How to be happy at work

To mark International Happiness at Work Week, here are ten simple ways that you can be intentionally happier at work, whilst still being professionally productive.

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Good employers work hard to ensure people are happy at work. This could be through the use of workplace perks such as personalised rewards, health tracking apps, free food or team days out, or through flexible working hours or the option to work from home. Sometimes just ensuring you’re well managed and know how your contribution matters, significantly impacts your feelings of positivity.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that employees who are happy at work are more productive and motivated, so it makes business sense for employers to make this a priority. Being happy at work doesn’t only sit in the hands of your manager or managing director. You are predominantly in charge of your own feelings and emotions. You can create your own sense of happiness at work, but that’s often easier said than done.

To mark International Happiness at Work Week, here are ten simple ways that you can be intentionally happier at work, whilst still being professionally productive.

1. Find a good work-life balance

When work takes over other aspects of life, it can often lead to burnout. No matter how long your to-do list is, the weight of your responsibility or how much you enjoy your work, everyone needs time away to focus on other things.

Finding a work-life balance is important for our mental health, but also for our success at work. Neglecting your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing can really take its toll on your wellbeing. You should work to live, and not always live to work. Make the most of your downtime. Even if you don’t love your job, if you love the life, it allows you to create then you are more likely to be happy at work.

2. Build good relationships with colleagues

We spend so much time with those that we work with, so make those relationships good ones! Did you know that people who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs?

Building good relationships at work means you’ll have a good support network around you to provide moral support, help you through challenges and simply increase your sense of belonging and fun! If you’re not focused on building good relationships, it can have a negative impact on your job satisfaction and ultimately, your happiness in the workplace.

Spend some time trying to find connections with those you work with and try your best to be the kind of person that others are drawn to.

3. Create a comfortable working environment

As humans, we are very susceptible to the sensory nature of the environment we work in. To feel happier at work, try making your desk area more comfortable, cosy and personal to you. This will help you to feel more relaxed and create a little home-away-from-home. Creating a personal space to work from could be as simple as popping a few photos or plants on your desk to dress it up. Perhaps you’d like to bring your own mug to work to drink from.

You could even create a playlist of all your favourite songs to listen to whilst you work (if allowed) in order to lift your mood. It’s also important to keep your space neat, clean and organised. As the saying goes – “tidy desk, tidy mind!”

If you hot-desk or work in an office with a clear desk policy, check to see if it’s ok to have a few personal things with you, even if just for the times you are occupying that space. If you work in retail or a factory setting, think about personalisation that is safe and acceptable. For example, wearing your favourite perfume to work might lift your spirits, or perhaps that favourite scarf or pair of socks!

If the ergonomics of your desk space aren’t working for you, speak to someone in the health and safety team. This includes getting tips on how to set up your desk if you’re working from home. Having a sore back or succumbing to repetitive strain injury will not help your happiness at work. If in doubt, speak to your manager about it as soon as you notice any symptoms. And remember, if your employer offers things like free eye examinations, remember to have them regularly.

4. Set yourself goals

Sometimes you might feel that you are coasting through work, unengaged, uninspired and missing the bigger picture. If you’re feeling unhappy and unmotivated at work, speak to your line manager about your feelings.

Managers need team members to keep the lines of communication open (particularly if you are communicating over Zoom), so be prepared to talk about why you’re feeling disconnected. Chances are your manager will want to help you feel engaged. After all, they can’t be successful without you.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your line manager (or if you feel they are part of the problem), reach out to a work colleague you trust and start a conversation. Don’t make it gossipy or negative, that generally helps no one. Instead, try and open up about your feelings and listen to their thoughts and ideas. Sometimes just sharing a problem makes you feel a whole lot happy, as does giving your support back the other way.

Failing all those things, take charge of your own motivation, growth and development. Taking charge of your job or career prospects is a great way to lift your spirits. Sit down and create a plan for your career and set yourself some goals for the coming days, weeks or months. Look for assignments that will help you achieve these goals or find some training courses that will help you better yourself. When you feel in control of your career and see yourself improving and growing, even in small ways, you are more likely to feel happy at work.

