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What is job satisfaction? The psychology of workplace happiness

As we get older, time seems to move faster. The realisation eventually hits: Time isn’t just money, it’s the currency of our lives. 

We can find ways to save it, we can manage it, but ultimately; It’s up to us how we spend it. 

We all want to wake up every morning knowing we get paid to dedicate our precious time and energy to a cause we really care about. 

When it comes to job satisfaction, is that not the ultimate goal? Being able to financially support ourselves and our families, whilst simultaneously thinking our jobs are the best thing since sliced bread? 

We all have visions of what we want from work. It’s probably accurate to assume around 99.9% of us have conjured up a mental blueprint of how we want our jobs to be. We want to walk out of work each day, excited for the next.

And yet, so many people end up miserable at work. 

There comes a time in our career storylines where the plot arch hangs on the big question: Are you trying to love what you do, or are you doing what you love?

There's no right or wrong answer to this - but it just sparks up some interesting notions about what job satisfaction really means to each individual.

We spend a lot of time at work

The crux of the matter is, we spent around a third of our lives working. It's estimated that we tot up around 90,000 hours of our lives at work.

Forbes wrote an article on this very topic, stating that

‘In a polycrisis state - a world where change is the only certainty - rooting our decisions in well-being for all is the only path forward.’

So if we spend a third of our lives at work in such an ever-changing world, why not find job satisfaction to nurture our well-being?

We all need to get paid. But we also need to understand and nurture our workplace happiness.

By understanding what job satisfaction means to you deep down, you can be aware of what you’re looking for from a workplace, and seek out those elements of personal job satisfaction. 

And if you’re a business owner, you can go one step further and foster a work culture that cares about its employees. If morale has slipped, it is entirely possible to craft a happier workplace.

We have to do it for a reason that’s beyond our pay slip. And sometimes it’s about finding the fine line between these two things. Is your well-being ever worth the burnout? Instead, finding job satisfaction could be the thing that nurtures your well-being as well as productivity.

What is job satisfaction?

Finding job satisfaction doesn’t have to mean that you’ve dreamt of your job role since you were five years old. You don’t hear many five-year-olds saying ‘Mum, I want to be a public relations manager when I’m an adult.’

No, finding your dream job doesn’t mean you have to get a Bachelor's Degree in Astrophysics so you can fulfill those childhood fantasies of becoming an astronaut for NASA. 

Job satisfaction, at its core, is all about how we feel about our work. It means something different to all of us, and it can’t be encompassed or measured by one specific thing. 

It has varying meanings for each and every person. Not only does it depend on your industry, and job role, but on a whole plethora of other factors like…

  • WFH options
  • Job benefits
  • Management structure
  • Salary
  • Company culture
  • Flexibility
  • Workload

It’s all about your relationships to your role, and what it means to actually work. 

Having work means having a purpose. It’s about finding that thing that motivates you, it’s about forming an emotional attachment to an element of your work that makes you happy.

Find that very thing that makes your job worth doing. Perhaps it’s a happy client base and the glowing feedback you dreamed of. Perhaps it’s growing a pleasant work environment that has birthed workplace friendships. Or maybe you’ve really pushed the boat out to help someone.

In any case, job satisfaction is all about chasing that feeling that your efforts have contributed to or caused something positive. 

It’s that warm fuzzy feeling of reward. It makes us feel like we have purpose like we’re needed. 

Psychology says that this kind of ‘warm fuzzy feeling’ is pure joy. It’s a strong type of happiness that hits differently from our ‘instant gratification’ happiness. It’s the kind of happiness that motivates us to keep going back to work and pushes us to work even harder to achieve great things.

After all, no one will put in double the effort unless they actually want to. 

Reward cultivates motivation, motivation cultivates productivity, and productivity cultivates growth.

Rewarded teams are happy teams

If job satisfaction comes from reward then, how can you help improve company culture to help employees feel rewarded?

  • Create an environment of honesty and openness so that you’re as approachable as possible
  • Actively listen to your employee's concerns and suggestions
  • Appraisals
  • Actively utilise employee feedback
  • Praise employees
  • Be perceptive and aware of changing attitudes/emotions
  • Treat your staff (social events)
  • Hold incentive schemes 

Fostering an environment that helps spark better job satisfaction will make your employees feel more accomplished, and therefore will help to improve overall job satisfaction. 

It will also help you to understand what factors contribute to job satisfaction, overall. 

You can then tailor your systems and processes to accommodate your team, and how they identify job satisfaction.

Why happy employees will help your company grow

Job satisfaction, well-being, and productivity all go hand in hand. If anything, they directly impact one another. If one falters, so will the rest. 

Slack’s annual survey ‘The State of Work’ discovered around 8 in 10 respondents said happiness at work was the central catalyst for better productivity. 

Connecting the dots between happier work environments and employee well-being will directly affect growth without a doubt.

Workplace happiness is not static, It’s an ongoing process that needs constant attention. Build habits that help nurture job satisfaction not only for your employees but also for you as a manager/business owner.

No one wants to be treated like a number on a database, build a culture that prioritises health and well-being with rewards and regular praise. This can only bring positive job satisfaction for your team, and for you. 

Employees who are happy and fulfilled are much more likely to go above and beyond in their work. It’s a huge win for everyone, customers can always sense a happy employee and this will shine through in everything your business does.

This motivation drives a higher output of work and better results, and just like that your team is not only employees, but they’ll add to company culture and actively support your organisation in its entirety.

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