We all know that happiness at work is important because we spend majority of our lives at work. If you are able to understand how to be happy at work, no matter what you do, you would add tremendous daily happiness to your life.
One of the most important questions people have around happiness is where they can find happiness. Work is one of the core areas where you can find happiness. If you work in a happy workplace, or a joyful workplace, you would find your days full of energy and more importantly, fulfillment.
Like the title days, in this post we intend to look at an important part of your life-your work.
How do we find more happiness at work, than we currently do?
Let us look at what we can do on an everyday basis. Since this post is not specific to a particular industry or workplace, you will find some points which may relate to you, and a few that may relate to other workplaces. The objective of this post is to serve as a thought starter on happy work lives.
1. Define what work means to you
Give work a good name. Why do we work? We work to make a positive impact on the world using the skills we have. We are either working for our clients in case of a business to business setup and for our customers in case of a business to customer setup. The objectives is to make their lives better through our products and services.
Work is a good thing. It’s not drab it is made out to be. Work is not meant to be pain. We are collectively responsible for what we have made of our work lives. Starting from our school, to our college, we never looked at work/study as fun and that attitude moved to our offices.
Repeat. Work is a good thing.
2. Find work you would enjoy doing
If you want to know how to be happy at work, this is a basic step. It is the most important point if you were to be really happy at work. Your relationship with work is more important than your relationship with your colleagues, with your manager, with everyone at work. If you have a positive relationship with your work, you will find happiness in it.
Pay attention to how you feel when you work. Does it excite you? Do you want to get back to it when you are away from it? If the answer to these questions is yes, you have a positive relationship with work.
3. Build relationships with your colleagues
Nah, I don’t mean personal relationships. Build healthy work relationships with your colleagues. The most important thing to understand about your colleagues is that they are people with emotions, and have human problems like you have. They are not machines and furniture lacking emotions. It is not rocket science to learn how to be happy at work when you have productive and respectful relationships with your colleagues.
If you treat them like human beings, there is a high likelihood that they will reciprocate.
4. Do the most important task of the day early
Brian Tracy calls it ‘Eat that Frog.’ Do the most important task first and ways you are sure to be productive for the rest of the day. Let’s assume there are pressures that build up later in the day and you have to postpone some other tasks, you will have finished the most important task still.
We feel happy when we feel productive.
5. Make a plan
The old adage goes-if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Please ensure that you have a checklist of the things that you want to achieve during the day, week, and month. Plan for contingencies so that if life turns about and you can’t stick to your plan, there is room for maneuvering.
Build in some flexibility.
6. Take breaks
I remember when I used to work full time as an employee, I used to have a check list on my desk. One of the items on the list was to remind me to take a break after an hour or two of intense work. If you feel you have longer sittings, make a plan accordingly.
A sedentary lifestyle could be harmful for your overall well being and happiness.
7. Choose worthy company and colleagues
Try to work with people who are better than you and can teach you something. You could work with people you consider dumb but that won’t make you a better person or a professional.
So, when you look for a new job, ask yourself, if you would like to work with the person who is interviewing you. It will help in the long term to make your days worthwhile.
Ideally, work with people you would admire.
8. Choose a chair which allows you to sit with a straight back
Don’t slouch. Sit with your back straight. When you sit straight, you are more focused and active than when you are slouching. Also, a chair that allows for a straight back, is good for your back.
9. Make friends with the IT and finance department colleagues
Even if they have a stuff upper lip, you need them. Jokes apart, if you are a product or a marketing or a sales guy, you will need to depend on your IT or finance colleague. The IT guys are in charge of the hardware and software you use and the finance guy credits your salary every month.
It will help your state of happiness@work if you are on good terms with them.
If you work in IT or finance, you can ignore this point.
10. Reach office on time and leave on time
There is no pride in staying in office till 10 p.m. I remember I worked in one company and one day, my day stretched to 10 pm or beyond. When I shared that with a colleague, he told me that’s normal in the company. I didn’t last quite long in that company. People who want to be miserable do not really care about questions like how to be happy at work. They rejoice in their misery.
I mean, there is no pride in not having a social or a personal life. If you don’t respect other parts of your life, nobody at your office will.
Reach early, finish your work, and move on with the rest of the day. We need a balance between different parts of our lives if we are to be happy with each.
