Ten Ways to Be Happy at Work: Insights from Experts
Work can be a source of fulfillment or misery, depending on how we approach it. While some people seem to love their jobs and look forward to each day, others struggle to get through the nine-to-five grind. If you’re struggling to find happiness at work, you’re not alone. According to a survey by the Conference Board, only half of Americans are satisfied with their jobs. It’s time to take ownership of your happiness. Here are ten expert-recommended ways to start:
1. Practice Professional Courage
Most people avoid conflict because they see it as scary, harmful, and hurtful. However, according to Dr. Rosalind Cardinal, a psychologist specializing in workplace dynamics, “Conflict is part and parcel of human relationships, and the workplace is no different.” Rather than running away from conflict, we should learn to embrace it and use it constructively to achieve our goals. Professional courage means standing up for what you believe in, speaking up when something is wrong, and addressing difficult conversations head-on. Professional courage leads to positive outcomes and establishes a reputation as a capable leader.
2. Cultivate Meaningful Relationships
Work can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. If you spend most of your waking hours at work, it’s essential to build meaningful relationships with colleagues. As human beings, we thrive on connection and belonging. Research shows that social support at work is associated with higher job satisfaction, better mental health, and lower absenteeism. Take the initiative to get to know your colleagues beyond surface-level interactions. Ask about their interests, hobbies, and family. Engage in team-building activities and celebrate milestones together.
3. Focus on Your Values
When we work for a company that aligns with our values, work becomes more than a paycheck. It becomes a way to make a positive impact in the world. If your company’s values don’t align with your own, it’s challenging to find happiness at work. Reflect on your values and how they align with your current job. If they don’t align, consider making a career change. “Your work must align with what you value to feel fulfilled,” says Dr. Cardinal. “If it doesn’t match up, it is no surprise that you have low motivation and enjoyment levels.”
4. Find Meaning in Your Work
Have you ever asked yourself, “What’s the point of my work?” Finding the answer to that question can help you feel more engaged and fulfilled in your job. According to Dr. Samantha Boardman, a clinical instructor in psychiatry and assistant attending psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College, “People who find meaning in their work are happier, more productive, and more committed.” Find out how your job impacts others. If you’re a teacher, you’re preparing the next generation of leaders. If you work in healthcare, you’re helping people heal. Find meaning in what you do, and you’ll be happier at work.
5. Reduce Stress
The workplace can be a stressful environment, leading to burnout and exhaustion. “Stress is a common culprit of unhappiness in the workplace,” says Dr. Boardman. To reduce stress, identify the source of your stress and find ways to mitigate it. If you’re overwhelmed with work, consider delegating tasks or prioritizing your workload. If you’re feeling burnt out, take a mental health day or a vacation. “Research shows that time-off allows us to relax, recharge, and come back to work more productive and focused,” says Dr. Boardman.
6. Take Breaks
When we’re busy, taking a break seems counterintuitive. However, taking breaks can help us work more productively and efficiently. Research shows that taking short breaks throughout the day can improve mood, creativity, and focus. “Whether it’s taking a walk outside or sitting in a quiet room for five minutes, taking a break can help you be more productive in the long run,” says Dr. Boardman.
7. Learn New Skills
Learning new skills helps us stay engaged and motivated at work. According to Dr. Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist and executive coach, “Learning new things at work can help you stay engaged, relevant, and innovative.” Take on new projects at work that challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone. Attend workshops and conferences to learn new skills. “By constantly learning, you’ll feel more fulfilled and energized at work,” says Dr. Eurich.
8. Reframe Challenges
Challenges are an inevitable part of work, but they don’t have to be seen as negative. Reframing challenges as opportunities can help us stay optimistic and resilient. According to Dr. Boardman, “People who see challenges as opportunities are more resilient and less likely to experience burnout.” When faced with a challenge, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” Look for the silver lining and focus on solutions rather than problems.
9. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is the practice of acknowledging and appreciating the good things in our lives. Practicing gratitude at work can help us feel more positive, resilient, and happy. According to Dr. Eurich, “Gratitude is powerful because it reminds us of what’s working in our lives, not just what’s not working.” Take a moment each day to reflect on what you’re thankful for at work. It could be a supportive boss, a stimulating project, or a comfortable office chair.
10. Take Ownership of Your Career
Taking ownership of our career means actively seeking opportunities for growth and development. “Taking ownership of your career means you’re proactive and not reactive,” says Dr. Eurich. Rather than waiting for your boss to assign you a new project, take the initiative to suggest new ideas. Seek out mentors and coaches who can help you develop new skills. “By taking ownership of your career, you’re investing in yourself and your future,” says Dr. Eurich.
Happiness at work is achievable, but it requires intentional effort. By practicing professional courage, cultivating meaningful relationships, focusing on your values, finding meaning in your work, reducing stress, taking breaks, learning new skills, reframing challenges, practicing gratitude, and taking ownership of your career, you’ll be well on your way to a fulfilling work-life.