We spend an average of 100,000 hours at work, so it is well worth putting the effort in to be happier at work. Researchers have shown that happier workers are more productive, creative, resilient and have less burnout. So being happy has an impact on well-being. Read on to find some ideas to improve your working life.
Psychologists have found we can change our mindsets to get out of the habits of unhelpful negative thinking to a more positive approach. How we feel, think and what we do are all connected.
- Decide to be happier!
Yes, we can decide our emotions! How we feel, think and our actions are connected. So, the first step is to make a conscious decision to be happier and not to be stuck in a negative mind set.
- Examine your internal dialogue (how you speak to yourself)
Do you give yourself a hard time? Decide to be kind to yourself and speak to yourself as you would others. Give yourself positive encouragement even if you don’t get it from elsewhere.
- Control overthinking
Worrying and overthinking are not always helpful. When things go around in your head, ask yourself if this is helping you. If not replace with other happy thoughts.
- Develop a sense of achievement
Rather than think about all the things that have gone wrong, make a list of everything you have achieved. You can do this at the end of the day, end of the week and end of the month to give yourself some sense of achievement at work.
- Be grateful
Martin Seligman (a famous positive psychologist) created the 3 blessings exercise, which is useful in creating a positive mindset. At the end of the day write down 3 good things that have happened that day – it could be finishing a piece of work, having a great meeting at work or even having a tasty lunch! This is a way to train the brain to look for the positives rather than focus on the negatives.
- Smile and laugh more.
Neuroscientists have found smiling releases endorphins, which make us feel happier. Even if we don’t feel happy, by smiling and laughing we can change our mood.
- Do more of what you love
By doing more of what you love – at work or outside work, more endorphins are released. This could be spending time with family and friends, craft, gardening, doing hobbies or sport. Or it could be being involved in projects at work where you work with people you enjoy working with or are interested in.
- Shake it up!
The brain can get bored and stale when you do the same thing all the time. What can you do differently? Walk home rather than taking the bus? Meet someone at lunchtime rather than having a sandwich at work? Start a happiness at work journal? Make a list of things you are going to do to make you happier at work from this list?
What we do also affects how we feel and think and we mustn’t forget about looking after our bodies to allow us to be our best.
- Eat happy!
Some foods have been found to increase happiness, reduce depression and increase brain functioning. See nutritionists to find out what would work for you or research happy foods and eat more of them.
- Don’t eat at your desk.
Eating whilst working is not a good thing. Researchers have found people to be more productive when they take proper breaks from work. Make a proper lunch break with a colleague so you can be refreshed for the afternoon.
Exercise can have a huge effect on wellbeing. Don’t have time? Think about how you can fit it into your day, such as cycling or walking to work, taking the stairs instead of a lift or getting up earlier to go to a class at the gym or a late-night yoga class to calm you down at the end of the day.
- Sleep More.
Many people are sleep deprived and lack of sleep can affect mood and performance. Make sure you get enough sleep that is right for you.
- Try to leave work at work.
Not always possible I know – but at least have some time before bed where you do something relaxing so you don’t think about work issues.
- Practice mindfulness or meditation.
There has been much written recently about the benefits of mindfulness or meditation. Even 5 minutes of relaxation can help. Try a DVD, app or class on meditation or yoga.
- Get more fresh air.
Try a meeting outside – walk and talk or at a park bench instead of being stuck in a stuffy office.
Build Self Awareness
By understanding ourselves, we can realise what makes us happier at work and what is it specifically that makes us over stressed or unhappy.
- Meaning and Purpose
People who have meaning and purpose to their lives tend to be happier. What gives you meaning and purpose to work? What is the objective of your job and who does it help? If you frame your work around who you help and what matters to you it can make work much more meaningful.
- At your best
Think of three times when you felt at your best. This can be at work or outside work. What made you feel at your best? What skills and strengths were you using? How can you do more of these things?
- Know your innate abilities
Abilities can be measured using psychometric assessments such as The Highlands Ability Battery . We generally are happier and are less stressed when using our natural abilities.
- Know your personality preferences
Understand your preferences by taking a personality questionnaire such as Myers Briggs or 16 personalities
- Understand your values
What do you value at work? How do your values fit with the values of the organisation? What could you do more around your values?
- Understand your interests
What interests you at work? What could you be involved in more around your interests?
- Ask for feedback
Ask people for feedback on a regular basis. Ask for feedback and give feedback using BOOST. Feedback that is balanced, observed, objective, specific and timely.
