Want to be more successful? Aim to be happier at work.
Joy can be a powerful driver of success in the workplace. It can help you achieve your goals and add to your company’s bottom line. But a recent survey reveals a pronounced “joy gap” at many employers.
The global survey, which was conducted by A.T. Kearney, asked more than 500 executives and employees about their expectations and experiences of joy in the workplace. Nearly 90% of respondents said that they expect to experience a substantial degree of joy at work, but only 37% report that they do.
Per the report, that’s a problem for two reasons:
People universally relish the experience of joy, which makes it intrinsically motivational. And shared joy connects people as powerfully as any other human experience, uniting them in inspired and cohesive efforts to meet great challenges and realize unprecedented achievements.
So how do you turn that frown upside down and get happier at work? Try these five happiness hacks to find joy in any job.
1. Realize There Is Purpose in Whatever You’re Doing
At Psychology Today, Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., writes that while many factors can predict your job satisfaction, the one key factor is “[f]eeling that your job is not just a job, but is an expression of your true purpose in life.” She provides a 12-item Calling Questionnaire to help you determine whether your passions and occupation are in sync.
If the quiz reveals that your job isn’t your calling, there are some things you can do to find purpose at work. However, don’t fall into the trap of believing that it’s your employer’s responsibility to create that for you, writes Forbes contributor Tracy Brower.
“All work has dignity, no matter what you do for a living,” she writes. “Your work matters, and you can foster your purpose and create meaning for yourself.”
For example, if you’re a barista, that triple-shot Americano you just made for the guy in the drive-thru might help him get through the last two hours of his shift as an air traffic controller. That’s pretty important, right? Or if you’re the person who makes sure insurance forms are filled out properly, you’re helping someone get access to health care.
Ask yourself how the work you do impacts people’s lives in a positive way. Even if you’re not in the job of your dreams, this small exercise can help you find purpose each day.
2. Build Resilience
Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., science director of the Greater Good Science Center at U.C. Berkeley, developed a series of online courses titled “The Science of Happiness at Work.” At Greater Good Magazine, she explains that one of the pillars of happiness is resilience. She notes that resilience “doesn’t mean trying to prevent difficulties, stifle stress, or avoid confrontation; it means being able to manage challenges at work with authenticity and grace.”
Mindfulness can help you develop resilience, she says:
To strengthen your own resilience at work, perhaps the most promising technique is to get better at real-time, in-the-moment awareness, or mindfulness. Mindfulness can be a starting point for revising our learned habits of self-criticizing or blaming others, or getting preoccupied about past or future upsets, that make it hard to manage difficult moments at work. Companies can weave mindfulness into their overall climate, as Adobe has done with Project Breathe.
3. ‘Craft’ Your Job Into What You Want
Amy Wrzesniewski, a professor at the Yale School of Management, studied hospital workers in her quest to understand what makes people happier at work. Speaking with hospital housekeeping staff, she discovered that while some workers described their job in negative terms, others had an entirely different perception of the same job.
Fast Company explains:
What fascinated Wrzesniewski, however, was that there was a second group of workers with the exact same jobs–on paper, at least–who described their work in completely different terms. They felt their labor was highly skilled, they described the work in “rich relational terms,” says Wrzesniewski, talking about their interactions with patients and visitors. Many of them reported going out of their way to learn as much as possible about the patients whose rooms they cleaned, down to which cleaning chemicals were likely to irritate them less. “It was not just that they were taking the same job and feeling better about it, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and whistling. It was that they were doing a different job.”
Using this example, you can change your job yourself with job crafting exercises. Another hack: engage more with the people around you. Make sure that you’re not isolating yourself, and make efforts to connect with coworkers, customers or others – because human connection can make the workplace more meaningful.
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4. Find Your Flow
You know those days at work that fly by? Typically, you experience them this way because you’re thoroughly engrossed in what you’re doing. You feel that your skills are being utilized and that you’re doing a good job. (If you’re reading this article, you might not have had one of those days in a while.)
On those days, you’re likely experiencing the state of flow. At Psychology Today, author and journalist Steven Kotler defines flow state as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”
Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi popularized the term in the 1990s with his book Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life. In another article at Psychology Today, Csíkszentmihályi explains that there are many ways to make one’s job produce flow and that even the most mundane job can produce flow. The key is to pay close attention to each step involved and ask questions like, “Can I do this better, faster, more efficiently?” or “What additional steps could make my contribution more valuable?”
“If, instead of spending a lot of effort trying to cut corners, one spent the same amount of attention trying to find ways to accomplish more on the job, one would enjoy working – more and probably be more successful,” he writes.
Dozens of productivity books, TED Talks and other online videos address the art of finding flow at work. But if you don’t have the interest in researching flow so deeply, take some simple steps to stop the multitasking that can prevent flow.
To get out of the bad habit of multitasking, Forbes contributor Bianca Barratt suggests that you turn off your email notifications, set your phone to “do not disturb,” put on headphones to signal that you don’t want to be bothered by others, make a to-do list and tackle the most-challenging tasks first. Oh, and you can take breaks.
“It’s beneficial to get out of the work zone in a controlled, regular way as it will actually give us more clarity and renewed energy when we return to the task at hand,” Barratt writes, adding that these breaks are not an excuse to check your phone, email or social media.
5. Examine The Role Work Plays in Your Life
Want to be happier at work? Ask yourself if you’re placing too much emphasis on your job as a driver of happiness. Is it possible that the rest of your life is so exciting and fulfilling that work doesn’t play the important role it once did? Work may take a backseat to family life or a freelance side gig that serves as a creative outlet.
If you determine that work might be less joy-filled than it could be for reasons outside your control, you might just accept that it’s OK. Some career advisors might argue that the second you stop trying so hard to be happy at work you’ll start feeling happier.
But that alone might not bring you enough happiness. You also could look for ways outside of your work life to refuel. We all need time to recharge, relax and reconnect with people who are not our boss and coworkers. And when you do, you are more likely to bring your best self to the workplace.
Lastly, you could always start looking for another job or entirely new career. If all this happiness hacking has left you haggard instead of inspired, you might conclude that you’ve tried all you can. Before you make your next move, check out PayScale’s list of the most and least meaningful jobs in terms of job meaning, salary, job stress and job satisfaction.
Tell Us What You Think
Are you happier at work than you used to be? We want to hear from you. Share your tips in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.
Featured Image: Ian Dooley/Unsplash