Happiness and wellbeing must be at the heart of the economy finds new report

Happiness and wellbeingTo mark International Day of Happiness, a major new report has revealed that a country’s GDP fails to reflect levels of people’s happiness, which, it says, “are not easily reducible to monetary values”. Wellbeing and policy was commissioned by the Legatum Institute, which established the Commission on Wellbeing and Policy to advance the policy debate on social wellbeing and is chaired by the former head of the civil service Lord Gus O’Donnell. It finds there is growing recognition that the measures of a country’s progress need to include the wellbeing of its citizens. The report adds that with job satisfaction on a long-term downward trend in most advanced countries, and people ranking time spent with their manager as among their least happy moments in the day, there’s a lot more employers can be doing to address levels of wellbeing and happiness at work.

The Wellbeing and policy report aims to give policy makers a greater understanding of how wellbeing data can be used to improve public policy and advance prosperity. It lays out the case for using wellbeing as the overall measure of prosperity, and therefore as the yardstick for public policy.

It begins by defining wellbeing, then looks at how to measure it, and explores the factors that affect it. This leads to the heart of the report: the ways in which understanding of wellbeing can improve public policy.

Chair of the Commission on Wellbeing and Policy and former head of the civil service Lord Gus O’Donnell said: “The Commission on Wellbeing and Policy looks at how wellbeing can have real and practical policy implications on the individual level, the community and regional level, and at the national and global level. Wellbeing research is a fantastic new growth area. Together with the Legatum Institute, we are going to make this the driver of policy and governments.”

Focusing on happiness at work, the report says there are four generally agreed features of a workplace that provides for high wellbeing:

  • Workers must have a clear idea of what is expected of them and how it relates to a wider whole.
  • They must have reasonable freedom over how they do the work. This sense of control or agency is a universal human and includes the need for people to be consulted over things that obviously affect them, like the arrangement of space in the office.
  • There is the need for support and recognition. People like to be rewarded in ways that make them feel personally valued by their employer and such rewards are not necessarily financial.
  • Finally, people need a reasonable work-life balance.

The report urges employers to take the wellbeing of the employees into account as it directly affects their performance. Positive mood states have been repeatedly found to boost productivity and creativity, reduce sickness absence, and increase customer satisfaction it says.

To download the full report click here.