Lovewell’s logic: Can money buy happiness?

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck

Can money buy happiness? This is a familiar question, having oft been debated over the years. Many people’s natural response is likely to be ‘yes’, as thoughts of their next holiday, larger house or new car spring to mind. But would this response always be the same, following some time for thought?

Earlier this week, The 2018 happiness survey, published by One4all Rewards, found that 44% of respondents said that receiving a 25% pay rise would have the biggest impact on improving their happiness at work. A further 33%, meanwhile, said receiving a 10% salary increase would have the same effect.

This compares to just a fifth that said being thanked more by their employer (21%), or that receiving increased recognition from their employer for their work and contributions to their organisation (20%), would make them happier at work.

According to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) UK labour market: April 2018 statistical bulletin, the employment rate (the proportion of people aged 16-64 years who are in work) is currently at its highest level since records began in 1971. This corresponds with the highest levels of average life satisfaction and happiness recorded since the year ending March 2012, according to the ONS report Personal wellbeing in the UK: October 2016 to September 2017, published in February 2018.

With wages in real terms still rising slowly, does this suggest that happiness in this instance is linked more to the nature of work and what individuals gain from it, outside of financial reward?

A quick search for research on the topic tells a similar story, in terms of a mixed response to the pay versus happiness question. While I’m sure none of us would ever turn down a pay rise, would this really counter the effects of never receiving recognition or thanks for our hard work, or working long hours in a role in which we felt dissatisfied and unfulfilled?

Rather than seeking an answer to the question of whether money can buy happiness, should we instead be asking what is most likely to bring happiness, particularly in the workplace?

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck
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