The most unhappy jobs are also among the loneliest, according to an 85-year-old study study Harvard researchers.
Although particular roles cannot be reliably correlated with job dissatisfaction and burnout, certain job characteristics can, Robert Waldinger, MD, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the oldest studies. about happiness, tells CNBC Make It.
Jobs that require little human interaction and lack the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with co-workers tend to have the most miserable employees, study found.
Since 1938, Harvard researchers have collected the health records of more than 700 participants from around the world and asked them detailed questions about their lives every two years.
The secret to living a happier, healthier and longer life, they concluded, is not money, career success, exercise or healthy eating – positive relationships are what make people happy. happy throughout their lives.
This also applies to our jobs. “It’s a critical social need that must be met in all aspects of our lives,” says Waldinger. “Also, if you’re more connected to people, you feel more satisfied with your job and do a better job.”
Loneliness at work is more common than you think
Some of the most isolating jobs involve more independent work than interpersonal or require night shifts, such as truck driving and night security.
Lone jobs are common in emerging tech-driven industries, including package and food delivery services, where people often have no co-workers, or online retail, where work is “so fast and furious” that employees in the same warehouse shift might not even know each other’s name, Waldinger says.
However, loneliness doesn’t just affect those in solitary jobs — even people with busy social jobs can feel isolated if they don’t have positive, meaningful interactions with others.
Waldinger cites customer service jobs as a great example of this: “We know that people in call centers are often extremely stressed about their jobs, mainly because they’re on the phone all day with people. frustrated and impatient,” he said.
Feeling disconnected from others at work is also a health issue: Recent studies have shown that as we age, loneliness can increase our risk of death as much as smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.
Socializing is good for your career — and your mental health
Creating small opportunities for social connection at work can be restorative and help alleviate feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction, the researchers found.
For example, you can chat with a friendly co-worker for five minutes or find like-minded people like a book club or intramural sports league to hang out with after a stressful shift.
Maximizing your happiness at work also depends on the expectations of your manager. “If you’re encouraged to work in a team, it’s easier to build positive relationships with your colleagues,” says Waldinger. “But if you’re expected to work alone all the time, or to compete with others, that’s a different story.”
If employees are talking or laughing together in the office, some managers will assume that “they’re not working and their productivity is likely to suffer,” Waldinger and his colleague Marc Schulz, PhD, associate director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, write in their book “The Good Life”.
In fact, the opposite is true: a 2022 report by Gallup shows that people who have a best friend at work are more productive and engaged in their work than those who don’t.
When we look for a job, we consider compensation and health insurance to be important benefits, but Waldinger and Schulz argue that working relationships are another “work benefit” that we should pay more attention to.
“Positive relationships at work lead to lower stress levels, healthier workers, and fewer days when we go home upset,” Waldinger and Schulz conclude. “They also, quite simply, make us happier.”
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