According to Savills What Workers Want Survey 2019, on average almost 60 per cent of workers in the European countries surveyed say they are happy with their workplace, led quite significantly by the Netherlands whose workers are almost 10 per cent happier than in any other country (see Happiness with current workplace, below).
Over recent years, happiness levels across Europe have increased, with the Office for National Statistics’ most recent measure of national wellbeing in the UK, for example, rising to its highest level since the survey began in 2012. So why are the Dutch the happiest?
On first glance, happiness in the workplace appears to be autonomous of economic data, where GDP growth is slowing across Europe and political and socio-economic challenges are on the rise, whether that’s Poland’s escalating tensions between its government and the EU, or Brexit in the UK. This autonomy can be attributed to the fact that the economy is actually working well for a lot of people and that many of the factors which contribute to happiness have improved over recent years.
A factor affecting happiness is employment. This is largely due to the fiscal benefit but also because most jobs provide a sense of belonging, structure and purpose. Anxiety and depression are four to 10 times more prevalent among people who have been unemployed for more than 12 weeks compared to those in work.
In the last 10 years, governments across Europe have proved remarkably effective in creating new jobs and lowering the employment rate. With the unemployment rate at just 3.4 per cent in the Netherlands it shows that employment may have an overall effect on happiness in the working environment.
Further, we have seen a significant shift from full-time jobs to more part-time, temporary work and self-employment given the rise of the gig economy. According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), the Netherlands has experienced a sharp rise in the number of individuals working as self-employed, with the share in total employment rising rapidly over the past decade.
This is the largest rise within the OECD countries. This statistic suggests that both employment levels and the rise in self-employment correlates to why people in the Netherlands are happiest.
Wealth is another reason Europeans, in particular, the Dutch, are happiest. According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, the Netherlands has moved up eight places, to fourth, ahead of France by median wealth per adult. This number has been shown to correlate to countries where there is a greater level of wealth equality.
Although the report does not give a reason for the increase in wealth, Het Financieele Dagblad suggests it could be due to rising house prices. Nevertheless, it is no surprise that people who feel they are wealthier with a greater level of wealth equality are happier than those who don’t.
According to IFMA Spain at its recent Workplace Summit, companies with healthy environments and happy employees can expect to see productivity and their overall market competitiveness increase by 20 per cent. Looking at Collective Hubs Top 15 Most Productive Countries, six of the countries listed are also listed as the happiest in the workplace with the Netherlands in ninth place for productivity.
It can be seen that countries with higher levels of productivity also appear to have higher levels of happiness within the workplace – 10 per cent of which, according to the University of California, is due to daily situations arising in the working environment.
Linked to this is the positive relationship between collaborative working and happiness. With over 60 per cent of Dutch employees working in an open-plan office, it is likely that they also collaborate more closely than many of their European counterparts.
It appears that employment rates, the design of the workplace alongside the rise in self-employment, wealth and productivity are all factors as to why the Dutch are much happier in the workplace than their European counterparts.
Happiness with current workplace?
This blog is inspired by Savills What Workers Want 2019 survey of over 11,000 office employees based in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The report examines the key issues driving office trends, including what workers expect from their employer as well as what working spaces might look like in the future.