Job happiness linked to good workplace relationships - study

The study looked into job satisfaction in Israel between 2002 and 2021 and found that satisfaction rose in that time.

 Illustrative image of people in an office. (photo credit: PEXELS)
Illustrative image of people in an office.
(photo credit: PEXELS)

While the current period carries the weight of the hi-tech sector’s continued decline and economic turbulence throughout the country, up until two years ago Israelis were pretty satisfied with their jobs, according to a recent study conducted by Taub Center researcher Haim Bleikh, on job satisfaction trends among Israeli workers from 2002 to 2021.

This significant period encompassed various economic challenges, including the aftermath of the early 2000s recession, the global economic crisis in 2008, and the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

The study began with a baseline of high job satisfaction rates in 2002, as 83% of Israeli workers expressed satisfaction or high satisfaction with their jobs at the start of the analysis.

This trend was consistent across various demographic groups, such as gender, employment type (self-employed or salaried), and public versus private sector positions, as well as educational backgrounds. Between 2002 and 2019, job satisfaction rates increased even further, reaching an impressive 89%, with most of this rise occurring up to 2011.

Surprisingly, the initial year of the COVID pandemic, 2020, also witnessed a rise in job satisfaction, presumably influenced by factors like job retention, return to work after unemployment, and receiving unemployment benefits during furloughs.

Good work relationships are key

Remarkably, the data from 2021 indicated a continuation of this trend, with a notable increase in job satisfaction among public sector employees (from 92% to 95%) and a slight decrease among the self-employed (from 94% to 92%).

Among the factors affecting job satisfaction, workplace relations emerged as the most influential, followed closely by compensation. The study focused on salaried workers ages 25 to 64, examining four key elements: compensation, workplace relations, job insecurity, and work-life balance.

Workplace relations, encompassing interactions among colleagues and superiors, proved to be the primary driver of job satisfaction, particularly among women, as the study revealed that they generally receive more support from supervisors and colleagues than their male counterparts.

A RECENT Pew study found that more than 50% of employees don’t want to return to office life. (credit: ISRAEL ANDRADE/UNSPLASH)
A RECENT Pew study found that more than 50% of employees don’t want to return to office life. (credit: ISRAEL ANDRADE/UNSPLASH)

The large importance of workplace relations holds special significance considering the ongoing debate regarding remote and on-site work arrangements in modern workplaces.

“The practicalities of working from home, which has widened since the pandemic, has many advantages, among them a contribution to overall satisfaction with the work-life balance,” explained Bleikh.

“Nevertheless, it also weakens the advantages of face-to-face encounters for workers and employers and sharpens the dilemma that many employers face in creating the proper work-life balance in the office. Decisions reached will have implications for the organization, among them worker productivity, loyalty to the company and organization, apprenticeships and professional oversight, onboarding of new workers, and keeping workers.”

Work-life balance emerged as a crucial factor, considering the increasing number of women in the workforce and the rise of dual-income households. Women, in particular, faced challenges in balancing work and family responsibilities. The study found that organizational practices, such as flexible working hours and remote work, significantly influenced work-life balance and job satisfaction.

The study highlighted distinct gender differences in job satisfaction factors. Job security and advancement prospects were more crucial for men’s job satisfaction, likely due to their traditional role as primary wage earners in households.

Throughout the analysis, feelings of job insecurity initially declined in Israel until 2019 but surged in 2020 during the pandemic, particularly among the self-employed. Fortunately, in 2021, job security levels improved among employees and the self-employed, though some disparities persisted.

Regarding income and compensation, job satisfaction was significantly influenced by satisfaction with wages, including additional benefits such as continuing education funds and vacation days. Although income satisfaction showed an overall upward trend until 2019, it witnessed a substantial rise in 2020, possibly attributable to the pandemic’s effects.

However, in 2021, satisfaction with income slightly decreased among employees but rose among the self-employed. Notably, public sector employees experienced a sharp decline in income satisfaction, though it remained higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The author of the study emphasized that compensation was not the sole determinant of job satisfaction, as other factors played cumulative roles.

“Despite what most people think, wages are not the principal factor that determines job satisfaction; rather, there is a combination of factors that contribute to it. In all, compensation has less of an influence on job satisfaction than the cumulative value of the other factors,” said Bleikh.

Israel’s wage gap issue

In analyzing the connection between job satisfaction and income, Bleikh noted that “Since this factor is weaker among women, it is possible that this is a factor that also impacts gender wage gaps in Israel, or that the gap is influenced by it.”

Despite a 2022 report from the Taub Center claiming that the gender pay gap in Israel has been decreasing in recent years, women’s wages are still lower than men’s on average, both monthly and hourly. This gap is particularly significant when compared to other countries. In 2018, Israel had the second highest median wage gap among OECD countries, at 22.7%, between male and female full-time employees.

Regarding the hi-tech sector in particular, recent data from the Israeli company Compete shows that only 3% of CEOs in Israel’s hi-tech industry are women, and the gender pay gap stands at 30%.

Speaking at a women’s wage equality conference last year, the director of the women’s financial independence organization Ovrot v’Shovot, Yael Weiner, explained that in order to overcome the substantial gender gap, it is crucial to discuss “what barriers women need to break and what abilities to adopt in order to position themselves higher in the world of employment and demand equal pay.

“We believe that financial independence and security in dealing with money is often the basis for independence in general,” she said. “Both in the home and in the world of work.”