15 Expert-Backed Tactics for Being Happier at Work
Breaking news: In 2013, unhappy employees outnumbered happy ones by two to one worldwide, according to Gallup. Based on studies that took place in 142 countries and contained approximately 180 million employees, only “13% of employees worldwide are happily engaged at work.”
Of course, you probably didn’t need statistics to know that. Being miserable at work has just become a way of life. Or, has it?
I’ve been trying to be happier each and every day. With 2014 coming to an end, it’s time to turn over that new leaf and start actually being happy at work. But how can you accomplish such a seemingly hopeless task?
Try these 15 proven tactics that will make you happy at your workplace.
1. Have a Sense of Meaning
In 1983, Steve Jobs convinced future Apple CEO John Sculley to leave his job at PepsiCo by asking him one question: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”
Why was this so effective? Besides sparking his curiosity and imagination, it gave Scully the chance to do meaningful work. This has been backed by research from Wharton management professor Adam Grant, who has found that “employees who know how their work has a meaningful, positive impact on others are not just happier than those who don’t; they are vastly more productive, too.” Additional research from Harvard professor Teresa Amabile has discovered that no matter the size of a goal—whether curing cancer or helping a colleague—having a sense of meaning can contribute to happiness in the workplace.
2. Create an “Office Nest”
Jennifer Star, a founding partner of the Balance Team, notes on Monster that since you spend so much time at work, if you want to improve your happiness there you should “make your space your own, decorate your area as much as your company policy permits, and make yourself as comfortable and relaxed as you can be in your office.”
3. Find a Work Best Friend
Research from my free hosting startup Hostt has found “that having a best friend at work can turn a moderately engaged worker into a highly engaged worker.” When I hire people, I try and really pay attention to referrals of workers. When workers are engaged in friendships they contribute more to the bottom line. Christine Riordan states in the Harvard Business Review that employees who “have friends at work perceive their job as more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile, and satisfying.” Furthermore, having friends at work can create a support system, comradery, and a sense of loyalty.
Something as simple as smiling can improve your happiness at work because it tells your brain to be more happy—thanks to the release of neuropeptides. Smiling is also contagious and will make your co-workers smile as well.
5. Leave Personal Problems at Home
Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out, informs CBS News that “when your personal life is in tumult, a lot of emotional hijacking goes on. Emotions consume you and stress exhausts you.” When it happens that you have an inordinate amount of stress, it will seem like your work is never ending, you will watch the clock, and you will be distracted from being more productive.
While it’s easy for your personal life to carry over into your professional life, make sure that you attend to personal matters before heading out for the workday.
6. Be Future Oriented
According to experts like Geoffrey James, “you’ll make better decisions and be more satisfied with your results if you know that most of what you’re doing in your work at this time still fits into your long-term plans and goals. That’s only possible if you keep those plans and goals in the forefront.”
7. Say Thank You
Based on experiments from Professor Francesca Gino of the Harvard Business School and Professor Adam Grant of the Wharton School, “receiving expressions of gratitude makes us feel a heightened sense of self-worth, and that in turn triggers other helpful behaviors toward both the person we are helping and other people that are around us, too.”
In fact, their experiments have discovered that 66% of students helped a fellow student named “Eric” because he thanked them in advance for reviewing his cover letter.
Instead of just saying “thank you” to your peers—and even receptionists and maintenance—you can be proactive and ask for feedback to receive some much-deserved gratitude. Definitely don’t ask again if a person you have previously asked is determined to make you feel unappreciated or if they are continually condemning you or your team.
8. Take a Breather
It’s incredibly easy to get burned out during the workday. That’s why you need to take a minute and breathe before moving on to your next task. Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness at Work, informs Business Insider that “without some breathing space in the face of constant demands, we won’t be creative, competent, or cheerful.” She also adds that by not taking a break, “we won’t get along with others as well, and we won’t take criticism without the possibility of imploding. It is a must to control the level of our daily stress.”
My friend and marketing expert Liv Longley states that employees also need to take time off to recharge from the stress of work. In fact, taking a vacation not only relieves stress and recharges us, it can also improve our overall health and make us more productive at work.
9. Eat Healthy and Stay Hydrated
According to Shirly Weiss, a certified holistic health and nutritional counselor and consulting expert for the Balance Team, “maintaining a good diet and keeping yourself properly hydrated throughout your workday can really make a big difference in your energy level and attitude.”
Instead of hitting the vending machine for lunch, have meals that involve yogurt, asparagus, honey, and cherry tomatoes. Eating foods that keep your blood sugar within a normal range will stop headaches and fatigue, as well as help you concentrate better.
10. Get Organized
Chrystal Doucette suggests on Chron.com that having an organized workplace will help you be better prepared and work more efficiently. It can also improve your happiness since a “clean desk makes the work environment seem less hectic and stressful.” In short, you have enough stress with work, so avoid the additional stress that clutter and scrambling for lost items will cause.
11. Don’t Multitask
Despite the myth, multitasking isn’t effective. Clifford Nass, a psychology professor at Stanford University claims that multitasking “wastes more time than it saves.” He also states that it decreases concentration and creativity.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by the amount of work you’re trying to juggle through multitasking, focus on one task at a time. Many do well with a simple checklist to accomplish this.
12. Accept People for Who They Are
You can’t change who people are. Instead of letting their personalities or actions affect you, take a step back. You could try techniques like counting to 10 before responding to them, avoiding finger-pointing, and maintaining a professional attitude. There are many fantastic books on this subject as well.
13. Move Around
Whether it’s finding the time to take a walk outside, run up and down the stairs on your break, stretch, or do a 10-minute exercise, moving around throughout the workday has a number of beneficial effects—even if you already exercise and eat healthy.
As Lifehacker points out, sitting all day and working on a computer can lead to health concerns like weight gain, heart disease, eye strain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
In short, when you feel better, you’ll be in a better place mood-wise as well.
14. Reward Yourself
Whether it’s by going out to dinner with your significant other, purchasing a new gadget, enjoying a piece of candy, or giving yourself a pat on the back, (the politician applause), find the time to reward yourself after you’ve completed a project or had a fruitful day.
You can even take that a step further and prime yourself to be happy. Research has found that doctors who prepared themselves to be happy were able to reach a diagnosis twice as fast as their colleagues.
15. Reflect on the Day
Why are you working so hard? You can answer that question by reflecting on the day and recalling something that was positive. When you record these moments in your notebook, smartphone, tablet, etc., you’ll have a reminder of why your work matters to you. You can refer to these statements of positive reflection whenever you need a boost.
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