Adults in America spend most of their waking hours at work, and more time at their job than the rest of the world. Considering that less than 50 percent of working people in the U.S. say they are satisfied with their job, it’s no wonder it feels like people are more stressed out, burned out, and unhappy than ever before.
If you are going to spend 30 to 50 hours a week at work, why not try to make it as enjoyable as possible? Luckily, science has gathered some helpful information on how to increase your happiness in the workplace.
Job vs. Career vs. Calling
Amy Wrzesniewski, a researcher at Yale University, identified that most people see their work as a job, a career, or a calling.
- If you see your work as a “job,” you are primarily motivated by money; that is, the work is just a means of getting paid.
- If you see your work as a “career,” then you enjoy your work, but are primarily motivated by advancement; in other words, you aim to get promoted and see your work as a stepping stone toward something greater.
- If you see your work as a calling, you feel that your work is in line with your values and makes a contribution to making the world a better place.
Once you identify what type of work you are doing, you may find freedom in how you view it as a whole. If you recognize that your work is a temporary employment venture helping you to pay off your debts (e.g., a job), you may feel less bad about the fact that you don’t love it. In fact, you might appreciate the work for what it is, rather than feeling pressure to adore work that doesn’t satisfy you on a deeper level. It’s a temporary step toward the greater dream.
The following seven tips for how to increase your happiness at work apply to jobs, careers, and callings, and can improve not only your happiness at work, but your overall life satisfaction.
1. Find Meaning
You are in control of how you see your work. If you think it is boring and meaningless, it will feel boring and meaningless. However, if you can reframe your work in the context of service or making the world better in some way, you may find greater satisfaction in and gratification from your efforts.
For example, a custodian at a high school could see his or her work as tedious and insignificant labor, or he or she could choose to see it as a way to help students and educators stay healthy and safe in an atmosphere of growth.
2. Apply Your Strengths
Happy people utilize their strengths in all areas of life. If you don’t feel like your work naturally draws upon your strengths, figure out a creative way to integrate your strengths into your day.
For example, if appreciation of beauty and excellence is one of your top strengths, make your personal workspace more visually appealing or contribute a small plant to the break room or common space. In fact, studies show that people with a view of nature (i.e., having indoor plants on your desk) report greater work satisfaction than people in baron, windowless offices.
3. Foster Work Relationships
Having healthy relationships is one of the highest indicators of happiness, so connect with your coworkers to improve your mood. You don’t necessarily have to socialize with them outside of work (although having a work “best friend” does contributes to greater work satisfaction), but simply being willing to engage in some water cooler talk could create a most enjoyable environment for the entire office.
Be willing to go out to lunch with your coworkers instead of eating alone at your desk. A German study found that people who eat lunch alone are more negatively affected by stress levels than workers who have social lunches away from their desks. Are you the boss? Cultivate relationships as a virtue, and you might see your employees’ productivity increase significantly.
4. Offer Praise (and Hopefully Receive Some Too)
There is an extremely high correlation between being appreciated and work satisfaction. If you are the boss, you have the potential to earn more trust, loyalty, and commitment from your employees simply by recognizing them regularly for their work. If you are the employee, set the wheels in motion by offering gratitude and praise to your coworkers and bosses. When appreciated, everyone’s productivity, creativity, and well-being increases, so let it start with you. As Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
5. Personalize Your Workspace
It sounds obvious, but surrounding yourself with beauty and personal mementos affects your mood. Display photos of your loved ones, art that inspires you, and images of places or things that make you feel light and expanded. If your surroundings are drab, grey, and cold, you will feel far less connected to whatever you’re doing. Make your space an area you want to enter, and see if it shifts your willingness to actually be there.
6. Take Breaks and Use Your Lunch Break
Taking breaks during the course of your workday can not only energize you, but improve your perspective on your job as well. Studies show that workers who take breaks during the workday for exercise or other health-benefiting activities report improved job satisfaction. Your boss will be happy with your time management too, as these same studies showed less worker burnout and increased productivity on the part of employees who spend 2.5 hours a week being physically active, even when that time occurs during the workday. So try taking a yoga class, going for a run, or even a 10-minute walk around the block during your afternoon lunch break.
7. Go On a Rampage of Appreciation
It’s easy to get down on the dumps about your job if you’ve lost sight of how it supports you. Try taking 15 minutes to write down all the things you appreciate about your work, from the most basic to the most elaborate. By being grateful for your job, and recognizing that there are a vast numbers of people who aren’t even able to work for one reason or another, you may feel your outlook shift for the better. The more grateful you are for the positive aspects of your work, the more likely you’ll be to experience more of them.
Or Change the Work!
Of course, there is only so much you can do to make the best of at a situation that drains your energy and spirit. At a certain point, you might have to face the fact that you’d rather experience uncertainty and instability than stay in a job you loathe. However, it is common to mistake monotony for dissatisfaction, and for many people, putting in the effort to make the best of your work life yields incredible results.
If you think you’d end a romantic relationship that no longer fulfilled you, why would you settle for any less in your work? Put in the effort, be brave, and be willing to do what it takes to be happier at work. Your life will thank you.