Research background

nef inside

The happiness at work survey is based on over ten years of research into measuring happiness and well-being by nef (the new economics foundation). nef is a UK based think tank with a consultancy arm and home to the award winning centre for well-being. The centre was founded in 2001 by Nic Marks to address a simple question: “what would public policy look like if well-being was its aim?” Much of the centre’s work is focused on measuring well-being and communicating the findings of psychological research on happiness and well-being with an emphasis on creating real change. Recent work includes: Five Ways to Well-being, the Happy Planet Index, Measuring our Progress and National Accounts of Well-being.

The questions

The questions in the survey have been carefully selected for their face value validity and psychometric qualities – in other words do they fit with our model of happiness at work and are they statistically robust? Many questions have been developed specially for this context and are unique to the happiness at work tool but others have been adapted from existing sources. These sources include the well-being module that nef co-designed with the University of Cambridge and other leading academics for the European Social Survey (rounds 3 & 6), the European Working Conditions Survey and the UK Labour Force Survey.

A dynamic model of well-being

The model behind our tool is based on nef’s work with the UK Government Office of Science’s Foresight Programme. For the project report we developed a measurement framework that integrated different academic approaches to understanding well-being into one coherent model.

The model describes how an individual’s external conditions (bottom left) – such as their income, employment status, housing and social context – act together with their personal resources (bottom right) – such as their health, resilience and optimism – to allow them to function well (middle) in their interactions with the world and therefore experience positive emotions (top).

The model shows how different aspects of our well-being interlink and how improvements in one area influence other parts of an individual’s experience.

For happiness at work, we have applied this thinking to the work context, creating indicators that describe how the organisational system interacts with the resources employees bring to work to support people to do well and feel good in their jobs. We believe that through better understanding of these connections, individuals and organisations can identify the changes that will have the biggest impact – both for employee happiness and business success.

Happiness landscape

We also developed the Happiness Landscape which is an alternative representation of people’s scores. We grouped the indicators together differently to provide an overview of how individuals and organisations are faring, much like a dash board.