Focusing on social workers, a profession known for its high attrition, stress and burnout, John Graham, Ph.D., a professor of social work at the University of Calgary and his then doctoral student Micheal Shier, now at the University of Pennsylvania sent a survey out to 2,500 registered social workers in Alberta, Canada. Seven hundred people responded.
From that group they took 13 people who scored the highest in nine areas of happiness and then followed them closely through in-depth interviews about their lives at home, at work and through shadowing them at work. Here's what he found made them happy:
- Flexible work schedules. The workers had the ability to provide "selfcare" by having the flexibility to manage their personal lives. A flexible schedule helped them to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
- A strong sense of engagement in their work. The researcher found that was because of behind-the-scenes support the employees received from their bosses and employers. This support included flex schedules as well as the availability of superiors to consult with and bounce issues off of.
- A feeling of being appreciated and valued, which often stemmed from their being included in organizational decision-making.
- Having a high degree of freedom built into their jobs, meaning that they wanted the ability to try new things and expand out of their immediate area.
- A pleasant physical workspace and good relationships with clients and colleagues.
- Having a diversity of responsibilities, which might include training or teaching others, research, and policy development work.
- Having a mentor to talk about their life, career decisions and their day-to-day job.
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