What Makes a Job Great? (The Secret to Being Happy at Work)
To paraphrase a cliché, a great job is in the eye of the beholder. You may think my job is great because of the pay, whereas I may think it sucks. On the other hand, I may think I have the greatest job in the world because I work from home (it’s true, I love what I do and how I do it), and you may think I am missing out on adult interactions at the office water cooler. We all want different things in a job, and this article focuses on what’s needed for an awesome work experience.
This is the number one reason why we work. If employers stopped paying salaries today, very few people would show up to work tomorrow. On this blog, we spent the last two weeks talking about how to make more money at work. An employer that pays well will attract top talent. Money remains a strong motivator of job seekers, regardless of culture, and is sometimes enough to keep employees happy at work. Money is always important, but it becomes even more important when other important things are missing from a job environment. We discuss these “other important things” below.
The stuff of the work itself
If you are passionate about the content of your work, you may decide to stay at a job even if the pay is below par. The intrinsic reward gained from doing what you love may outweigh any external compensation. A great career is one that brings the best out of you and develops you in the area of your calling. This is usually the case with athletes, artists, and scientists. One of most beautiful sights is watching a worker fully engaged–spirit, soul, body–in what their hands find to do. Doing what you love makes a job great.
People you work with
You spend most of your productive hours with your colleagues, so their personality, work ethic, temperament, and perspective all affect your mood to varying degrees. If your co-workers are great, work will be fun; if they are not, work can be hell. How do you know if you have great co-workers? Ask yourself if they are folks you would hang out with of your own volition, just because. If you find yourself saying, “Well, I don’t have to be friends with my colleagues,” then they are not great coworkers. A great job is filled with great people.
A job that allows you some flexibility in how you plan your day so you can deal with real life in addition to work life is more rewarding than one with rigid schedules, and can help to make a job great. People call in sick (even when they are not) more often in jobs where there is no wiggle room in when they arrive or leave. A flexible work schedule is the most underrated perk of all, in my opinion, because it allows one to minimize the inherent conflict between work and life. I have friends who don’t like flexible schedules so much because they love the predictability of a set timeline; also, they feel that, since their workday is bounded, it focuses them to produce within the established time framework of a workday. I can see their point. If you know you need to come in at 8:00 a.m. or there will be consequences, it kind of helps you to prioritize other things and make decisions—all good things. If you know you can come in at 8:00 a.m. or later, or maybe even not at all that day, then you need more self control. Also, if you know you have to unfailingly leave work at 4:00 p.m., then it directs your energy to finish that report before 4:00 p.m., which may or may not be the case if you feel you can leave anytime you want. In short, there are pros and cons to having a flexible work schedule, but overall, I still prefer to have some say in when I start and stop the work day.
Choice of work
Workers love the ability to choose what to work on at what time. There are many jobs where this is not an option: you are told what, when, and how to do a task. But there are also many jobs where a worker gets to choose what they want to focus on for the week, month, or quarter. I believe the latter is more rewarding because autonomy creates meaning. When workers can spend their time on what is meaningful to them, their paycheck almost feel like a bonus.
The shorter you have to drive to work, all other things being equal, the more you will like where you work. In an average city, globally, people spend over two hours commuting to and from work. That’s a lot of time sitting in a bus or train. It’s even more draining if you are the one driving. I know people who took a pay cut to work 10 minutes from home. Not everyone can have the opportunity to work close to home, but if your commute time is much less than the global average, unless there are other strong factors, I advise you stay where you are. The most dangerous part of most jobs is the traffic! Getting to work and coming home safely each day is no mean task, especially in urban centers.