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Build Your Career Office Life

The Honeymoon Phase: Why the First Year on the Job is the Happiest

The Honeymoon Phase: Why the First Year on the Job is the Happiest
Credit: Pressmaster/Shutterstock

The first year of a new job is often one of the best for employees, new research finds.

A study from Robert Half and Happiness Works revealed that workers are typically their happiest and have the least stress during their first year with a new employer.

The following years, however, tend to be the toughest. The research shows happiness levels tend to take a significant dip and stress levels increase in the second year of a job.

Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half, said the "honeymoon" phase tends to pass for many professionals once they get past year one of a new job.

"After 12 months on the job, employees are expected to work more autonomously and take on added responsibility," McDonald said in a statement. "At the same time, aspects of the job that at first seemed novel and interesting may lose their luster."

Although employees continue to feel higher amounts of stress each year, the good news is that happiness levels start inching back up once employees hit their third year with an organization. The research shows that although it never quite reaches that initial high, happiness levels do come close during the third and 10th year with an employer. [See Related Story: Want Happy Employees? Make Hiring Harder]

Besides job satisfaction taking a dip in year two, so does a worker's interest levels. The study found a significant drop in how interested employees are in their work between year one and two with an organization. However, not only do those levels jump back up in the third year with an employer, they actually rise past those initial levels during the first year.

Unfortunately, employees' stress only keeps building. While there is a bit of a decrease in stress levels between the third and fifth year with an employer, stress tends to increase each year after that.

Knowing how happiness, stress and interest levels change in the second year of a job, managers should take proactive measures to keep employees engaged, according to McDonald.

"This includes providing stretch assignments and ensuring that workloads are manageable," he said. "By keeping an eye on it, companies can help minimize the risk of losing productive staff members who have already been through a learning curve."

To help employees maintain their spark as they build tenure at an organization, Robert Half offers several tips:

  1. Think about the higher purpose. You can build passion for your job by looking at your organization as a whole and how it contributes to making the world a better place. For example, accountants at a CPA firm are not only performing accounting functions, but also helping clients grow their businesses.
  2. Make friends. Having friends around the office can make workdays more fun. To deepen these connections, make a concerted effort to socialize and build camaraderie with co-workers.
  3. Be proactive. Instead of waiting for your boss to assign you new projects, be proactive and talk to them about taking on assignments that will build your skill set and make you a more valuable employee. This not only helps increase engagement levels, it can also increase your earning potential.
  4. Be appreciative. When co-workers help you with a project, be sure to show them the appropriate amount of gratitude. This will both brighten their day and give your own spirits a boost.
  5. Ask for a raise. Keep up with compensation trends so you know if you are being fairly paid as you take on more responsibility. If you aren't, consider asking for a raise.

The study was based on surveys of 12,000 workers in the U.S. and Canada.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based 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.