When it comes to living space and work culture, people often think bigger is better and less is more, but just how big do our homes need to be and how much should our working hours shrink to make us happy?
By analysing the happiest countries in the World Happiness Report by the United Nations, AnyJunk looks at whether the size of someone’s home has a direct correlation with their happiness, and how work-life balance and other daily norms can have a major impact on well-being.
Meet Some of the Happiest Countries in the World
- New Zealand
What Makes a Happy Country?
Two things that almost all the happiest countries have in common are space and work-life balance.
Norway and other Nordic countries
With 5.3 million people living in Norway, it’s one of the most scarcely populated countries in the world, roughly 14 people per square kilometre – and the happiest according to the report.
In addition to the extra space, many Nordic countries enjoy free university education, free healthcare, generous maternity leave and generous unemployment benefits. In Sweden, 10th on the list, employees enjoy a six-hour working day, flexible hours and options to work from home.
There is also little inequality – a CEO makes about three times as much as an average worker, a stark contrast to many other countries where a CEO makes many thousands of times as much as an average worker. Overall, work and life balance is evident in the happy, Nordic countries.
In Australia,home sizes have, from 1950 until today, more than doubled in size, increasing from an average of 1076.4 sq. ft. to a whopping 2583,34 sq. ft. As the 9th happiest country, it certainly seems as if bigger is better when it comes to living space.
As for work-life balance, the national employment standards state that employees cannot work more than 38 hours a week, and with HR consulting firm Robert Half finding that 84% of Australian office workers are happy in their current job. It’s clear that happiness is not just measured by the size of a home, but also by how content people are at work – 74% of Australian office workers state they are happy about their work-life balance.
A Work in Progress
England, which ranks 19th on the World Happiness Report, is home to some of the most cramped living conditions in Europe. A study conducted by Find Me A Floor found that houses in England measure a mere 850 sq. ft., smaller than the size of an Australian home in the 1950s – Brits are living in increasingly small homes, and they’re not happy about it. It’s no surprise then, that Australia has been named the number one destination for Brits to emigrate to.
According to Course Library, more than 56% of UK workers aren’t happy with their existing jobs. Even with a diverse and multicultural working environment, elements like having to take work home, little room for growth and not enough opportunities for further training contribute to employee unhappiness in the UK.
For a country revered as a business and holiday destination, Hong Kong only comes in at 71 on the list of the world’s happiest countries. Just over half the size of a small English home, Hong Kong’s typical shoe-box houses measure a mere 484 sq. ft., and at least five Hong Kong homes could fit into one Australian home.
In addition, JobsDB.com found that six out of ten Hong Kong workers are unhappy with their job, and another study by global market intelligence firm IDC found that only 28% of workers find their work engaging and satisfactory, which could also contribute to their low happiness rating.
AnyJunk founder, Jason Mohr, had this to say about the size of one’s home and happiness:
“There is a common misconception that a bigger home means more space, and that a smaller home means more clutter. You’d be surprised how many possessions get thrown out of people’s homes, whether a small apartment, or a large family home – the more people own the more they need to chuck out. When your home consists of things that are used often, and are needed, then the size of your home doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it.”
From the World Happiness Report, and our findings on each country, it’s clear that while it certainly might add to our happiness, it takes a lot more than the size of a home to be truly content. With most of our time spent at work, it’s important to look at the correlation between happiness and work, including pay, hours worked, and opportunities for growth, as well as a host of other factors that contribute to our daily well-being.