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Build Your Career Get Ahead

Want a Job That Makes You Happy? Work for a Small Business

Want a Job That Makes You Happy? Work for a Small Business
Credit: Micolas/Shutterstock

If you find yourself unhappy at your corporate job, try looking for work at a smaller company.

The happiest employees work for businesses with fewer than 10 workers, according to a study from the staffing firm Robert Half and happiness and well-being expert Nic Marks. Specifically, on a scale of 0 to 100, workers in businesses with fewer than 10 employees have a happiness rating of 76, while those working for businesses with between 10 and 50 employees have a rating of 72.

Employees at larger organizations are the unhappiest. Workers at companies with 5,000 or more employees have a happiness rating of just 67, the lowest of all the groups studied. The average happiness score for all professionals surveyed was 71.

"This research shows a high level of happiness at work among professionals overall, but also demonstrates unique challenge areas by occupation and company size," Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half, said in a statement.

When broken down by industry, the results show that those in education and training, as well as marketing and design have the highest levels of on-the-job satisfaction, while finance workers have the lowest. [See Related Story: Want Happy Employees? Make Hiring Harder]

Nothing drives being happy at work more than having pride in your employer. The study found that employees who feel proud of their organizations are three times more likely to be happy than workers who are not. Feeling appreciated and being treated with fairness and respect are the other top influencers of workplace happiness, the research showed.

"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," Marks said.

Being happy at work provides a number of benefits for both employees and employers. Past research from Horizons Workforce Consulting found that nearly two-thirds of happy employees report consistently putting in extra effort at work, while a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology discovered that those with high levels of on-the-job satisfaction also volunteer for optional tasks, help others and are more cooperative compared to unhappy workers.

"Happier people tend to care more about their work, so they put in greater effort," Marks said. "This also means they are quicker to notice when things are not going right and take action to prevent negative outcomes."

The Robert Half report also found that happy workers tend to be more innovative, create and healthy. Additionally, employees with high levels of job satisfaction are less likely to look for new job opportunities.

McDonald said organizations should not take lightly the effort to make sure employees are happy.

"Happiness is not a nice-to-have, but a necessity for a productive and successful business," he said.

"[It's] a genuine win-win — great for employees and great for employers," Marks added.

The Robert Half study was based on surveys of more than 12,000 workers in the United States and Canada. 

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.