5. Ask for feedback

Similarly, it’s important to seek feedback from your manager and those around you in order to better yourself, improve in areas where you are less confident, and gain a sense of job satisfaction. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, it can only result in personal growth.

When you ask for and receive feedback think about the motive of the person offering their view. Once you understand and trust someone’s motive it’s much easier to take on board what they have to say.

Proactively asking for feedback shows others that you are committed to improving your skills and contributing to your team. It shows you are dedicated to your own personal growth and to being an asset to the company. Becoming more engaged with your role and responsibilities are sure to have a positive effect on your mindset and outlook.

6. Incentivise yourself

Next time you are sitting staring blankly at your screen willing yourself to concentrate and crack on with your next task, try setting yourself an incentive in order to give you the motivation to get the ball rolling.

You could try learning a different time management and productivity technique, like the Pomodoro method. No, it’s not a spaghetti sauce – it’s a well-tried tool for managing work in little bursts of energy. Find an old egg timer and set it to 25 minutes. Focus on the job at hand for that amount of time exactly and then reward yourself with a little break. If you do this four times in a row, reward yourself with a good lunch hour! Chances are, that important project will be well on the way to being complete.

When you hit a project milestone, treat yourself to a walk down to the local cafe to pick up some cake, taking ten minutes out to drink a coffee outside, or spending some time on a more rewarding task on your list. Whilst this gives you a push to be more productive, it also allows you to fill your day with simple joys that make you smile. What’s not to love about that?

7. Take a lunch break

Whilst you may feel that working through your deadline makes you more productive and seem more dedicated to your role, not taking breaks can be unhealthy. If you don’t want to take a full 30-60 minutes away from your computer for a break, try and incorporate shorter breaks throughout the day to get away from your screen and turn your mind to other things. If possible, slip in a quick 10-minute yoga session or gentle stretches. Alternatively, try and zen out for 10 minutes with some mind wandering.

This could also be a great opportunity to spark some conversations with your colleagues to build those positive relationships. Perhaps you could get outside for some fresh air and get moving. Even better – combine the two and take a walk with a member of the team to chat and relax. You’ll return to your desk with a lighter mind, which will probably result in a real energy boost for the next part of your day.

8. Avoid negativity

You can do your very best to make your workplace a happy environment for you, but sometimes there can be negative energy around from other members of the team. Some people may fall into the habit of complaining about work and gossiping. When we work in a confined space with others, it can be difficult to escape tension and heavy atmospheres. It’s contagious.

If you identify this in your workplace, try and avoid spending time with these people and/or taking part in these conversations. Try and find the people who emit positive energy and want to do well – or become that person to try and lift others up. Your co-workers should not negatively impact your happiness at work.

9. Get enough sleep

You don’t need us to tell you how incredibly important a good night’s sleep is. You’ll never feel your best if you are missing out on those zeds. Sleep resets and refreshes your brain ready for a new day, so not getting enough sleep can set you on a vicious cycle, leading to a negative mood, low energy, difficulty concentrating and a general inability to function as usual. Nothing about that will help you feel happy at work.

For many, getting a good night’s sleep does not come naturally. There are things you can do to help though, such as getting regular exercise, eating well and avoiding too much sugar and alcohol in the evenings, keeping screen time to a minimum and practicing meditation and mindfulness.

10. Look for a new job

Sometimes, you can incorporate all these things and more and still be unhappy – and that’s okay. It might be time to move on and start looking for your next job opportunity. Perhaps you need to find something that you have more of a passion for, and that aligns with your values and interests.

It’s not always easy to work out what this is, but journaling can help you draw some conclusions. Reflect on what motivates and gives you energy. It is designed to help you build a clear story of who you are and what you have to offer a future employer.

It’s always worth investing in being happy at work. Your job will always be a big part of your life, so take control and create your own happiness!

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