In a new report, Queen Mary University of London investigators discovered positive aspects of working life — such as high levels of control at work, good support from supervisors and colleagues, and feeling cared for — were linked to higher levels of life happiness.

The investigation, termed the Whitehall II study, was conducted among 5,182 London-based civil servants and is one of very few longitudinal studies examining the positive effects on people at work.

As presented in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers discovered higher levels of happiness were impacted by:

  • high levels of control at work;
  • high levels of emotional support and being able to confide in others;
  • low levels of job strain.

Researchers believe the study shows that working conditions and good personal relationships increase levels of well-being — even after taking into account other sources of life satisfaction and distress, plus individual characteristics such as personality traits.

The findings therefore suggest increasing the positive aspects of work — rather than simply reducing the negative aspects — may lead to improved morale and greater well-being among the working population.

Earlier this year UK governmental officials published its first thoughts on the Measuring National Wellbeing program launched in 2010 by David Cameron.

UK policymakers believe metrics derived from this study could be compared with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a national indicator of progress.

If well-being is adopted as a national outcome measure, it will be important to understand the factors constituting the nation’s wellbeing. Researchers believe this study indicates that both the quality of jobs available in the UK, and personal relationships, are key factors.

Stephen Stansfeld, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, said, “The so-called ‘happiness debate’ has gained a lot of attention in recent years, with economists, politicians and psychologists all hypothesizing on how to create a happy society. If the government proceeds with the idea of measuring well-being as an indicator of Britain’s progress, it is crucial they know what impacts a person’s well-being.

“This study shows the quality of our working conditions and personal relationships are key to the nation’s happiness. We believe any policies designed to improve the workplace should not just minimise negative aspects of work, but more crucially, increase the positive aspects, such as a creating a greater sense of control and support among employees.

“The quality of the working environment has a very important effect on how a person feels and greater well-being may also be related to greater productivity and performance at work, increased commitment and staff retention as well as effects on physical health and lifespan.”

Source: Queen Mary University of London