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Job itself not pay the key to happiness at work

Media release

New research conducted by Curtin University, in collaboration with Making Work Absolutely Human (mwah.), reveals that while pay, job security and hours of work count, it’s the job itself that matters most.

happy workers: How satisfied are Australians at work? also links higher job satisfaction with older workers and living further away from major cities. Just over 60 per cent of workers in their 70s report feeling very satisfied with their job overall, compared with only 24 per cent of Gen Y, 28 per cent of Gen X and 33 per cent of Baby Boomers.

Pay is associated with higher job satisfaction but only to a point. Those that report being ‘very satisfied’ with their job overall earn a lower average amount each week than those that report being ‘satisfied’ – $1,182 compared with $1,267.

Tasmania is leading the way when it comes to happy workers, ranking first in three of the job satisfaction aspects and second place in two others. Workers in the State reported the highest job satisfaction in the country with 35 per cent of workers ‘very satisfied’ in their job overall, compared to workers in Western Australia and Victoria who reported 28 per cent respectively.

The report looks to find who the happiest and unhappiest workers are in Australia and what contributes to greater satisfaction in the workplace.

Report author Associate Professor Rebecca Cassells from the Curtin Business School said the report highlights the working conditions that are likely to bring Australians the most job satisfaction.

“Australians who work for themselves or in small businesses, in the not-for-profit or government sector and workers that can do some of their work from home each week are more likely to be satisfied in their jobs,” Associate Professor Cassells said.

“The trade-off between happiness with certain aspects of a job and dissatisfaction with others is evident. It’s unlikely that any job will deliver everything that is needed to be happy at work, but certain things can help.”

mwah. Chief Executive Officer Rhonda Brighton-Hall said the report draws attention to the fact that pay matters, but it’s not everything.

“More importantly, it’s what you do, how you are able to go about your work and who is alongside you that matters the most when it comes to job satisfaction,” Ms Brighton-Hall said.

“Work is a core component of our existence, our identity, our financial independence, and ultimately, our overall well-being. A happy workplace where people feel valued can increase productivity and innovation and reduce unwanted outcomes like employee absenteeism, workplace grievances and staff turnover.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • The job itself has the strongest relationship with overall job satisfaction, outweighing all other job aspects including pay, job security and job flexibility.
  • Just over 40 per cent of Australian workers report being ‘very satisfied’ with their job security and 36 per cent with their flexibility to balance work and non-work commitments.
  • Workers who continue on beyond the age of 70 are likely to be doing so not out of necessity, but because they love what they are doing. Gen Z has also started work happily.
  • Gen Y and Gen X are more likely to report being dissatisfied in their job than other generations.
  • Higher education levels do not necessarily translate into higher satisfaction at work.
  • Women are more likely to report being ‘very satisfied’ in their job overall than men –
  • 31 per cent compared to 27 per cent.
  • Satisfaction with job flexibility and hours of work decrease rapidly beyond 38 hours per week.
  • 35 per cent of Community and Personal Service workers report being very satisfied in their job overall, while 26 per cent of Accommodation and Food Services sector workers report being dissatisfied.
  • A higher proportion of employees in the private sector report being dissatisfied with their job overall (20 per cent) compared to government (14 per cent) and not-for-profit (12 per cent) sector employees.
  • Australians who work for themselves or in micro-businesses are more likely to report being very satisfied with their job than those in big companies.
  • 38 per cent of those workers living in remote and very remote regions of Australia report being ‘very satisfied’ with their job overall compared with only 27 per cent of workers in major Australian cities.
  • Tasmania has the highest job satisfaction and comes in first in three of the six job aspects – the job overall, the job itself and job flexibility. 35 per cent of workers in Tasmania report being ‘very satisfied’ in their job overall.
  • Western Australia and Victoria are ranked last among states when it comes to workers who are very satisfied with their job overall.
  • Those that report being ‘very satisfied’ with their job overall earn a lower average amount each week than those that report being ‘satisfied’ – $1,182 compared with $1,267.

The full report can be viewed here.