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15 Keys To Workplace Happiness

15 Keys To Workplace Happiness

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:

1. Freedom

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.

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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.”

6. Transparency

To know you work for a company that does the right thing is a big factor in workplace happiness.

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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.

7. Flexibility

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!

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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.

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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.

14. Mentorship

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.

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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