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Happiness at work: stimulate autonomy and learning possibilities

Datum:26 maart 2019
Auteur:Peter van der Meer
Peter van der Meer
Peter van der Meer

Researchers pay much attention to what makes us happy nowadays. Dr. Peter van der Meer, Assistant professor at the Faculty of Economics and Business focusses on the importance of happiness in a working environment. Interested in how work influences your happiness? Read more below.

How important is happiness in a working environment?
“Research shows 6 layers of happiness in our lives. In order of importance: 1. Good family relations, 2. A good financial situation, 3. Employment, 4. Friends and good company, 5. Health and 6. Personal freedom and values. Employment comes in 3rd place. 
Research about long term effects of important life events also shows the importance of work. Five life events were investigated: getting married, becoming a parent, getting divorced, the death of a significant other (partner, friend) and becoming unemployed. All these life events have strong short-term effects: the first two positive the other three negative. Only unemployment has a strong long term negative effect on happiness when lasting six months or more.The main reason for this is the strong reduction in self-esteem that is caused by long-term unemployment.”

Which type of job stimulates happiness?
”It matters a lot which type of job you have. Two important characteristics of jobs that increase happiness are autonomy and learning or development possibilities. This is best shown by looking at self-employed. Many self-employed work long hours and have relatively low earnings, but are more satisfied with their job than persons in paid employment. This comes from their high level of autonomy and learning opportunities. But persons who are self-employed because they see no other alternatives, i.e. a normal paying job or unemployment, are much less happy. You can think of postal deliverers who were forced to do the job as self-employed.”

How can society improve happiness?
”Our government has options to improve happiness. The first one is to do something about unemployment by not cutting budgets if the economy slows down. This has a further negative effect on economic growth and creates unnecessary unemployment. A second option is to reduce the flexibility of the labour market. Nowadays our labour market has become too flexible, resulting in too much unemployment in economic bad times and labour shortages during economic booms. This also will reduce unwanted self-employment.”

Peter H. van der Meer
Peter H. van der Meer is an Assistant professor at the Faculty of Economics and Business. He has studied the relation between happiness and work for 10 years which results in interesting publications about this topic which you can read by clicking on his name.