Good days at work – how common are they and what causes them?

But how often do people around the world have good work days and what makes them good?

Being happy at work is not just about avoiding bad days – it requires having frequent good days, where we actively enjoy our work.

Our survey of more than 2,500 people worldwide shows often people have good work days are and reveals the main causes. Here are the most important findings.

1 in 3 have a good work day almost every day – but 1 in 5 very rarely do

This is how we defined “a good day” in the study:

A good day at work is one where you feel great on the job. You’re happy at work and you definitely feel like having more of those days.

Being happy a1 out of 3 respondents love their jobs and have a good work day every day or almost every day. That’s heartening, because being happy at work is not just about the absence of bad days – it’s very much about having many good days at work, characterized by positive emotions about your work.

But at the other end of the scale, 22% experience at most 2-3  good work days a month! This means that 80-90% of their work days are neutral at best and bad at worst. We fear it may be the latter. In our 2015 survey of “bad days at work”, 19% reported having a bad day at work every day or almost every day.

Good work days come from doing great work with great coworkers

Here comes what we think is the most interesting question: What makes a work day good?

We asked participants “The last time you had a good day at work, which factors in the workplace made it good?” The survey offered a long list of options and respondents could choose as many as were relevant.

Here are the top 5 single factors that cause good days at work:

  1. I did work that I knew was meaningful and made a positive difference for someone else
  2. I had freedom to work my own way
  3. I did work I was proud of
  4. I had fun with my coworkers
  5. did tasks that I enjoy doing

This clearly shows that it feels good to do good work. This contrasts with the depressingly common view that employees must constantly be externally motivated to perform either by the promise of rewards or the threat of reprisals. On the contrary, we seem to like nothing more than the opportunity to shine at work, especially when that work is meaningful and we have the freedom to work our own way.

Good relationships and fun with coworkers also matters and is one of the top causes of good work days.

Compensation and benefits matter the least

On the other hand, perks, promotions, financial rewards and physical workspace seem to matter very little.

Here are the 5 least popular choices in the survey from most to least rare:

  1. I recently got a promotion
  2. I recently got a raise
  3. I recently got a bonus or other financial reward
  4. Perks in the workplace, e.g. a massage, free food/drinks, office gym, etc.
  5. My manager helped me with my work

Tempting as it is to point to compensation and perks for creating happy work days, they do not have much of an influence.

We were sad to see “My manager helped me with my work” so far down on the list. Apparently that is either a very rare occurrence or just not a common source of happiness at work.

Bosses have more good work days than their employees

The people in the executive seat have the most good work days, followed by managers and at the bottom the employees have fewest good work days.

It is no surprise that executives and managers have more good work days than their employees. In short, the higher up in the hierarchy you are, the more good work days you have.

39% of executives have a good day at work every day or almost every day. The same is true for 29% of managers but only 27% of employees.

Bosses may have more responsibilities but they also have more autonomy and control, which makes them happier at work in almost every single study.

Public sector employees are happier than private sector counterparts

There is a perception that private sector workplaces are better than public sector ones, perhaps because they usually offer better salaries, perks and other benefits.

However, in this survey 35% of public sector workers report that they have good work days every day or nearly every day, whereas this is true for only 29% of people in the private sectorEmployees of NGOs seem to fare even worse – only 20% report having that many good work days.

This also fits with our 2015 survey of bad days at work which showed that there are more bad work days in the private sector than in the public sector.

Women and men have the same number of good work days

1,724 women participated in the survey but only 764 men. The data show that women and men have very nearly the same number of good work days.

Men and women value the same thing in the workplace

These are the top 6 factors that women say cause good work days:

  1. I did work that I knew was meaningful and made a positive difference for someone else
  2. I had freedom to work my own way
  3. I had fun with my coworkers
  4. I did work I was proud of
  5. I did tasks that I enjoy doing
  6. I made progress in my work

Men value the same 6 factors in a slightly different order:

  1. I did work I was proud of
  2. I had freedom to work my own way
  3. I did work that I knew was meaningful and made a positive difference for someone else
  4. I made progress in my work
  5. I did tasks that I enjoy doing
  6. I had fun with my coworkers

It seems that women value coworkers a little more than men, whereas men value progress in their work a little more.

Danes have by far the most good work days – Italians by far the fewest

When we compare all the countries where we have at least 100 respondents, there are huge variations in how many good work days people have.

A whopping 56% of Danes report having a good day at work every day or almost every day. Only 14% of Italians say the same. In fact, more Italians (16%) say they almost never have a good day at work.

Disclaimer: This disparity between Denmark and Italy is so large, it should definitely be taken with a grain of salt. This study has some major limitations, which we mention at the end.

Argentinians love freedom, Chileans love their coworkers and Brits and Americans love doing work they’re proud of

Workers in different countries value roughly the same factors that make their work days better, but there are national variations.

For each of the countries with at least 100 respondents, here is the top factor that makes them happy at work:

Europeans and North Americans have more good work days than South Americans

It seems that Europeans and North Americans are happiest at work and 66% have more than one good day at work every week whereas only 59% of Latin Americans report the same.

We didn’t get enough replies from Africa, Asia or the Pacific region to include them here.

Small workplaces have more good days

The number of employees at the workplace seems to affect how happy we are. 36% of people in workplaces with 1-10 employees report having a good work day every day or almost every day. The same is only true for 29% of people in bigger work places. We are surprised to see so little difference between workplaces with 11-100 people and those with more than 1,000.