- Stop, start, continue
Another structure for feedback is to ask individuals and teams what they would like you to stop doing, what is going well and new ideas.
- Understand strength and development needs
Identify your strengths and development needs using 1-2-1 sessions with your manager and other trusted colleagues.
- 360 feedback
You may have the opportunity to do a 360-degree feedback at work – asking co-workers and managers how you fair across different areas of competency. This can also be an informal questionnaire to see how you are doing and progressing.
- Career Journal
Keep a career journal of your learnings and what really matters to you at work and monitor your career happiness progress.
- Take on a Career Coach
If you find it difficult to understand yourself and how you can be happier at work, you might benefit from a career coach.
Researchers have found relationships at work have a profound effect on happiness and wellbeing. Teams who encourage, support and appreciate each other make problem solving, innovation and success possible. What can you do to improve and build relationships at work?
- Emotions are contagious
Choose to be happy around your team and co-workers. Vow to choose positive words and quit moaning and don’t encourage it in others. It can be destructive and energy zapping.
- Make a coffee date with a co-worker
Get to know people in the team you don’t know so well.
- Embrace diversity
Everyone is different and can add something to the team.
- Work with others
If you work alone or from home, make some time to work with others – whether that is working in a co-working space or at Starbucks!
- Participate in a team event or challenge
Sign up to an organised event where you can meet other people from different parts of your business and work together to achieve an event or challenge.
- Create a team event
Suggest a team event that you can create and organise such as a charity event or sporting challenge.
- Compliment someone on their work
Everyone likes a complement and sometimes we don’t get enough reward and recognition. If you complement others, you might get more yourself!
Grab an opportunity to make informal contact with people both within the organisation and those externally to enable learning and reviewing activities.
- Team Meetings
Mix it up! Take turns in leading the team meeting. Hold it in a different location. Find out what people need to get from the meeting. Team meetings are important for team building but can become more of a chore than the motivational time they should be.
- Themed Team Meeting
Have a them for the meetings – have a breakfast meeting and bring in food, or discuss important team issues such as how to communicate better, how we can save time, how to send fewer emails to each other, how we can improve performance………
- Team Building exercises
These are great for team bonding and getting to know others. Volunteer to run one or suggest and external provider to facilitate Myers Briggs team building or similar.
- Team Problem Solving
Work on a specific problem together as a team to get a fresh perspective.
- Go to a conference
Attend a conference in your team – swap notes on learning afterwards. It’s more fun to learn together.
- Communities of practice
Join a group of individuals with a common interest to discuss developments and best practice.
- Continuous improvement workshops
Go to or create a group that meet with the aim of identifying areas for improving aspects of the product or service being offered.
- Task forces
Join a group from different departments brought together on a full or part time basis to carry out a defined project.
- Action learning sets, problem solving groups and discussion groups
Work with others in groups to tackling real life problems.
- Supplier forums
Participate in or organise meetings with suppliers to hear from other points of view and how changes might improve the quality of the life cycle and reduce costs.
- Quality circles
Participate in or organise multi-level group of volunteers meeting to discuss how to improve products and services.
- Support groups
Form or participate in a support group of people with similar jobs, to share information and experiences.
- Share learning logs
Share amongst team members something they have learned in the last month or something they have done differently and its effect.
Form a co-coaching group where you learn from each other on different aspects of work.
- Telephone conference calls
Enable team members who are scattered geographically to participate in meetings regularly.
- Train someone else
The best way to learn is teach but this is also a bonding and rewarding experience.
- Start a Club
It could be a team club at lunchtime or outside work on an area of interest such as a book or cinema club. Or it could be a club to raise money for a charity that interests you.
- Idea of the week
Encourage team members to put their ideas forward and select one each week and display it openly.
- Story Sharing
Stories can be a powerful way of illustrating learning points and including others in communication. Get individuals in the team to tell a story of their experiences.
- Big pictures
Draw pictures to bring things together, either physically or metaphorically. This can be a team building exercise such as draw “how you want the team to be”- hen compare pictures to see where the similarities and differences are.
Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. This is a huge networking site and useful to keep in touch with people you come across.
- Celebrate Success!
Celebrate individual and team success! Always!
Learn something new
Contrary to popular belief, people are happier when they have work that challenges and stimulates. If you are feeling stale or bored at work perhaps it is time to learn something new! Decide what you want to learn about. Do you want to improve existing skills or learn new ones – what are you interested in and what would motive you?
