It seems job-envy too often arises out of strictly quantitative comparisons of people’s wellbeing. You know the numbers we mean: Your salary, your work hours, the square footage of your loft, the price tag on your car, dimensions of your television. Those things are all well and good, but wellness and goodness are not all those things. By the same token that money doesn’t buy happiness, what really makes life worth living or a job worth doing probably can’t be expressed by any sort of numbers, let alone those sorts of numbers. All the same, we’re here to show you some possibly relevant stats.
Last year, Gallup conducted over 170,000 interviews with employed Americans and from this, compiled a poignant index that compares kinds of jobs by their associated wellbeing. Their ranking includes the percentage of workers who feel they use their strengths at work, workers who manage to exercise and eat well and regularly, and 52 other job-influenced factors like salary and obesity rate. Ladies and gentlemen: we now have the ultimate list of job-envy.
Of course, these are overwhelming generalizations of human experience and the employment landscape, but Gallup’s efforts probably help restructure our often-alienated perspective of making a living. If modern culture overemphasizes life satisfaction in terms of money and assets, studies like these help shift the dialogue to truer items of success like health and emotional satisfaction, highlighting a broader pursuit of happiness that — in this age of huge wealth discrepancies — appears to have escaped the American dream.
Take a moment to see where your job lands on this snapshot of career wellbeing in the 21st century.
10 Construction or mining: 66.1
Construction workers and miners naturally get some of the most exercise among the employed, and the data even registers both positive treatments from supervisors and usage of strengths. We tend to emblemize these fields with gritty men wrestling jackhammers in the blazing sun and/or coughing up a lung. But imagine chronicling your progress week after week on tangible things being built or unbuilt — in this digital and virtual day and age, how can you not envy that at least a little? Nevertheless, being some of the toughest gigs out there, even though therein lies their appeal, ranks them on the lower side of the well being index.
9 Sales: 68
Some say sales work in large part relies on duplicity and projecting an image. If so, their general fitness level almost seems symbolic of the job — sales workers have the fifth lowest obesity rate among jobs surveyed, yet the sixth worst among eating habits and the fourth worst among regular exercise. But dealing on ground zero of the economy has its pros as well as cons. Sales ranks poorly for usage of strengths but fairly strongly for treatment by supervisors, and the potential for high earnings certainly earns it some wellness points.
8 Clerical or office: 68.1
Strong fingers, weak posture; if sitting really is the new smoking, it’s time for mandatory health ads on all office chair arm rests. “Sitting can make you infertile.” Gallup’s data reveals less than 50% of surveyed office workers maintain healthy exercise habits, so they're pretty high on the obesity charts. Unfortunately clerical workers also rank the lowest for registering use of strengths at work. The job’s redeeming qualities seem to include reliable pay, regular eating habits and the comfort of an office atmosphere.
7 Farming, fishing or forestry: 68.1
Making a living in the great outdoors can be an appealing prospect; those who already do will probably tell you there’s no substitute. Farming, fishing and forestry are the kinds of careers you never need to ask why someone gets into. 66% of them register healthy exercise every week — the very best among careers surveyed — and they score third highest for supervisor relationships. Unfortunately they don't fare exceptionally in Gallup’s other criteria like eating regular produce (yes, not even farmers).
6 Nurse: 71.6
“I hate nurses” is one sentence you’ll probably never hear in your lifetime. It’s essential, reputable and personable work that has a directly positive impact on people’s lives, and while that’s enough in itself, nursing also scores highly on just about every one of Gallup’s criteria. Nurses hold the second greatest likelihood to say they use their strengths at work and the very greatest likelihood of eating well and regularly. The only supposed downside? Relationship with supervisors. With only 57% of nurses claim to be treated like partners - it's possible physicians like to exercise their power positions in the workplace.
5 Manager, executive or official: 72.3
Respect can be a driving force for any career. Attaining higher positions in a given field means more responsibility in exchange for better pay, higher social status, and - if you're the type - more job fulfillment. And since authority is their trade, managers, executive and officials are set when it comes to treatment by supervisors and usage of strengths. However, that greater responsibility equals less headspace to pursue regular exercise and address more holistic factors of well being, like diet. All the same, coming in at fifth on the wellness index it’s no surprise that so many aspire to climb their career ladders to executive heights.
4 Professional (excluding physicians, nurses and teachers): 73
Professional work encompasses a broad range of expertise, but the ability to be rewarded for exceptional work seems to be the common thread. Such rewards, like an executive position, generally focus on higher pay and recognition. But since professionals also bring a certain degree of mastery to a given field, they both score the very highest on Gallup’s index for amiable treatment by supervisors, yet lag behind other careers in using their full range of strengths. But ambitious and goal-oriented, professionals’ job successes generally lie in their own hands, meaning they have some of the best opportunities for personal wellness despite only average prospects for maintaining strong fitness and health.
3 Business owner: 73.4
For many workers, being a business owner is the occupational equivalent of living the dream. If you can overcome the obstacles, the stress and the uncertainty of taking economic security entirely into your own hands, the rewards can be vast and complete. Calling the shots for a living and setting your own hours equals some of the greatest opportunities to fulfill a whole portrait of wellness — from diet, to fitness, to leisure time, to a social life. Yes, it would seem business owners have got it all, if not for one wellness indicator: While you may be your own boss, running a business still keeps you beholden to one thing — money. Whether it’s your financiers (leg-breakers, literally or figuratively) or your own personal savings, business owners answer only to the holy dollar, and that’s one cold supervisor to have.
2 Teacher (K-12): 73.5
In hard economic times budget cuts usually make teachers among the first to feel the pinch; so naturally, much is said these days about the state of teaching in North America. Working so closely with kids, though, is youthfully invigorating - in practicing the simple wisdom they preach, teachers feel fulfilled in usage of their strengths, well-treated by their headmasters (former fellow teachers), and manage to eat and exercise well according to Gallup’s research. While nostalgia for youth almost sounds like a slur against a teaching professional, embracing that nostalgia seems to be more fulfilling than deserting it.
1 Physician: 78
Surprised? Physicians are basically modern day magicians to most people. When something is wrong with you, the doctor makes it right. Fortunately, unlike the apothecaries of olden times, doctors now go through rigorous training in an arduous schooling system that diffuses an objective understanding of wellness lying at the very heart of modern society. Unfortunately, just like the apothecaries of olden times much of their job still entails selling “medicines” concocted by big pharma. But we digress —physicians are the face of wellness in the modern age, and the research shows they play the part far better than any other career. They rank first in using strengths and highest or near-highest in most other well being indicators. Their worst shortcoming? Treatment by supervisors.