21/11/2013 10:57 GMT

Unfulfilled At Work? 9 Steps To Career Satisfaction

Sam Edwards via Getty Images

Is the daily grind getting you down? You’re not alone. According to the Fulfilment@Work report from Randstad, a third (33%) of UK workers are dissatisfied with their jobs.

This will probably come as no surprise if you have ever endured a packed commuter train in the morning rush hour.

But the research also highlights that job satisfaction is consistently lower in the UK than in its key EU counterparts, including France, Germany, Belgium and Netherlands.

“Britain has a problem with professional fulfilment, with almost 10 million British employees saying they are not happy with their current employer, and the UK’s workers being less professionally satisfied than key peers internationally,” says Mark Bull, CEO of Randstad UK.

And when you consider the average full-time working Brit spends over 40 hours a week at work, to be unfulfilled in your job is to be unfulfilled with a large part of life – particularly when you factor in additional time spent thinking or worrying about work.

But what does job satisfaction mean to the average Brit?

According to the study, salary is not the driving factor. Of the 2,000 British workers questioned, 58% said it was a sense of satisfaction in their work while almost half (47%) said it was a sense of satisfaction in their work/life balance. Only 28% defined professional fulfilment as a sense of satisfaction in their salary while the same number equated it to the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

The findings suggest that intrinsic motivation is the biggest driver of work fulfilment. According to psychologists Deci and Ryan, motivation exists on a continuum with intrinsic motivation at one end and extrinsic at the other.

While extrinsic motivation is being driven by the end goal, such as to get paid or avoid punishment, intrinsic motivation is to enjoy the act, or the job, itself, for its own pleasure. And it is the latter that will have the greatest impact on our overall wellbeing, say Deci and Ryan.

This theory is echoed by the movement Action For Happiness, a movement for positive change, founded by British labour economist Baron Richar Layard.

Layard believes that “work can provide opportunities for many of the things that help to make us happy such as: connecting with others; learning and growing our skills; using our strengths; achieving our goals and finding meaning.”

And as the happiness of employees has an impact on productivity, not only at company level, but on a global scale with a knock-on effect on British economy, it is in the best interest of employers to develop strategies to improve and tackle this issue.

"We believe that employee fulfilment should matter to employers because it has a correlation with important factors such as retention and absenteeism and potentially UK worker productivity levels, which are currently below that of its international peers," says Bull.

As such Randstad offers a number of recommendations to employers, such as employing more women (they are more fulfilled than men, apparently), being mindful of pay structures and offering employees variety as well as autonomy in their work.

But on an individual level, how can we seize control of our own career fulfilment? Here are nine simple suggestions for a happier time at work...