The world’s  ‘largest study of work happiness’ has found only 27 percent of UK workers say they are happy at work most of the time,

The data comes from Indeed’s Work Happiness Score which currently displays data for over 1,800 organisations in the UK across 25 different sectors. 

The score was developed with guidance from professors of economics and psychology.

It has so far had more than 170,000 UK responses and 6M globally, considers factors of Belonging; Appreciation; Inclusion; Support; Purpose; Energy; Learning; Achievement; Trust; Flexibility; Compensation; Stress Level; Satisfaction and Manager Support.

People in government are among the happiest

It found out that those in education are happiest, followed by aerospace and defence. Similarly, people working in government and public administration say they are happy at work. The unhappiest groups are those working real estate, followed by those in management and consulting, and automotive. 

 It found the average worker spends a fifth of every year feeling unhappy in their role and one in 10 (11%) start feeling unhappy less than six months into a new job.

Senior Vice President, Environmental, Social & Governance at Indeed, LaFawn Davis said happiness at work should not be a privilege. She said: “Measuring happiness is key to understanding employee experience and creating happier organisations, which is why Indeed worked with experts to develop the Work Happiness Score. It offers further transparency to help job seekers and employers make better choices and build a better world of work.”

Side effects of workplace unhappiness

The study says that workplace unhappiness seeps into people’s personal lives with more than a quarter admitting they struggle to find enjoyment in other aspects of their lives because of being unhappy at work. One in five (22%) say they take work frustrations out on their partners.

Almost three-quarters (72%) agreed that their workplace unhappiness has negatively impacted their physical and/or mental well-being, with 44% losing sleep and 43% lacking energy. A third (33%) of unhappy workers have consequently experienced physical symptoms, with headaches and migraines (55%) the most common ailment and 53% experiencing insomnia.

Unsurprisingly, the study found that the pandemic was ‘a time of great realisation’. It gave a quarter of people (25%) a chance to reflect on their current career, find a new perspective post-pandemic (24%) and re-evaluate how happy they feel at work.

Prompted by the pandemic, half of all workers (50%) now feel more motivated to make changes to their career and find more happiness at work, stating that a higher salary (31%), better work-life balance (21%), and more praise and recognition (19%) will be sought out during their job search. 

In fact, 91 percent who are planning to leave their current job believe happiness in their next role is important.

The study says being happy at work leads to a number of benefits including less stress and pressure (34%), improved mental health (30%) and experiencing more enjoyment out of life (28%).

  Dr Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Professor of Economics at Saïd Business School and Director of the Wellbeing Research Centre at Oxford University who consulted on the study said: “Happiness at work is critical to people’s wellbeing but it is also a driver of their productivity and success. So employers are well advised to get the emotional pulse of their organisation and have a frequent measure of workplace happiness.”






Feyaza Khan has been a journalist for more than 20 years in print and broadcast. Her special interests include neurodiversity in the workplace, tech, diversity, trauma and wellbeing.