If our work life intrudes into our personal/social lives and leaves no time for anything else, there is no way it is a healthy schedule and will not last long.
11. Do not ‘reply all’ unless needed
Be careful about emails which have multiple recipients. Try to avoid replying all unless it is warranted. A lot of time is wasted when you are getting emails where you have nothing to contribute. The same is true for others.
12. Schedule email time
In fact, answering emails is not the job, unless that’s your job. Emails are meant for internal and external communication and hence you can look at your email every 30 minutes or so. Unless there is a pressing email, reply when you have finished the tasks which are accounted in your daily productivity.
13. Schedule important meetings in 1st half
How to be happy at work should be a matter of study every day at offices. Consider scheduling the entire day into most productive blocks. You are more energetic in the first half of the day when you are starting your day. The mind tends to get fatigued after a few hours of activity and by evening, you feel exhausted. So, schedule the important meetings where you need to take strategic decisions in the first half.
There may be exceptions to the rule, but they don’t defy the rule.
14. Watch what you eat
Keep it light. A bloated body makes for a bloated mind. Your level of physical fitness affects your mental fitness. The mind and body are connected and if you keep one light, the other will stay more agile too
15. Exercise once a day
Schedule your day in a manner that you have time for some exercise. Exercising is one of the most important ways to keep your mind and body in a state of peak performance.
You may need your own schedule but even if you exercise a few (read 5-6) times a week, that should keep you in good shape.
16. Seek out ways to break monotony
One of the reasons people find their work lives boring is because they keep doing the same piece of work day after day, month after month, and year after year.
If you think that there is monotony that’s set in your work, speak to your manager and see if you can do another piece of work.
If you are an entrepreneur, this shouldn’t be a problem because you got into entrepreneurship to make your work life interesting. However, if you feel you are spending too much time on clerical work, seek out help and see if you can delegate it.
17. Keep learning new things
If you work in a large organisation, there are always training opportunities available. Speak to your HR or with your manager and see if you can opt for some. The human resource team has a personal interest in how to be happy at work and how to make the colleagues feel valued and taken care of.
If you are an entrepreneur, keep looking at changes in your industry, and how you can evolve to stay relevant in the market. Times like COVID are black swan events which force us to understand what is working, and what has stopped working. Our ability to learn and adapt is key for survival in the fast paced world we live in.
18. Solicit feedback
To start with, feedback is a good thing. But, do not give unsolicited advice, unless you are appraising someone, which is institutionalised advice.
If you are passionate about your work, solicit advice about how you should improve. It will help you find useful pointers on where you may be lacking and need improvement.
If you are not passionate about your work, please try to find something more interesting, which leads me to the next point.
19. Stop wasting your work life on weaknesses
Hey, this is 2020! Please stop working on your weaknesses. I don’t understand people asking others to improve their weaknesses. If you suck at dancing, and do not enjoy dancing, no matter how hard you try, at most you will become an average dancer.
Start working on things you are naturally good at. It will become way easier to solve the problem of how to be happy at work when you stop doing things you don’t like. There is always someone available who likes what you don’t.
If you are good at writing presentations, seek out that piece of work, and make presentations that charm your clients.
Good at Microsoft Excel? – Take up the number crunching work and enthrall your team and management with useful data about your business and market.
Good at public speaking? – Take up a training/marketing profile where you can spend more time on stage.
For managers and organisations, it helps that people work on their strengths. It is a waste of company’s time to have people work on their weaknesses.
In fact, people should be hired to do what they are good at.
20. Help your boss
Your boss is also a human being, with a certain set of responsibilities. Try to see how you can help your boss achieve their goals and there is no reason they would not be happy with you.
If your boss is happy with you, you will find your office a much interesting place.
21. Do not flatter
Flattery is a curse, for both parties involved. People who flatter have low confidence because they believe that they cannot impress their seniors with their work and hence they need to resort to false praise.
People who enjoy flattery have a terrible sense of self-esteem.
It is easy to see the difference between genuine praise and flattery. People who flatter may grow professionally, but nobody really respects them, including themselves.
22. Respect is a two way street
If you want to be respected, respect others at your work. Schedule meetings. Don’t just show up at any time. Promptly reply to important emails. If someone helps you out beyond their call of work, show gratitude. I read somewhere that gratitude is a learned skill and hence don’t expect it from everyone.
