The Top 3 Factors That Lead to Happiness at Work

Happy Scientists at work at bench

Have you ever wondered why some life science professionals seem very happy at work, and appear to love their jobs? At the same time, their co-workers in an identical position are miserable. What makes the happier employee different? Even though topics such as culture, engagement, and morale seem to be discussed often in regards to work, many employees are still unhappy. A recent BioSpace poll asked, “Are you happy with your current life sciences job?” 58% of respondents said no, 36% indicated yes, and 6% were undecided. Where do you fall on the spectrum?

CNBC and SurveyMonkey have done additional research in their quarterly @Work Survey and Workplace Happiness Index. They polled 7,500+ American professionals to measure how they feel about their jobs. SurveyMonkey and CNBC explored satisfaction across industries and age groups to get comprehensive data and viewpoints. They found that 32% of survey participants indicated that they have seriously considered quitting their job in the last three months. Analyzing those participants’ dissatisfaction, led to quite a few discoveries. Here are the top three factors that lead to happiness at work!

Finding a sense of meaning

According to the @Work Survey, finding meaning is the biggest contributor to workplace happiness. 35% of workers, spanning all age groups selected finding meaning at work as the most important factor in overall workplace happiness. Do you feel like you are making an impact on team goals at work? How important is what you do for your organization to provide the best products and/or services? One of the respondents to the BioSpace poll addressed their frustration this way, “Too much administrative and training time is applied to all types of scientists in large pharma and biotech companies. There is less time to focus on “true” science and it is what we need to advance…” This comment highlights the fact that the responder feels that they are missing a clear sense of meaning in what they do. You can do some deep reflection or talk with a mentor/coach to help find a sense of meaning in your work.

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Having opportunities to advance

The @Work Survey determined that having opportunities to advance was the most important aspect for employees aged 18-24. 24% of all respondents in the corresponding age group emphasized that point. Many younger professionals are concerned with their career progression and will consider leaving their employer for an organization that shows it invests in employees and promotes from within. This sentiment was echoed by a participant in the BioSpace poll, who indicated they weren’t happy with their current job, “[There’s a] lack of care for employee growth.” If you don’t think your organization has many opportunities to advance, try speaking with your manager about what positions are available and any new skills you can learn. You could also regularly check your company’s website for job postings. In many cases, qualified internal candidates are given preference over external applicants for roles.

Being well paid

For employees in the 25-34 age range, the @Work Survey found that “being paid well” mattered more than any other demographic. This was also in alignment with BioSpace’s poll, where salary and benefits were a hot topic. When employees think they are being fairly compensated, they are happier, more productive, and are more likely to go above and beyond in their roles. It’s common for people to have a foundational belief that they are worth more money, even when they aren’t familiar with the current job market. If your current salary is causing you discontent, research salary ranges online for your job and education level. You can also look up some online job postings to see if you can find out what salary range similar, vacant positions are paying. Once you’ve done that background research, if you are truly underpaid, think about having a salary negotiation during your next performance review.

Your level of happiness in a position usually depends on a variety of things. Research from BioSpace, CNBC, and SurveyMonkey have all emphasized understanding the meaning of your work, having opportunities to grow and advance, and being well paid in your role. In addition, those top factors are influenced by your working environment, your relationship with management, and your interest level in your job. What is one thing that would help to improve your level of happiness at work?

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. ( She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

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