3 overall areas make us happy at work

Looking across all respondents, there are 3 areas that make us particularly happy at work

1. Results

  • I did work that I knew was meaningful and made a positive difference for someone else (50.9%)
  • I did work I was proud of (49.2%)
  • I did tasks that I enjoyed doing (46.85%)
  • I made progress in my work (44.6%)

Here are some sample comments from respondents:

“My good days at work are defined by feeling accomplished and that I’ve made progress on the projects I’m working on. There is a fine line between being “busy” and being “engaged”.”

“Accomplishing something I enjoy doing that’s needed.”

“It’s fundamental for me to have the feeling of learning something and progressing in my tasks”

“Anything productive you do… is a happy day”

Getting things done, doing a good job, doing work that matters and adds value give us a sense of happiness. We need to be able to experience that we contribute and that our effort is needed.

2. Freedom

  • I had freedom to work my own way (50.8%)

Sample comments:

“Autonomy and freedom to make confident decisions”

“When my manager doesn’t micromanage my work.”

Even if this answer is it’s own category, it places a big second is important factors in our survey. The freedom to do you own work and the absence of micromanaging boss, is essential for our happiness at work.

3. Relationships

  • I had fun with my coworkers (47.0%)
  • People around me at work were happy which made me happy (36.8%)

Sample comments:

“Having fun with coworkers and a distracted place to work are essentials”

“When I get to share with co-workers either at lunch or during meetings.”

“The only bad days are when the office is empty or people are on holidays. its the people that make my company great”

Having people around you with a good, personal connection is crucial for your happiness at work.

Good work days give us more energy and make us happier after work

Of course good work days feel good but what are some other specific effects? Here are the top three responses to the question “How did having a good day at work affect you?”:

  1. It gave me more energy (71.4%)
  2. It made me happier after work (65.8%)
  3. It made me more relaxed and less stressed (61.9%)

It seems to be beneficial both for our work and also our personal life; the energy and happiness trickles into everything. People wrote comments like:

“They make it hard to go home, even though I love my home. They’re intoxicating!”

“I get so much more done in work when the days are good. If others are also having a good day that can be multiplied by at least 2 for each person who is having a good day because our happy, positive moods bounce off each other. I work in a service environment so it is my job to help people (I get a buzz out of that anyway) but just a single thank you can really change a day. ”

“They make me want to do my job!”

About the study

Map of all respondents

The survey ran from July-September 2018. 2,558 people from 81 countries completed the survey. You can see the survey questions here.

The study was conducted by Woohoo Inc and the data was analyzed by Miranda van Wonterghem.

It was supported by some of our great Woohoo inc Partners, including:

En el Fondo in ChilePeople 3.0 in ItalyHappy Office in the NetherlandsHappiness at work in the Czech RepublicGrupo Aukera Consultores in ArgentinaKatarzyna Kern in Poland, Happiness Catalyst in Japan, Tryangle in Belgium.

Here’s the full demographic breakdown of respondents.


  • Female: 1,724 / 68.8%
  • Male: 764 / 30.5%
  • Other/won’t answer: 19 / 0.7%


  • Private sector: 1,712 / 66.9%
  • Public sector: 543 / 21.2%
  • NGO / charity: 99 / 3.9%
  • Other / don’t know: 204 / 8.0%

Size of work place

  • 1-10 employees: 418 / 16.7%
  • 11-100 employees: 692 / 27.6%
  • 101-1000 employees: 616 / 24.5%
  • More than 1000 employees: 785 / 31.3%

Organisational level

  • Employee: 1,249 / 48.8%
  • Manager: 611 / 23.9%
  • Executive level: 312 / 12.2%
  • Other/Don’t know: 386 / 15.1%

Countries with at least 20 participants


  • Denmark (366)
  • Italy (347)
  • The Netherlands (235)
  • The UK (115)
  • Switzerland (47)
  • Germany (36)
  • Ireland (35)
  • France (33)
  • Belgium (28)
  • Czech Republic (21)

2. North America

  • USA (328)
  • Canada (35)

3. South America

  • Chile (348)
  • Argentina (272)

Limitations of this study

We believe this study has some interesting findings but we are also very aware that it has its limitations. Here are the main ones.

1: We are not statisticians or survey experts
There may well be mistakes or biases in the design of the survey that weaken the validity of the results.

2: We only measure frequency and not impact of the factors that cause good days
There was no option to say how much each of the factors contributed to a good work day – only that they did. Maybe some factors are rare but very important while others are common but don’t matter as much. This would not be reflected in the survey results.

3: Respondents may not be representative
We recruited respondents through our partners, newsletters and on social media, so there is no guarantee that they are representative of employees in general. For instance, nearly 70% of respondents are women.

4: Possible differences in the translation
The survey was available in English, Czech, Spanish, Japanese, Polish and Italian. It’s entirely possible that differences in the translations lead to different results.

About us

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This study was conducted by Woohoo inc. We are the world’s leading experts on happiness at work and have done hundreds of speeches and workshops for clients like IKEA, LEGO, Microsoft, HP, Hilton, IBM and many others.


Read more about our speeches and workshops here.

Our work has been featured in media outlets all over the world, including, CNN, BBC, New York Times, Times of India and many others.