Repeat. Respect is a two way street.
23. Work is the source of meaning in life
Respect your work, once you have chosen it. Whatever it is that you do, take care that you do a good job at it. Before anyone appraises your work, you are the first person you are answerable to. You are your answer to how to be happy at work. The answer must come from inside of you, from your self-awareness.
If you need to find meaning in your life, do work that you find meaningful. It will save you from boredom, monotony and procrastination.
24. Create a positive work environment
Remember, that given professional decorum, nobody has stopped you from laughing and just having a good time at work.
If everyone is tense, try to lighten up the atmosphere with a joke or a story. Be known as someone who carries joy wherever they go. If you are a positive person, you will attract a lot of people wanting to associate with you.
25. Lead whenever you see an opportunity
Whenever you see an opportunity to contribute to the success of your team and you see a new opportunity, jump on it. A lot of opportunities go to people who ask for them. If you are a lazy duck and keep waiting for things to come to you, you may end up waiting for a long time.
26. Limit social media at work
Unless your job is to handle social media for your company, limit your time on social media. LinkedIn is a good platform to talk about your work. But, avoid the other platforms when you are doing serious, important work.
When I write long posts like these, I usually allow myself only a few more sites which relate to the post or Dictionary.
27. Create a social life at work
Work takes a lot of our time and sometimes, it does get difficult to make friends beyond work or meet them. It is always great to have a few friends at work with whom you can discuss both your professional and personal lives. You can always hang out and party with them.
Having friends at work is a great way to create a happy work life.
28. Avoid indulging in office politics
Avoid negativity and political groups in the office. It’s an office, not the parliament. More importantly, if you waste your time criticizing people behind their back, the word will get around and it will do you harm for no perceived benefits.
29. Grow and help other grow
Do not pull others down. If you do that, office becomes a crab hole instead of a productive environment where everyone is pulling everyone down. Work hard to grow yourself and help others grow as well. That’s how you build relationships.
30. Spend time understanding yourself
I have evolved as a person and a worker in the years since I have not been working full time. If I go back to a full time job, I will be a more conscious and aware contributor. I have understood myself more in the last 5 years than in my entire lifetime.
Take time to understand yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. Then double down on your strengths and find someone to take care of your weaknesses.
31. Write full sentences in emails
Bad writing and messaging language in professional emails is not cool. Irrespective of where the email is headed, frame proper sentences and convey the message.
A poorly framed email shows lack of respect for the recipient.
32. Ask questions when an opportunity presents itself
Most companies have open hall sessions where you can talk to the leadership and ask questions. Make sure you use those opportunities and ask about the future of the company and where it intends to exert effort.
33. Be interested in the company’s business
Ideally, you should not work for a set-up whose business doesn’t excite you. Only if you are interested in the business, you would be able to give it your best.
For example, if you are not a smoker, do not work with Philip Morris International. It doesn’t make sense. You may be required to smoke during business meetings because ideally it makes sense that everybody smokes at the company.
34. Be aligned with mission and vision
Mission is the reason the company exists. Vision is a goal for a foreseeable future and there can be multiple visions for multiple departments.
Be aligned with the mission of the company and then see how you can contribute to that mission. Be in line with the vision of the company, your department, and your team.
Again, you will care about these variables if you care about the business.
35. When working from home, organise
2020 has forced a lot of businesses to have their employees work from home and it will be a trend that will continue in the future. Organize a desk for yourself in a room where you can work peacefully. Try and ensure that there is little disturbance in your work.
36. Do not eat alone
When you go for lunch, don’t go alone. Lunches are opportunities to build friendships. Do not waste the opportunity. I did the mistake in my corporate career and would go when I wanted. It needs a bit of coordination to find company, which is worthwhile.
37. Stay on the top of your goals
Stay on the top of your annual goals and if you feel that the goal sheet needs a change, speak to your manager, and have it done. Do not wait for mid-year or annual appraisals to have important conversations. By then, the opportunity may be lost.
38. If you hate your job, ignore most of this article
This post will not pretend unlike a lot of pieces on the internet that you can have a happy work-life somehow even if you hate your job. If you hate your job, you need to find another job, either within the organisation or outside. You may hate your job because of the work content, or because of your manager.