In the Workplace
Learn from watching others in action performing specific tasks.
- Reflection and Journaling
Put aside time each day to consider what has happened, the outcomes, what went well, what needs to be done the following day, take time to plan.
There may be opportunities to coach others or to be coached by internal or external providers.
Be a mentor to someone else or find a mentor. A mentor gives guidance and acts as a ‘trusted friend or advisor’.
- Career Conversations or Appraisals
Career Conversations or Appraisal can be a source of learning as well as discussing individual learning and future career plans.
Take the time to review the outcomes of a project with other members of the project to identify ways to improve future performance. Keep a log of progress.
- Trial and error (and retrial)
Practice a new skill or activity in a controlled situation. Learning from mistakes is very important.
Work alongside another colleague, perhaps from a different department, to learn a specific aspect of their role.
Spend some time researching a topic you want to be an expert in.
- Sit with a different team
Spend a day with another team and feedback differences in operation to both them and your team.
- Job enrichment
Undertake an extra activity in addition to current duties.
- Role model
Identify someone who does something well that you want to be good at and shadow them.
Take on a task that is normally undertaken by someone else. Preferably above your level to demonstrate your capability.
- Temporary promotion
Find out if there are opportunities to ‘act up’ for a set period.
- Temporary job move/cover
Cover for an absent colleague to provide an opportunity to develop new skills and acquire knowledge.
- Job swap or rotation
Swap jobs with someone else for a period. This can increase skills and add interest to a job.
- Job splitting
Duties of one individual are divided with those of a colleague for a set period, each taking on part of the other’s job. Again, this is upskilling.
- Internal secondment
Take on a task or role within the same organisation for a fixed period, usually in a different department.
- External secondment
Work for a fixed period with another organisation.
- Sideways move
Move to a vacant position at the same level to enable opportunity to gain new skills and knowledge.
Get the opportunity to visit other departments, offices and organisations to learn different approaches to similar issues.
- Host / attend different site meetings
Allow others the opportunity to attend your meetings to see how things are done in your areas and ensure that you can discuss the differences so that you can both learn.
- Training course or Workshop
Go on a training course to develop skills or find out more about a new system, product or technique.
- Professional Qualification Training
Take a professional qualification to become an expert in your field
- Online Learning
Sign up to some on line learning that would be useful to learn new skills in.
Continual Professional Development is required by some professions to ensure staff are up to date with all new developments. Keep a log whether its required or not as it will give you a sense of achievement.
Attend a topic that interest you to build your knowledge.
- Share Reading Lists
Share books that you have read that are relevant to your work with the team. This could also include interesting blogs, DVDs, Ted Talks or clips on YouTube.
Outside the Workplace
- Voluntary work
Learn new skills, meet new people or give back to the community by giving time to a charity organisation.
- Experience from other life roles
Generate happiness from enjoying your other life roles such as a child, parent, friend, godparent, sports coach.
- Watch a Ted Talk
Watch some leaders in you field or learn about improving soft skills. There are hundreds of different topics available.
- Read a Blog
Again, there are many blogs on topics of interest.
- Learn a new skill on YouTube
Learn how to do something you’ve always wanted to do on You tube – upholster a chair, change an inner tyre on your bike – anything!
- Read a book
An autobiography of an industrial leader, a self-development book, a poetry book – something different.
- Read a newspaper
Buy one you don’t normally read, or read the parts you don’t get around to usually.
- Give a paper at a conference
Prepare a paper to be given at a conference on a topic that you have researched.
- Write a magazine article or a blog
Research and write up a topic of an area of interest.
- Enter a competition for an industry award
Complete the entry form to demonstrate applied learning.
- Join a professional body
Develop professionalism in your work area.
- Go to their meetings
Talk to like-minded individuals in different organisations and exchange views.
- Read professional or business magazines
Try those in a different field to your own – Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Coaching at Work
- Sign up for e-newsletters
There are many organisations that issue regular newsletters – ones which touch on management and leadership issues.
- Take a Class
There are all sorts of Adult Education Classes available in a wide range of topics. Pick one that you have an interest in or on something you have always wanted to learn about.
- Take a Course
Take a course in an area that will improve your knowledge at work, employability or something you are interested in. Research Open University, distance learning and part time courses.
Need some help to be happier and more fulfilled at work for you, your team or leaders?
Contact Diana Dawson for Individual Coaching or Career Workshops for organisations.