We spend a huge portion of our lives at work. Even if you only work the traditional 40 hours in a week, you’re still spending nearly 1/3 of your life at work. This can be a scary fact for some to face.
But if, with the right conditions, you derive a sense of joy from your work, feel a sense of connection, and believe that you create a positive impact on some portion of the world (however small) through your work then work becomes much more than just a paycheck.
Because so much of your life is spent at work, a huge deciding factor in your well-being is whether or not you’re happy at work. This can manifest in a number of ways, but the basic ingredients are the same in all types of work. Here are 15 keys to workplace happiness:
The last thing you want is to show up to work with people looking over your shoulder telling you to, “change this,” or “do this another way.”
If you’re asked to design a portion of the company’s new website, and if you’re given creative freedom and the company lets you do your thing, then you’ll derive a great sense of confidence and joy from your work, feeling like you’re really making a difference.
Freedom is a fundamental ingredient in workplace happiness not only because you’re an adult and would rather not feel like you’re back in the classroom with a teacher hanging over your shoulder, but also because you want to feel that you’re trusted to do the job you’re asked to do and that the company believes you can create work to the quality standard it demands.
Being given the freedom to do the job you know you can do without being questioned every step of the way gives us confidence in our ability and makes us feel better about ourselves. Freedom is key in every aspect of life, and work is no exception.
2. Positive relationships
Every day you show up to work, you interact with people. These connections are unavoidable, and so it goes without saying that the quality of these connections has a significant impact on our workplace happiness.
In a survey done by Virgin Pulse, it was found that nearly 40 percent of respondents identified their co-workers as the top reason they loved their company.
In addition to that, 66 percent said these relationships positively impacted their focus and productivity at work and 55 percent said these relationships positively impacted stress levels on the job.
If you enjoy your co-workers, especially if you work with friends, you’ll truly enjoy coming into work each day and the time you spend at work will be joyful and rewarding.
3. Stimulating work
If all you do is go in to work each day and do manual entry, it’s going to be difficult to find happiness at work.
There’s certainly more to enjoying what you do for a living than that, and by no means does that keep you from finding happiness at work, but whether or not your brain is stimulated while you work is one of the most important factors to workplace happiness.
Your work doesn’t necessarily have to be challenging. If you simply find it interesting then that can lead to a great sense of enjoyment as well.
Just so long as your brain is being stimulated in some way, whether you’re being challenged or you simply find your work interesting, you’ll be far happier at work.
4. Seeing your work as a calling
Moving on from the last point, more than just being stimulating, if you believe your work is downright your calling in life then you’ll find much greater joy than if you believed your position is “just a job.”
If you believe your work is just a paycheck then you’ll treat it as such. If you believe your work is your calling, that you were truly meant to do what you go to work each day to do, you’ll not only find joy in your work, but you’ll derive a deep sense of meaning as well; both are factors that lead to being happier at work.
Seeing your work as a calling doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an astronaut or a professional basketball player though. If you see the positive impact you create from the work that you do and the way that it helps the world around you then just about any type of work can be seen as a calling and something which you gain a deep sense of meaning and purpose from.
5. Positive communication
Positive communication can make a huge difference not just in your individual happiness but in the entire company you work for, which turns back around and further promotes greater happiness in your work.
Barbara Frederickson, a University of North Carolina positive psychologist, visited 60 companies with a team of researchers to study the language used during their business meetings.
After tracking every conversation and parsing every sentence for positive and negative words, they deduced that the companies with the greatest financial performance had a greater than 3:1 ratio of positive to negative communication.
Furthermore, a ratio of 6:1 identified companies with consistently extraordinary levels of achievement.
As time goes on, the old notion of “success, then happiness” has begun to wither away, and we’ve started seeing that our well-being is directly connected to our happiness in any endeavor, especially at work. As Shawn Achor says, “It’s not success that equals happiness, but rather happiness that equals success.”
To know you work for a company that does the right thing is a big factor in workplace happiness.
In the 21st century, we’ve quickly realized the importance of transparency on the corporate level. It’s becoming increasingly more important to people to work at a company that is open about their inner workings.
This varies depending on the type of company, but, in general, knowing what the company you work for is about, where they’re going, how they intend to get there, and how you fit in are all very important points which can lead to greater workplace happiness.
Large companies have had their fair share of hiccups in recent years, and we don’t want to work at a company we feel is any less than transparent. We’re all in this together, and that includes large companies. By owning up to their responsibility of being transparent, we feel we’re a part of something positive and as a result are happier at work.
Flexibility isn’t just important with regards to unexpected events: emergencies, pregnancy leave, etc. It’s also important with regards to your workflow itself. To be able to work remotely, even if it’s only partially, can be a great contributing factor to workplace happiness. What’s more enjoyable than being able to avoid the workplace altogether?
Of course, this isn’t always possible. But in the 21st century, there’s countless positions that make working remotely a reality, which includes essentially any job that has to do with working online, and so, when applicable, it can be a great source of workplace happiness.
8. Knowing your company makes a difference
This may or may not have been a contributing factor to workplace happiness in the past, but it’s definitely something that the new workforce of the world is looking for in a company.
