How you define what constitutes the world’s happiest workplace? This answer depends on how you define happiness. If you think happiness is how you see your work life or, in survey speak, how you rate your life today on a scale of zero to 10 (with zero being the worst possible and 10 being the best possible), then the Danes and Swiss have been the happiest people in the world over recent years. If you think happiness is how you experience your work through laughing, smiling and enjoyment, then Latin Americans have enjoyed the past 24 months the most.
If the difference is that simple, then why are there two (or more) measures in the first place? It's because the concepts measure very different aspects of someone's work: how they see their life and how they live their life. For example, if you take two women in the U.S. -- one with a child and one without a child -- who rates her life better? Statistically, the woman with a child does. But which woman experiences more stress? Also the woman with the child. So, the woman with the child may see her life as being better than the woman without a child, but the woman with the child also lives with more stress.
The drivers of both elements are also very different. For example, the single biggest driver of work evaluation ratings is money. In fact, the more money you make, the higher you rate your life. But money doesn't have the same effect on how you live your life. For example, in the U.S., after reaching an annual income of $75,000, money makes almost no difference in how someone lives his or her life. Some of the biggest drivers of how you live your life include social support, generosity and freedom.
This week, if you're wondering who the happiest workers in the world are, ask yourself whether you think happiness is how people see their lives or if it's how people live their lives. If it's the former, the results are predictable -- the wealthiest countries in the world top the list. If you think happiness is not so dependent on money and is based more on how much people report enjoyment, laughing and smiling -- then spend some time looking through the Gallup survey company’s Global Emotions Reports for the past few years. It’s interesting to note how the measure for workplace happiness, and the results, changes even across a short period of 12 months.