The study examined 4,894 full-time employees to determine what factors give the biggest lift to their sense of well-being at work. The results were clear: No amount of vacation time makes up for feeling one's job is boring and pointless.
"Though vacation time and flextime were associated with higher well-being, those who were engaged in their work but took less than one week of vacation had 25% higher overall well-being than actively disengaged employees, even those with six or more weeks of vacation," commented Gallup research manager Sangeeta Agrawal.
Flextime and vacation had an impact on well-being--flextime in particular appears to have a positive impact on employees' happiness levels--but this simply isn't big enough to offset the gloom on a less than engaging gig.
"Fewer hours, more vacation time, and flextime cannot fully offset the negative effects of a disengaging workplace on well-being." --Gallup chief scientist Jim Harter
"Fewer hours, more vacation time, and flextime cannot fully offset the negative effects of a disengaging workplace on well-being," said Jim Harter, Gallup's chief scientist.
The findings are clearly of interest to workers who are, say, evaluating competing job offers or considering which career trajectory is likely to make them most satisfied. But the lessons are perhaps even more definitive for small business owners.
Sure, work-life balance friendly policies will win you some points with your team, but nothing can make up for feeling unengaged at work. So rather than fretting first about the hours your employees work, think more about ensuring they understand the usefulness of their work, are actively engaged in it, and are empowered enough that they feel like their day-to-day duties make a real impact.
JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist. @EntryLevelRebel