Achieve conducted a study, titled the Millennial Impact Study, which attempted to find out if a company’s social consciousness could affect the quality of the employees it hires. A significant 39% of Millennials surveyed said that a company’s volunteer policy affects their decision to apply. On top of that, 55% said it affects their decision to take a position.
As we grow as a society, we are becoming more conscious of the effects that we have on everything around us. And the more conscious we become to this, the more important it will be to us to find work, or at least a company, that truly makes a difference.
To know you’re with a company that cares about helping the community and giving back to the world at large can be a great source of happiness, as well as a great way for companies to retain their best employees.
9. Working mindfully
Are you fully engaged at work, or rushing around only half-present to the task at hand?
Being fully engaged at work with mindfulness is one of the greatest sources of workplace happiness.
In fact, you can often derive a great sense of joy from your work no matter how menial it is by practicing mindfulness while you work. Indeed, it’s one of the best solutions to making menial or manual input work enjoyable!
This can take shape in many different ways, from doing individual tasks while being completely aware of the action your taking in that moment – the lifting and placing down of the keys on the keyboard, the fact that you’re sitting down, the sounds coming at you from around the office, and observing the thoughts and ideas popping into your mind as you type – to having conversations with co-workers while being completely attentive to them and responding with compassion and understanding.
There’s many ways this can be done, but one thing is for certain: to work mindfully, fully aware of what you’re doing in this moment, is one of the most important keys to workplace happiness.
10. Opportunity for growth
In our daily lives, we often want to feel like we’re getting somewhere. We want to know that tomorrow is going to be better than today, and that if we work hard we can make that a reality.
This same principle applies to the workplace, where we can derive a great sense of happiness if there’s opportunity for us to grow and move up in the company.
If we feel we’re in a company where we have no room to grow, and that where we’re at is where we’ll always be as long as we’re with the company, then we can very quickly grow disinterested and lose any joy we derive from our work (not always the case, but often so).
To know that you have a chance to move up, to improve your position, and through that improve the quality of your work life and life in general, is to come to work each day with hope.
Even if you don’t particularly enjoy your work, to know things can get better can sometimes be all we need to keep going and actually find some joy in what we do.
11. The ability to make a difference
We want to feel like we can actually make a difference, however small, in the company we work for. We don’t want to feel like we don’t matter or like the work we do isn’t required for the company to operate.
We want to feel like we can and do actually make a difference.
We want to feel like the job we do helps move the company forward. If you work somewhere that values your contribution and you can really feel how the work you do positively affects the whole, you know that having the ability to make a difference is a major factor in deciding your level of happiness in the workplace.
12. A suggestion box
Back in the day this was a suggestion box, now it can be simply the opportunity for employees to give feedback at regular yearly or more frequent meetings, or could be taken further to a digital suggestion box, e.g. an internal channel via email or something else for employees to communicate and give suggestions to improve the company.
This goes back to the last point. That is, feeling like you can really make a difference. This is a huge factor in workplace happiness for many people. One of the worst feelings is to be at a company that you feel will just continue chugging along whether you were there or not.
We want to feel like we matter, like we can make a difference or at least contribute in some minor way.
While this is in no way required to find happiness in your work, if you have the opportunity to do so then you’ll derive a lot more joy from your daily work. And being with a company you know actually hears you out when you have an idea can make you feel really good about your work.
13. Positive company culture
You’ll likely seen it before – the free beer and wine, the foosball table, or the “bring your dog to work day” at any of Google’s main offices. There’s various ways big companies are attempting to make the workplace also a place of fun for its employees.
This isn’t just fluff though, it’s rooted in the findings of positive psychology and other scientific studies that have begun to show that happiness in the workplace is one of, if not the, greatest factors in deciding employee performance, and as a result, company success.
However a company chooses to make this a reality, a company culture of positivity is a proven path to workplace happiness.
This is a less obvious point, but one which is valuable to many Millennials, as noted in a study done by Millennial Branding and American Express. The study showed that the opportunity for mentor-ship is an important factor to Millennial’s workplace happiness.
To know that you have the ability to learn your desired trade from someone more knowledgeable than yourself on one end seems an obvious point, but it’s something not often talked about. This goes back to knowing that you have the potential to grow within a company.
While this doesn’t directly have to do with the opportunity to move up, this does directly have to do with knowing there’s an opportunity for you to grow with regards to knowledge of your desired profession. And that in itself can make going to work each day a joy.
15. Work-life balance
There’s more to finding happiness at work than work itself. Without a doubt, what you do outside of work has a big impact on whether or not you’re happy at work. If your personal or family life is difficult then you’ll feel it across your entire life, including work.
There’s no separating work and the rest of your life. If you think that when you walk into work that fight from this morning is just going to disappear than you’re fooling yourself.
We often carry negative emotional energy from one place to the next – from work to home, from home to work, and everywhere else in between. But this doesn’t mean we’re doomed, it just means we can’t neglect any portion of our lives and think that one part will make up for shortcomings in the rest.
Take care of yourself. Work on you, your peace, and your happiness in your “off-time” and you’ll find greater happiness at work as well as the entire rest of your life.