If you hate your job because of the work content, then you need to see where else can you apply your skills.
If your hate your job because of your boss, see if you can figure out a solution within the company by talking to the HR or a senior leader. You can move to a different team. Do whatever it takes to find a solution.
You cannot have a happy life at work if you hate your job.
39. Manage work stress
When you feel overwhelmed, take a walk. Head out to the recreation room if there is one at your work place and play a game. Take your eyes off the screen and indulge in long breathing. Stretch your facial muscles. Listen to calming music.
Do a few of the above or all of them at different intervals. Remember, stress can be handled. When you are in a difficult situation, imagine the worst possible outcome, accept it mentally and move on.
We have the ability to handle anything if we are brave enough. No amount of success is worth your health.
40. Learn from leaders
The internet is full of inspiration. When you feel lost, learn from leaders. If there is someone who inspires you at work, go and talk to them. Or else, get on the internet and learn about how they work and what they do.
Read stories of great entrepreneurs, be it autobiographies or biographies. There are lot of work related lessons in the stories of people who have achieved a lot in their lifetime. I recently finished reaching the ‘Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight,’ the founder of Nike. I would highly recommend the book. It has a lot of lessons about courage and determination to succeed. It is also a story about how to approach work as fun.
41. Make time for solitude at work
I have emphasized the importance of friendships at work. At the same time, do make time for a 10 minute solitary walk when things get messy. Talking to yourself helps sort out a lot of problems in your mind. Solitude is a highly underrated activity.
42. Make a plan
Have a plan in mind for your progression at work. The plan may include your current employer or may not. You want to see yourself grow and you will need a plan. If the job is important to you, you need to have some idea about what you see yourself doing in a few years.
Start doing those things.
43. Marry work with passion
Passion is love multiplied by infinity. Passion makes work look interesting. If you are a student reading this, apply to jobs where you love the industry and would love to contribute in growing the company. Unfortunately, the thinking about passion only exists in the artist and entrepreneur worlds right now.
It is important to introduce passion in the larger employee work cultures if workplaces of the future are to be happier.
44. Write down a purpose statement that defines your work
Companies have purposes and mission statements. As a worker, be it an entrepreneur or an employee, it will really help if you have a purpose statement.
For example, if you are a marketing professional selling automobiles, you could write a purpose statement for yourself like the below:
‘My purpose is to introduce the automobile consumer to the finest technology in automobiles at an affordable price.’
This is imperfectly written, but you can refine it. Write one for yourself. It will introduce a lot of meaning in your work.
45. Dissociate from the crib team
Every workplace has a set of people who are always talking negative about work, leadership, culture among other things. Do not be a part of the crib team. The crib team adds no value to your professional goals and adds a lot of negativity to your days.
46. Read annual reports
A company annual reports are one of the most important sources of information about the business, its mission, vision and the future.
Make time to read the annual reports. You wouldn’t if the business doesn’t have any significance to your goals, as mentioned in point 33. So, that’s the starting point.
47. Get to know the leadership
Whenever you have the opportunity to interact with the leadership and share any feedback, take up the opportunities. Good leadership appreciates positive and constructive feedback.
Companies should create opportunities to orient the staff to the leadership in order to create interaction opportunities.
48. Evaluate your day at the end of the day
At the end of the day evaluate how you performed vs. the goals that you had in the beginning of the day. If you did well, you will feel happy about yourself. At this point, you can also plan the next working day.
It helps to stay on top of your schedule.
49. Do not take work home
If you aren’t working from home which most of us are right now, keep a distance between your personal and work life. Do not mix the two. Personal life is as important as work life. If one intrudes into the other, both suffer.
50. Realize that work is more than 50% of your life
When you come to the realization that your work life is more than half of your waking hours, you will not compromise with you. If you like your work, your colleagues and your company, you will add so much joy to your life while you look for ways to add value to the company.
Like in other parts of life, the best strategy for a happy work life is a win-win. Organizations win, when their employees are happy. Employees win, when they can make positive contributions to their organizations.
I spent a lot of effort in writing this detailed post, which to my mind, is one of the most detailed posts on happier work lives on the subject. I hope it adds value to your work life, and you can find some pointers to be happier at work.
Thank you for reading.
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I appreciate the time you spent in reading the blog and wish you happiness.