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Buffalo News’ Top Workplaces aims to assess the best places to work in Western New York

Feeling good about going to work can improve your life, in the same way that dreading going to work can diminish it.

When you consider how much time – during our most vibrant years – we spend at work, it becomes clear how fortunate are those people who really like their workplaces.

But where are these great places to work? How do we find them? And what makes them so appealing?

Those are some of the questions that the Top Workplaces 2014 survey seeks to answer. The Buffalo News teamed up with a company called Workplace Dynamics to survey employees about where they work. It is a process The News plans to continue in future years, building participation and gaining a better picture of Western New York’s workplaces.

Numerous other newspapers across the country have been doing these surveys for years, yielding some interesting portraits of the places Americans spend most of their waking hours.

As this is our first attempt at the survey, participation was spirited, but far from robust. In all, 61 companies participated, with 7,979 employees filling out surveys. We are expecting those numbers to rise in future years.

Employees were asked 25 questions about whether they feel appreciated, the level of frustration at their workplace, are they paid fairly, do they have the flexibility to balance work and personal life, and many others.

What emerged from Western New York companies is a pretty positive picture.

We generally like our bosses, think our companies are ethical and believe they are heading in the right direction. But most of us feel we are not paid enough.

We like the flexibility our bosses give us to deal with personal or family issues.

That is obviously an oversimplification – there are plenty of workers who do not feel this way – but the respondents to this survey were a pretty happy group.

Our hope is that as this exercise grows, a clearer picture of our offices, factories, bosses and co-workers will emerge.

The contest is designed to highlight the best places to work. It bores in on what aspects of the workplace are most important to employees and how the companies are meeting their expectations.

Because it is a contest, and companies are invited to participate, it tends to highlight the better places to work, where people are happiest. But in explaining what they like about their jobs, people are sending a strong message to all companies about how to make the workplace more enjoyable.