People who make time for this at work are 21% more likely to be happy than those who don't

A woman takes an online training course.
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc | Getty Images

Taking time at work to focus on mastering a new skill, learning a new software program or tool, or even just reading widely about your industry can do wonders for you mentally — as well as professionally.

New research conducted by LinkedIn found that the best way to ensure that you're happy at your job is to spend more time learning.

Among the professionals surveyed, those who were "heavy" learners — devoting more than five hours a week to things like reading, taking classes and watching online courses — reported being happier, less stressed, more productive and more confident than those who spent less time learning.

For instance, when compared to "light" learners, those who commit an hour or less each week, heavy learners were:

  • 74 percent more likely to know where they want to go in their career
  • 48 percent more likely to have found purpose in their work
  • 47 percent less likely to be stressed at work
  • 39 percent more likely to feel productive and successful
  • 21 percent more likely to feel confident in their work
  • And finally, 21 percent more likely to be happy at work

Heavy learners see almost three times as many positive results as light learners says Josh Bersin, an HR industry analyst who developed the survey with LinkedIn.

Those who said they spent between one and five hours a week on education also had much happier work lives than the light learners (though not as happy as those of heavy learners.) They reported being 14 percent happier than light learners did, 13 percent less stressed, 16 percent more productive and 32 percent more likely to know where they want to go in their career.

"There is a clear relationship between time spent learning and a person's career satisfaction, career prospects and general happiness," says Bersin. "People who either have the time or make the time to educate themselves are performing at higher levels."

The bad news? Few of us are actually heavy learners.

Of the 2,049 workers surveyed, including freelancers and entrepreneurs, in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Australia, India, Singapore, and Hong Kong, only 7 percent said they spent five hours or more a week learning. That number may even skew a little high, admits Bersin, as LinkedIn only queried people who had recently paid for some form of online learning with the company.

Most of people fall into one of the two other learning groups: 47 percent are "medium" learners, spending 1-5 hours a week educating themselves, and 46 percent are "light" learners, spending less than an hour a week.

It's an understandable reality, when you consider that two-thirds of workers already spend more than 40 hours a week at work performing necessary tasks. Bersin says that one key way to free up time in your week for more learning activities is simply to cut back on communications.

"One of the big messages I took out of this research is that people are so distracted at work that they need to force themselves to limit interacting," says Bersin.

Things like email, social media and meetings eat up so much of a person's day that it leaves little extra time for this kind of learning, he adds. More than a quarter of people admit they waste a day a week on emails and messages that don't contribute to their jobs, the survey found.

"This is also a call on leaders and management to recognize that they need to give employees time to improve their core skills," says Bersin. "It will pay off."

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See also: Here are the 25 most attractive start-ups to work for, according to LinkedIn

Avoid the mistakes this author made when cold-emailing Tim Ferriss
Avoid the mistakes this author made when cold-emailing Tim Ferriss