Who Are the Happiest Workers and What Are the Top Drivers of Workplace Happiness?

Comprehensive Study of More Than 12,000 Canadian and U.S. Workers Reveals the Happiest and Unhappiest by Field, Gender, Company Size and Other Factors


Happy employees are better employees — and they are also better for your business. These workers are more loyal and motivated, and they do better work. This is true to matter what your industry or location. But what makes employees happy? Find out based on a recent survey of more than 12,000 U.S. and Canadian workers.

What determines employees’ happiness?


The number-one driver of happiness overall. Workers who feel proud of their organizations are 3x more likely to be happy at work.


The second biggest driver of happiness. It occupies the top spot for legal and accounting professionals.


The third most important happiness factor. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of professionals who say they are treated with little respect are likely to leave their jobs in the next year


The strongest driver of happiness for those 34 years of age and under.


One of the top three happiness factors for financial services, administrative, technology and creative professionals.


An important happiness driver. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents report having good friends at work.


© 2016 Robert Half International Inc.

Toronto, ON -- Happiness at work is something nearly everyone wants, but it varies by an employee’s age, gender and field, among other factors. This is one of the findings of a new comprehensive study of more than 12,000 Canadian and U.S. workers by Robert Half, in collaboration with world-renowned happiness and well-being expert Nic Marks. The research examines key contributors to employee happiness and has been released in a new report, It’s Time We All Work Happy™: The Secrets of the Happiest Companies and Employees

“This research shows a high level of happiness at work among professionals overall, but also demonstrates unique challenge areas by sector and company size,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half. “For businesses struggling to attract and retain workers with in-demand skills, the report provides a roadmap for forging deeper engagement and commitment levels among staff.”

On-the Job Happiness – Overall Findings

  • Most professionals are generally happy. On a happiness scale of 0 – 100, those surveyed scored a 71.
  • The power of pride. Having pride in one’s organization is the No. 1 driver of happiness overall for respondents. Those who feel proud of their organization are three times more likely to be happy than those who are not.
  • Respect and appreciation go a long way. The second and third top factors driving happiness are feeling appreciated, and being treated with fairness and respect.
  • Poor fit employees more likely to be headed for the door. One-third of workers (33 per cent) say they will likely leave their current employer in the next six months; workers who report that they are not a good match with their employers are the most apt to leave.

Happiness by Occupation and Company Size

  • Small business employees are happier. People working in firms with 10 or fewer employees have the highest happiness levels. Organizations with 10,000 or more employees report the lowest.
  • Teaching, creative professions fare well. Those in the education and training sector, as well as marketing and design, report the highest levels of on-the-job happiness and interest in their work, while finance professionals were among those reporting the lowest levels on these two factors.
  • Legal professionals the most stressed. Legal professionals report the highest stress levels at work, while technology employees cite the lowest stress levels.
  • More engagement in the corner office. Senior executives have the highest happiness levels, while people working in sales and customer service are on the lower end of the spectrum.
  • Accountants just want to be appreciated. Different professions have slightly different key drivers of happiness at work. For example, feeling appreciated is a primary factor for accountants, while doing worthwhile work is more important for marketing professionals.



The happiest role: senior executive
The happiest company size: less than 10 employees
The happiest age: 55+
The happiest tenure: first year on the job


The ability to influence important decisions is a happiness driver, but not all workers feel they have equal say.

Only 47% of women say they exert influence on the job, compared to 55% of men.

Just 45% of administrative workers feel they have a say in important decisions.

Only 47% of workers 55 years and up say they influence important decisions.

Only 35% of workers at organizations with 5,000+ employees say they have influence.

Where can companies improve?


Workers who say they are not a good match with their employees are the most likely to leave their job within a year.


Only 52 percent of women feel they are paid fairly at work, compared to 58 percent of men.


Two-thirds of workers feel satisfied with their level of work-life balance, leaving room for some improvement.


Workers who have good relationships with others on their teams are 2.5 times more likely to be happy than those who do not.


Feeling appreciated is the second biggest driver of happiness — make sure to thank all employees for a job well done.

To learn more about the importance of improving happiness in your workplace, visit www.roberthalf.com/its-time-we-all-work-happy

Source: Survey of more than 12,000 U.S. and Canadian workers developed by Robert Half and Happiness Works, and conducted by an independent research firm.

© 2016 Robert Half International Inc.

Happiness by Age and Gender

  • Millennials want to make their mark. For those ages 34 and under, a sense of accomplishment is the strongest determinant of happiness.
  • For Gen X, reality might, indeed, ‘bite.’ Workers ages 35 to 54 are the least happy, most stressed out and least interested in their work.
  • Experienced workers have more reasons to smile. Employees ages 55 and up report the highest levels of happiness on the job.
  • Men feel more influential. Men fare better than women in nearly every aspect of happiness studied. The biggest difference was in the influence they have on business decisions, with 55 per cent of men saying they are able to influence business decisions, compared to 47 per cent of women.

Nic Marks, CEO and founder of Happiness Works, a firm that provides companies with tools to identify, measure and manage employee happiness, noted that happiness isn’t about feeling cheerful every day or avoiding challenges. “Work can be difficult and demanding, but if employees feel proud of what their organization does, respected as a person and appreciated for what they do, then they tend to be happy and do better work as a result. Happiness at work is a genuine win-win -- great for employees and great for employers,” he said.

Added McDonald, “Happiness is not a nice-to-have, but a necessity for a productive and successful business. For professionals across all industries, much of happiness at work comes down to choosing the right role and the right employer.”

About the Research

The survey of more than 12,000 workers in Canada and the United States was conducted in July 2016 by an independent research firm. Respondents included a broad representation of the Canadian and U.S. working population with an emphasis on those employed in professional settings to provide the ability to make robust comparisons among fields.

About Robert Half
Founded in 1948, Robert Half is the world’s first and largest staffing firm with more than 340 staffing locations worldwide. We believe working happy is the only way to work, and we have made it our mission to help people find fulfilling jobs and help companies build happy, productive teams. Find out more at https://www.roberthalf.ca/en/its-time-we-all-work-happy.

About Happiness Works
Happiness Works enables organizations to identify, measure and manage employee happiness. Firms that consider employee happiness as a fundamental performance objective consistently unlock greater innovation and long-term financial success. Founded by Nic Marks, the creator of The Happy Planet Index, the world’s first measure of sustainable well-being, Happiness Works is based in London with a growing global portfolio of forward-thinking clients. For more details, visit happinessworks.com.

For further information contact: Naz Araghian, (416) 865-2140, [email protected]