When it comes to work, are we looking for joy in all the wrong places?

HI-Harris-Poll-Happiness-Index-2011-06-22[1] This summer, The Harris Poll’s annual Happiness Index was published and publicized. The results:  one third (33%) of Americans this year are very happy, the same as last year and only slightly down from the 35% who were very happy in both 2008 and 2009. Further,  eight in ten Americans are happy (81%).

But wait – in my Designing Communication blog post from September 27, we found that Americans now feel worse about their jobs and their work environments than ever before!   That post was about the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (http://www.gallup.com/poll/wellbeing), which shows that  people of all ages, and across income levels, are unhappy with their supervisors, apathetic about their organizations and detached from what they do


The Harris Happiness Index showed that two-thirds of U.S. adults strongly agree that they have positive relationships with their family (66%) and over half say their relationships with friends bring them happiness (59%) and spiritual beliefs provide a guiding force (74%). Further, 68% said they “frequentlyworry” about their financial situation, and 38% said they find their work “frustrating.” Hmmm. 

Putting the two studies together (and I realize there are many more if we wanted to do a deeper look), it appears that although Americans are generally happier overall, that happiness does not come from the workplace nor work. (If you see it differently, I certainly want to know your view!) 

It does bring up some interesting questions, doesn’t it? After all, most of us would agree that friends and family and spiritual life should be the central focus of life. Where does that leave all our efforts toward workplace friendliness and employee engagement, then? Should we instead focus on giving employees more time, energy and freedom for pursuits involving friends and family? Can we sustain business results if we do that?

And what about us as employees? Are we asking too much from the workplace if we expect happiness there?

This is a fascinating topic with many facets – I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!



About Jaya Koilpillai Bohlmann
Global corporate communication, business, and organization behavior executive; author. My blog, DesigningCommunication, offers inspiration, insight, and tips for all professionals who want to express themselves effectively, and lead with integrity.

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