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Abstract:

cover
CEP Discussion Paper
Are You Happy While You Work?
Alex Bryson and George MacKerron
February 2013
Paper No' CEPDP1187:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: I1; J0; J28


Tags: happiness; relaxation; work; wellbeing

Recent work in psychology and economics has investigated ways in which individuals experience their lives. This literature includes influences on individuals’ momentary happiness. We contribute to this literature using a new data source, Mappiness (www.mappiness.org.uk), which permits individuals to record their wellbeing via a smartphone. The data contain more than a million observations on tens of thousands of individuals in the UK, collected since August 2010. We explore the links between individuals’ wellbeing measured momentarily at random points in time and their experiences of paid work. We explore variation in wellbeing within-individual over time having accounted for fixed unobservable differences across people. We quantify the effects of working on individuals’ affect relative to other activities they perform. We consider the effects of working on two aspects of affect: happiness and relaxation. We find paid work is ranked lower than any of the other 39 activities individuals engage in, with the exception of being sick in bed. Although controlling for other factors, including person fixed effects, reduces the size of the association its rank position remains the same and the effect is still equivalent to a 7-8% reduction in happiness relative to circumstances in which one is not working. Paid work has a similar though slightly larger negative impact on being relaxed. However, precisely how unhappy or anxious one is while working depends on the circumstances. Wellbeing at work varies significantly with where you work (at home, at work, elsewhere); whether you are combining work with other activities; whether you are alone or with others; and the time of day or night you are working.

This paper has been published as:
'Are you happy while you work?', Alex Bryson and George MacKerron, The Economic Journal, Volume 127, Issue 599, February 2017