Job Satisfaction: The Secret Agent in Well-being

Having conversations within organizations about the content shared here can illuminate workforce-specific challenges and solutions. This article can help businesses re-examine organizational practices and policies that influence job satisfaction and overall well-being. 

January 09, 2020

The Job Satisfaction: The Secret Agent of Well-being guide can help businesses re-examine organizational practices and policies that influence job satisfaction and overall well-being.

The Job Satisfaction: The Secret Agent of Well-being article can help businesses re-examine organizational practices and policies that influence job satisfaction and overall well-being. The right approach to engaging the workforce will vary by employer, and moreover by local teams. Having conversations within organizations about the content shared here can illuminate workforce-specific challenges and solutions.

This resource is intended for HR/Benefits practitioners, managers, executives and employees, because individuals at all levels can be champions for change and play an important role in shaping the workplace culture. Organizations don’t change, people do!

HR/Benefits Practitioners can use this resource to benchmark their programs and policies, boost existing efforts and inspire future initiatives.  Managers can use this resource to get an overview of job satisfaction paradigms and learn current, innovative strategies to engage their employees.  Executives can use this resource to make informed, strategic decisions that have a positive impact on their workforce and business priorities.  Employees can use this resource to see the bigger picture and become an advocate for changes they believe will optimize the work environment 

Introduction to Job Satisfaction

Drivers of Employee Well-being

Evidence shows that job satisfaction is integral to one’s overall well-being. According to Gallup, people with high career well-being are more than twice as likely to have high overall well-being.

Job satisfaction impacts and is impacted by the other four dimensions of well-being: social connectedness, physical heath, emotional heath and financial security.

A systematic review of the link between job satisfaction and health found it was most strongly associated with mental health, such as depression, anxiety, burnout, self-esteem and sleep problems.

Study Finds Job Dissatisfaction has Negative Impact on Health by Age 40

Dirlam and Zheng investigated the relationship between job satisfaction and health using a life-course approach. They found job satisfaction, or lack of it, between ages 25-29 has a cumulative effect on health as early as age 40. Those with the lowest job satisfaction had the worst health. However, individuals who started their career with low job satisfaction and trended up did not experience the health problems associated with consistently low or declining job satisfaction. Furthermore, job satisfaction affected mental health more than physical health.

The higher levels of mental health problems for those with low job satisfaction may be a precursor to future physical problems. Increased anxiety and depression could lead to cardiovascular or other health problems that won't show up until they are older.

Hui Zheng, Associate Professor of Sociology at Ohio State

What is Job Satisfaction?

While job satisfaction is discussed on a regular basis, there is not one definition for the concept. Here are some popular ways to define job satisfaction from the research literature:

What is job satisfaction? 


Job Satisfaction and Employee Engagement

Contributors to job satisfaction are often linked to employee engagement. They influence capacity of employees and reasons to engage. Most likely, an engaged employee is also satisfied. However, a satisfied employee may have low engagement. The workforce approach to address both is to create an experience that allows employees to thrive.

Job satisfaction refers to how employees feel about their job and other conditions, such as compensation, benefits, relationships, flexibilities and developmental opportunities

Employee engagement refers to employees’ passion and commitment in their work, their overall attachment to the organization and the discretionary effort they are willing to expend

I would suggest that using the word ‘engagement’ often limits our thinking. It assumes that our job is to reach out and ‘engage’ people, rather than to build an organization that is exciting, fulfilling, meaningful, and fun.

Josh Bersin, Forbes Contributor

Employee Satisfaction may Increase Business-Unit Outcomes, Including Profit

A meta-analysis based on 7,939 business units in 36 companies found both employee satisfaction and engagement are correlated to meaningful business outcomes. The Gallup Workplace Audit which includes an overall satisfaction item and a 12 item engagement index was used. The strongest effects were found with employee turnover, customer satisfaction-loyalty and safety. Correlations were positive and generalizable for productivity and profitability but at a lower magnitude.

It seems clear from these data that companies could learn a great deal about the management talents and practices that drive business outcomes if they study their own top-scoring employee engagement business units.

James K. Harter, Frank L. Schmidt and Theodore L. Hayes

Job Satisfaction and Its Connection to Other Components of Well-being

  • Perceptions of pay fairness are positively correlated with employee engagement and work-life satisfaction, and negatively correlated with turnover intentions and work stress. Furthermore, job security (specifically the prospect of job and salary loss) has a strong correlation with job satisfaction.
  • Job satisfaction is more strongly associated with mental/psychological problems than with physical complaints.
  • Work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%, and employees with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to fully engage.
  • Amount of pleasure or contentment associated with a job. DuBrin, 1988
  • Job satisfaction is correlated positively with mental health characteristics, such as depression, anxiety, self-esteem and general mental health. The correlation with physical health was more modest.
  • Psychological well-being moderates the relation between job satisfaction and performance. Performance is highest when employees report both high psychological well-being and job satisfaction.
  • Insomnia is associated with reduced job satisfaction.

Strategic Partners for Job Satisfaction

Engagement of multiple stakeholders can increase access to resources and enable successful transformation. Find ways to add value to potential partners and build strategic relationships that can be leveraged to integrate drivers of job satisfaction and strategies for overall well-being throughout the organization. Here are some possible allies:

  • Well-being and Benefits Professionals
  • Learning & Development Practitioners
  • EAP Counselors
  • Diversity and Inclusion Specialists
  • Health Coaches
  • Wellness Champions
  • Corporate Social Responsibility Teams
  • Employee Affinity Groups
  • Senior Leaders
  • Managers
  • Team Leads
  • Unions
  • Facility Managers
  • OHS Practitioners
  • Other HR Teams

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More in Well-being and Workforce Strategy


  1. Introduction to Job Satisfaction
  2. What is Job Satisfaction?
  3. Job Satisfaction and Employee Engagement
  4. Employee Satisfaction may Increase Business-Unit Outcomes, Including Profit
  5. Job Satisfaction and Its Connection to Other Components of Well-being
  6. Strategic Partners for Job Satisfaction