29 Nov

Where Are the World’s Happiest Workers?

It just makes sense that workers who are content in their jobs are more productive and motivated than those who are not. But for managers to cultivate happy teams, the challenge is knowing what compels employees to arrive at the office each day enthusiastic and engaged rather than dreading the morning slog into work.

A Robert Half study – IT’S TIME WE ALL WORK HAPPY.® – unearths what drives on-the-job happiness in eight countries around the world. More than 23,000 professionals across Europe, North America and Australia participated in interviews, and the results show that motivating factors vary from country to country.

Per the research, the United States has the happiest workers in the world, followed by Germany and the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom trails in sixth place. Employees in France are reportedly the least happy, coming in last.

So, what are the key drivers of worker happiness for the top three countries? And, more importantly, what takeaways can you apply to your own accounting department?

United States

Pride in their organisation is the highest-ranked driver of happiness for workers in the U.S. It also takes the number-one spot in Canada and the UK, and is the strongest driver for those working in financial services globally. If accountants, auditors and payroll clerks don’t feel proud of their employer, they’re more likely to move on, creating a real problem for managers and their remaining team members.

Take some time to instil and strengthen a sense of pride within your staff. Is your organisation committed to supporting community growth? Giving back to charity? Championing innovation? What about your company’s products or services themselves? How do they help people? If you spotlight the core purpose underpinning the work your team members do, a sense of pride and engagement will likely follow.


Being treated with fairness and respect is the most important factor keeping German workers content. It’s also the highest-rated driver for employees in Australia, Belgium and France, and ranks in the top three for every single country surveyed, showing how universally prized this values is.

According to a separate Robert Half survey, equitable pay is a major issue affecting a worker’s sense of fairness and respect. Nobody wants to feel like management is picking favourites. With all the online resources regarding the latest salary ranges, it doesn’t take much for employees to discover where their own compensation stands. An open salary policy could benefit your company by showing employees they are being treated fairly. If you’re not ready for that much transparency, you could publicise internal salary ranges for each job category or grade level.


Accomplishment tops the list in the Netherlands, with Dutch workers who were surveyed saying a sense of achievement affects their on-the-job happiness the most. The French and Australians also cite this value as a top driver of happiness. Overall, finance professionals list a sense of accomplishment as the top factor affecting their job satisfaction.

As a manager, it pays to ensure each employee has fulfilling duties and measurable goals that can be reviewed regularly. Do your financial analysts see their contribution steering the company in the right direction? Could an astute bookkeeper take on more complex duties or be promoted to a higher role? Having tangible milestones to strive for can motivate your team and prevent them from drifting into apathy.

Other major drivers of worker happiness

  • Feeling appreciated. Employee recognition is an important source of satisfaction in half of the countries we surveyed. In addition, it’s the leading motivator for accounting professionals specifically. Thanking and praising your staff is crucial for employees to feel valued for their hard work and contributions.
  • Respondents in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium ranked job freedom as the third most important driver of contentment. Finance and accounting professionals benefit from a sense of autonomy on the job. Free from the glare of an uber-critical or micromanaging boss, workers are at liberty to be innovative.
  • Stimulating work. German workers in our survey are the ones most interested in their jobs. The Netherlands and the U.S. follow closely behind. The fact these top three countries for overall worker happiness also rank highest for this driver shows that compelling assignments are an integral component of job satisfaction.
  • Low stress. The Dutch are not only happy and interested in their jobs, but they’re also the least stressed out of all the workers we surveyed. Why? One big reason is the country’s emphasis on work-life balance. To increase your employees’ happiness level, help them juggle their personal and professional responsibilities. Such perks could include flexible scheduling, generous vacation days, job sharing and a compressed workweek.

With your busy schedule, promoting workplace happiness may seem like a low-priority item. But it shouldn’t be. Employees who enjoy what they do are likely to turn in excellent work and unlikely to seek opportunities elsewhere, making your job easier — and you happier as well.

This article is provided courtesy of Robert Half, parent company of Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources. Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a temporary, full-time and project basis. For career and management advice, follow our blog at roberthalf.co.uk/blog.

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