of the benefits of being interested in your work as considering it as more than a job. If you’re interested enough, then it’s more likely that you’ll think of it as a calling. And when you think of something as a calling, “you’ll see what you do as fulfilling in and of itself”: you’ve got “intense interest in the work for its own sake”.
And whether or not you see your work as a calling isn’t affected by seniority at all. Amy Wrzesniewski, who investigated this, found that about a third of people fit this category. And that included everyone, including a group of hospital cleaners – not just those higher up the hierarchy. Everyone’s job can be their calling.
It’s quite simply up to mindset. And I think it’s nicely summed up by a story which Pryce-Jones quotes in her book. And it fits so well I’ll quote it here:
There’s the famous story of John Kennedy bumping into the janitor at NASA and asking him what he did. And the man replied, “Helping to put a man on the moon.” That’s how you see a job as part of a whole endeavor.
Being interested in your work is incredibly important, but it’s easy to miss people who are bored. Does your organization do enough to make work interesting? If you’d like to talk to us about this, or anything else, do get in touch with us!