Is money enough to make you happy at work?

Your answer is probably that it depends on ‘how you’re doing’. Let’s look at a couple of examples. Two hypothetical people. One of them is a multibillionaire like Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon. And on the other side, a person with a more modest income. For our example, let’s call him Bill Sanders. Who do you think would be happier if, let’s say, their wealth doubles from one day to the next?

The first, Jeff, might be happier because he has more money in the bank, but his life will almost certainly not change much. After all, he’s already a multibillionaire. On the other hand, Bill will also have more money in the bank. He could use this extra money to pay off debts, lead a more comfortable life for a time, invest a bit, or find a better work-life balance.

Just like these hypothetical cases, there are data that demonstrate that the relationship between the happiness and wealth of countries behaves in a similar way.

A study titled Charting the Relationship Between Money and Happiness, based on data from the World Bank and the 2017 World Happiness Report, concludes that money is important for being happy, but in a limited way. Once the material elements of Maslow’s hierarchy are satisfied, you need other incentives than money.

Being happy at work

Part of our collective problem is that many of us fall into the trap of thinking that ‘work is work’ and it cannot be a source of happiness, or that if we focus on what makes us happy, corporate objectives will be compromised.

However, once again, the data suggest the contrary:

According to a report from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), employees who are happy at their jobs are “nine times more loyal, 31% more productive, and 55% more creative”.

This benefits both the employee and the company.

The ‘trick’ to being happier at work isn’t necessarily earning more money or getting more bonuses, but rather ensuring that 3 basic needs related to happiness are met. It makes sense to seek these out in our professional lives:

  • Agreeing with the goal/objective: the feeling that our work matters and is in line with our personal values.
  • Hope or optimism: the feeling that our future could be improved if we better understand our needs and create a plan for ourselves.
  • Positive relationships: connections with others are just as important to our happiness as other aspects of work.

These needs do not substitute a good salary; money is still important (even more so when it is far off the mark from a good salary). However, you don’t have to check your happiness at the office door, you can incorporate it into your work life.

The challenge is knowing what we can do to promote happiness amongst our workers and retain talent.

Keys to achieving motivation at work

What can we do to motivate the team beyond monetary compensation?

Align our company’s values with those of our workers

Employees are proud of the work they do for a company they believe in. To align the company values with those of the workers, it’s necessary that the leaders are the first to incorporate the company’s vision and set an example for the entire firm. This way, employees will get involved as well.

It’s important to value employees’ work and to recognise how it benefits the company and their environment—and not just financially. Rewarding workers by recognising their achievements is more significant than it may seem.

Imagine that your company’s values are not the same as your team’s. What can you do? Well, you will have to redefine them. If not, the employees won’t be committed to the company’s values and their talent and creativity won’t be unleashed.

Give employees possibilities to advance and round out their training

Employees’ training is important, but their capacity to learn is also important. We aren’t talking about teaching them how to do their work, but rather providing them with the tools that will allow them to grow on both a personal and professional level. This growth is also passed on to the company.

Implementing this type of training opportunities means an increase in productivity and an improvement in the work environment, given that people know that their company stands behind them. This way, it’s possible to retain talent and increase work motivation.

It’s not just about getting it right when it comes to recruiting workers who are trained for their position, but also about retaining them through opportunities for learning and growth.

Create an environment based on positive relationships in the workplace

To generate this pride amongst the employees that I was telling you about before, it’s essential that people feel comfortable in the project they form part of.

Developing a good work environment is key to this, and the happier the workers are, the more talent, productivity, and creativity there will be in our company.

If we want to be happy at work, make our employees are happy, and promote innovative talent at our organisation, we have to contribute to workers’ well-being and happiness.

None of this is possible without reflecting on the following: Do you know your employees? What’s important to them? What makes them happy?