Australia's happiest worker is likely to be living in Tasmania

Salamanca Markets in Hobart. Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Australia’s happiest worker is likely an older woman, living in Tasmania some distance from Hobart and working no more than 38 hours a week in a small company with reasonable, but not excessive, pay.

Research by Curtin University for mwah (Making Work Absolutely Human), a startup that guides both employers and employees, goes in search of Australia’s happiest workers.

Women are more likely (31%) to report being “very satisfied” in their job than men (27%).

And the older they are, the happier the worker.

Just over 60% of workers in their 70s report feeling very satisfied with their job overall, compared with only 24% of Gen Y, 28% of Gen X and 33% of Baby Boomers.

But the more hours put in, the harder it gets. Satisfaction with job flexibility and hours of work decreases rapidly beyond 38 hours a week.

Australian men work on average 40 hours each week and women 31 hours. This chart shows the fall in satisfaction as working hours increase:

And getting out of densely populated areas seems to help. More than a third (38%) living in remote and very remote regions of Australia report being “very satisfied” with their job compared with only 27% in major cities.

About 12 million Australians will work an estimated total of 20 billion hours in paid employment this year.

An average Australian man can expect to spend half of their waking lives at a paying job and an average Australian woman about 38%.

The Curtin research looked at finding the happiest and unhappiest workers, and the factors contributing to greater satisfaction in the workplace.

Pay is associated with higher job satisfaction but only up to a point.

Those reporting being “very satisfied” with their job overall earn a lower average amount each week — $1,182 — than those that report being just “satisfied” at $1,267.

Tasmania is leading the way when it comes to happy workers.

Workers in the state reported the highest job satisfaction in the country with 35% “very satisfied”.

Western Australia and Victoria reported satisfaction rates of 28% each.

There is a clear association between smaller workplaces and greater job satisfaction, as this chart shows:

Australians who work for themselves or are employed in a micro-business with two to four people are more likely to report being very satisfied with their job.

“Australians who work for themselves or in small businesses, in the not-for-profit or government sector and workers that can do some of their work from home each week are more likely to be satisfied in their jobs,” says report author associate professor Rebecca Cassells from the Curtin Business School.

“The trade-off between happiness with certain aspects of a job and dissatisfaction with others is evident. It’s unlikely that any job will deliver everything that is needed to be happy at work, but certain things can help.”

Rhonda Brighton-Hall, the CEO of mwah, says the study shows pay isn’t everything.

“More importantly, it’s what you do, how you are able to go about your work and who is alongside you that matters the most when it comes to job satisfaction,” says Brighton-Hall.

“Work is a core component of our existence, our identity, our financial independence, and ultimately, our overall well-being.

“A happy workplace where people feel valued can increase productivity and innovation and reduce unwanted outcomes like employee absenteeism, workplace grievances and staff turnover.”

The research — Happy Workers, How Satisfied are Australians at Work — used the latest data from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey.

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