Choosing to be happy at work

What makes people happy at work varies significantly from person to person. Since we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, being unhappy doesn’t just affect our work – it usually affects all aspects of our life. Whilst it’s well-known that recognition, reward, and positivity go a long way to ensuring employees are happy, there are many other influencing factors.

Countless studies are conducted to try to discover the secret to happy employees. Most companies recognise the benefits that come from achieving a positive workplace with happy employees. Apparently almost every business metric that can be measured (e.g. productivity, profitability, customer satisfaction, absenteeism, safety etc.) can be directly impacted by employee happiness. While many companies are great at ensuring this, there are factors you can control yourself. Here are some tips to help you choose to be happy at work:

  1. Limit stress: Easier said than done in many cases, but stress is not conducive to happiness. Many jobs have stressful elements, which is fine in the short-term but can be damaging to both physical and emotional health if it becomes long-term. To limit stress, you need to be open – talk to your supervisor about what’s causing it; take time out by switching off from work and recharging; learn some relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness; and develop healthy responses to combat the stress such as exercise, hobbies, reading, time with family, and getting enough sleep.
  2. Exercise: Including any kind of physical activity in your day can improve your mood and productivity. While regular bouts of longer physical activity are essential for health, studies have shown that including even just a small amount of physical activity in your day can help. If you are feeling overwhelmed, often just a short stroll outside in the fresh air can help lift your focus, productivity and mood.
  3. Do more of what you love: You want to be happy in your work so avoiding what you don’t like doing will help to a point, BUT you need to be doing more of what you love! Identify aspects of your job you love, and skills and interests that inspire you. Think about how you can be even better at what you do. Approach your manager with suggestions on how you might be able to incorporate more of these aspects into your day to day work.
  4. Be organised: Arrive a little early so the start of your day is relaxed. Plan your day and only make commitments you can meet. A common cause of unhappiness at work is missed deadlines, causing unnecessary stress. By planning your workload, checking your diary, and making daily ‘to do’ lists, you’ll be less likely to miss deadlines. And try to factor in some time for breaks – they’ll re-energise and invigorate you and help you feel more positive. For some great time saving tips, see our article on Time saving tips for busy people.
  5. Ask for feedback: Happy employees know what their contribution means. If you don’t receive feedback, ask for it. You can’t change what you don’t know and chances are you know how you’re performing – you just need some acknowledgement – it’s proven as a strong driver of happiness.
  6. Continue to learn: Take responsibility for continuing personal and professional development. If your company supports you by paying for courses and allowing study time, take advantage of it. If they don’t – do it anyway – you are the one with the most to gain from continuing to develop professionally so make investing in training a priority.
  7. Know what’s going on: Seek the information you need to do your job well. Some companies are great at communicating company information, while others aren’t so good. If your company is one of the latter then develop your own networks and use them to find out what you need to know.
  8. Make plans: If all else fails, it may be time to start planning a career move. There’s nothing like planning your exit to make you smile. But don’t compromise your future by slacking off. If you come across as happy and committed, you’ll be more likely to receive a positive reference when the time comes.

Remember, you are responsible for your own destiny. Our number one tip is to avoid any negativity. Choose to be happy rather than down and instead of dwelling on the things you can’t change, focus on what you can change. Find colleagues you like spending time with and don’t get involved in negative conversations. Greet everyone with a smile and you’ll be surprised at how many will be returned.

Are you feeling unhappy at work? Would you like career advice and assistance with planning your next move? If so, please see our Career Counselling Services.

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