Measuring Team Happiness

Recently I was in the assessment phase for a client. The group I was focusing on was considered highly productive but as a result there were concerns about burn-out. To help determine the potential, a key component of the assessment was focused around team happiness.

Measuring team happiness, if done at all, often takes the form of simply asking "are you happy?" and getting the response from 1 (not happy) to 5 (very happy). This may take the form of a survey, but often is done at the retrospective.

Happiness is an inside job
— William Arthur Ward

Although better than nothing, there are several issues with this approach. First off, no matter the method of collection, giving your answer in front of others will influence the answer you give.  There are many causes, from a lack of safety to a tendency to skew to the norm. This can happen consciously or unconsciously.

Another issue is that, although the simplicity is one of the reason people like it, the question is really too simple to get meaningful, actionable information.  Is it the workload, the environment, the teammates, a supervisor, pay, benefits, or a source outside the workplace?  This can make it impossible to try and take action in a meaningful way.

Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.
— Benjamin Disraeli

Below are a set of questions that I think help narrow the focus a bit more.  I try to keep it to only five questions and will rotate in alternatives based on the current situation.

  • I enjoy the work that I do
  • I am able to maintain a healthy Work/Life balance
  • I am able to contribute to my team in a meaningful way
  • The work that I do is valuable to my company
  • I have the support I need to do my job


  • I am challenged by the work I do
  • I have a clear understanding of my team's goals and priorities
  • I have the time necessary to complete my work to a high level of quality
  • I have the resources necessary to complete my work to a high level of quality
  • I enjoy coming to work
  • I have the time and resources to meaningfully improve my skills
  • I am happy with my job and the work I do

Using these kinds of questions can help you narrow in on what you may be doing well and where you may be failing.  Note that the questions are not overloaded, such as: "I enjoy the work that I do and feel challenged."  There are two possibly conflicting statements here.

Also all of the questions fit a single format, a "Strong Disagree - Strongly Agree" scale of 1 to 5.  This allows the person answering the questions to complete all 5 in just a few seconds without having to cognitively reset to a new question format.  If you intend to ask the question on a regular basis (per Iteration or release), you want something they can complete quickly with minimal hassle.

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.
— Thomas Merton

There are lots of blogs and articles out there on this topic, before rolling out a Happiness metric, be sure to do some research and find what works best for your team.