In 2019, Indeed embarked on a project that no other business has attempted; it designed a way to measure work happiness, at scale.
After a year of development and data collection, The Work Happiness Score launched in the United States. Months later, the platform grew to include Canadian data and, following that, insights from the UK market. As part of Indeed's commitment to increasing the number of happy people at work, this tool has grand ambitions to gather a global data set that inspires employers and all people to build a better, happier world of work.
Over 5.5 million people have shared how they're feeling by taking the work happiness survey, making this the world's largest study of work happiness*¹. With wide-spread rollouts planned, the data will paint a picture of global happiness and promote a greater understanding of its role in work and life.
(*1) 2021 Indeed.com data, based on number of survey responses
Janeane Tolomeo Senior Manager, Work Happiness ESG Lead
Rae Albee Senior Program Manager, Work Happiness
How does it work; measuring happiness with science
"Before this project began, our data suggested that expectations around work were changing," begins Janeane Tolomeo, Program Manager at Senior Manager, Work Happiness ESG Lead. "Of course, compensation and flexibility have always been important for job seekers, but we saw a demand for more. Be it a positive work environment, deeper trust, or a greater sense of belonging, wellbeing aspects have started influencing where people choose to work. So, we set out to make a tool which made that kind of information easier to find."
As the idea developed, the team realized its central core was happiness – a hugely subjective topic. Measuring and defining it required world-leading academics. Indeed brought in Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor of Psychology and happiness expert at University of California, Riverside. Alongside her, Dr. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Professor of Economics and Director at the Wellbeing Research Centre at the University of Oxford, joined the project. Together, they created fifteen thought-provoking questions that would help all people evaluate happiness in the workplace. Ranging from fair compensation and management style to appreciation, belonging and inclusion, users of the feature are asked to rate each question between one and five – five being strongly agree – resulting in a score for each category. Once enough surveys have been completed, an aggregate happiness score is given to the company and displayed beside their profile on Indeed. The score isn't static - as more users take part, it adapts to reflect the honest and current culture of the business.
"We had to create a standard based on solid academic research that ensured the data created was genuinely valuable," Janeane continues. "This approach enabled us to develop a platform that has a measurable impact on work. It helps job seekers match themselves with like-minded businesses and provides employers invaluable insights into their culture."
Happiness data will become essential for business success – here's why
During the last few years, the mental approach to work has changed. Shifted by a global pandemic and digitalization, people are far more aware of the damaging impact of unhappiness. It's no surprise that this is now filtering into the world of work.
Indeed's data is already revealing striking statistics about workplace happiness. For example, 36% of UK workers are unhappy in their job, while in Canada, only 48% of job seekers agree with the statement, "I feel happy at work most of the time." Indeed has been digging deep into its data, helping businesses understand where they're missing an opportunity to improve employee happiness. With this kind of insight, companies can implement measures to shift the balance, keeping staff motivated and productive, and crucially, finding new ways to attract the best talent in their marketplace.
Janeane continues, "The Work Happiness Score provides a benchmark for employers. Knowing the dimensions of happiness helps them create environments in which staff thrive. Many things that increase happiness don't have to cost money, which means any business can do them."
Rae Albee, Senior Program Manager, Work Happiness at Indeed, adds, "Using our growing data set, we create custom reports for our customers, providing statistics that show where they shine in employee wellbeing – and vitally, where they don't. Confirming strengths is great but drawing out weaknesses is a game-changer. We show this in the context of their marketplace, so companies not only understand their internal landscape but also compare themselves to competitors. With it, they can become truly competitive at every level."
Matching job seekers to work they love
Indeed's mission is to help all people get jobs, and in doing so we hope to make it easier for job seekers to find work environments that promote happiness as well as productivity. Still, so often, it's difficult to truly uncover a company's culture before accepting a role. The Work Happiness Score helps clarify this, enabling the job seeker to quickly match their values to those of the prospective employer. It's not necessarily about finding the 'happiest' company – instead helping job seekers align themselves and expectations to companies that have similar values.
With this information upfront, people can join workplaces that suit them professionally and personally, leading to more profound work satisfaction. Happy people are more confident, loyal, and productive, with their success rippling across the workplace and wider society.
"Work is such a big part of our lives - we spend around one-third of our lives working. It influences our overall life satisfaction and how we feel for the other two-thirds of our lives. In all my jobs - whether it was working in a hair salon or being a marketer - how employers treated me made all the difference. In some environments, I was able to flourish and see what I was capable of. In others - it was the total opposite," comments Janeane.
Indeed's data set shows that 97% of people believe that happiness at work is possible – the Work Happiness Score hopes to facilitate that change. The data also shows that happiness isn't industry-specific, with companies across every sector achieving impressive scores. For the job seeker, this proves that moving between industries doesn't mean a dip in satisfaction. Instead, they can make educated decisions based on their experience, dreams, and ambitions, driving a deeper connection with work.
"The better we understand happiness, the more collectively we can prioritize it, and that's so exciting," Janeane says. "This study has motivated me to better understand my work happiness, and I hope it does the same for others."
The team’s product partner, Jan Rojcek, Director of User Experience at Indeed, also adds "I am passionate about this work and its potential. The Work Happiness Score increases the likelihood of people choosing and getting a truly better job which aligns with their goals and values. It can become a game-changer in empowering job seekers to choose jobs based on the data that simply weren’t available before. Furthermore, it can encourage employers to step up their game in search of talent in the open marketplace on Indeed and potentially elsewhere - eventually leading to better workplaces and happier job seekers."
Work that makes people feel good now and, in the future
Dr. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Professor of Economics and Director, Wellbeing Research Centre, University of Oxford, who have been developed The Work Happiness Score and key happiness dimensions with Indeed, says "Workplace wellbeing has always been important but the Covid pandemic and the new ways of working have led to the so-called ‘great realization’ with people looking beyond pay checks and more carefully considering how the workplace impacts their general wellbeing." He adds, "The Indeed Work Happiness Score allows for a quantum leap forward in terms of measuring and understanding how people experience their workplaces across all kinds of firms, industries, and countries. It allows us to continuously track the extent to which people feel happy at work and gain insights into what drives workplace happiness. Technological advances are changing the nature of work and the Work Happiness Score is designed to be able to tell us whether and how these advances can be harnessed to advance workplace wellbeing."
This project is only just beginning, with plans to scale both data collection and happiness scores globally.
"The science behind our happiness score is rooted in positive psychology. There is a universal nature to each question. What differs is how this information is perceived and used in different markets. We all share the same basic desire to be happy, but that looks different in every country and culture. As Indeed expands and evolves this data set, we will have the opportunity to analyze global aggregates and from them, the pulse of the world," Rae continues.
Indeed knows this project is important, not just for driving greater productivity and satisfaction, but in its ability to shape how people make decisions about work in the future.
"When you're a kid, you're always asked – what do you want to be when you grow up," Rae says. "We are revamping the question to suit the modern agenda and instead asking – how do you want to feel? Feeling great at whatever we choose to do is a hugely positive step forward for work and life."