5 ways to be happier at work

You may have thought that the return to ‘normality’ would be a good thing for business. With most people now off furlough, some back in the office and others working permanently from home, there are mixed feelings from employees who are now having to adapt to the ‘new normal’. In fact, it has been estimated that over 40% of people globally plan to leave their jobs this year! 

Perhaps you are struggling to adapt to a different working environment, or questioning whether now is the time to look for a new job, or just want to feel happier in your current workplace. Don’t fear! To mark this year’s  International Happiness at Work Week, a selection of experts provide their top tips for achieving happiness at work. 

Design your working week to build in happiness

How you spend your time at work impacts your happiness.  There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of the week and feeling like you didn’t really accomplish much; feeling unfulfilled isn't compatible with happiness. Rather than storing up happiness for weekends or holidays, how would it be if happiness was an intentional part of the working week?  To maximise moments of at-work happiness, focus on how you are spending your time, explains executive coaches Martin Boroson and Carmel Moore from The One Moment Company

Here are Martin and Carmel’s four ways to design a happier working schedule:

1. Know when you are at your best
Colour code your working week to pinpoint when happiness struck. Maybe there was joy, high energy and flow in a piece of work, or a small moment of satisfaction in a job well done or contentment in time spent with a colleague. Then, identify those times when happiness is lowest or absent; moments when stress and pressure are high, or feedback and engagement is lacking or boredom has set in. Redesign your day to build in more of those times when the potential for happiness is highest. Maybe there is something you can do to inject happiness into other moments of the day; ask for feedback, reduce boredom with a soundtrack, share those moments of stress with a colleague.

2. Know why you are at your best
Is it early morning, late at night? Are you buzzing after being outside in daylight, exercising? Are you sluggish after that family pack of crisps? Do you suffer from ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’ when you have worked so hard all day that you need to claw back ‘me’ time, even though it's 2am and the next box set beckons? There are changes you can introduce to maximise performance, so that happiness isn't left to chance. Build in daily time to rest and recover. Schedule it, name it, frame it.  TimeFraming; being precise about the intention for the time we are in, is one of the most powerful techniques we know and can maximise the experience of happiness.

3. Know who brings out your best
Are there colleagues, friends and family who inspire you, take care of you? Are there mentors and peers who can help solve a problem with you? On the other hand, are there people who drain you, who take up too much of your time? Chances are you are spending way too much time with the time-hogs. Review your schedule and see who is taking your time. Who we spend our time with every day significantly affects how happy we feel.

4.  Know what is your best
Are you clear about your purpose and your priorities? It is hard to be happy if you don't give enough time to what matters most to you. If you were to look at your calendar and assess how much time you were spending on your priorities what would it tell you?  Are you spending too much time on the low value stuff, the little things?Are you giving all your time to the happiness of others? Maybe it is time to recalibrate?  Acknowledge your best; create time each week to celebrate.  

Incentivise yourself

Next time you are sitting staring blankly at your screen willing yourself to concentrate and crack on with your next task, try setting yourself an incentive in order to give you the motivation to get the ball rolling, suggested Elisa Nardi, founder of career development company Notebook Mentor

“You could try learning a different time management and productivity technique, like the Pomodoro method. No, it’s not a spaghetti sauce – it’s a well-tried tool for managing work in little bursts of energy. Find an old egg timer and set it to 25 minutes. Focus on the job at hand for that amount of time exactly and then reward yourself with a little break. If you do this four times in a row, reward yourself with a good lunch hour! Chances are, that important project will be well on the way to being complete,” said Elisa.

“When you hit a project milestone, treat yourself to a walk down to the local cafe to pick up some cake, taking ten minutes out to drink a coffee outside, or spending some time on a more rewarding task on your list. Whilst this gives you a push to be more productive, it also allows you to fill your day with simple joys that make you smile,” advised Elisa. What’s not to love about that!

Focus on your strengths 

One of the best ways to be happy at work is to do what you excel in, don’t waste time trying to be good at everything and accept your weaknesses, explained Andy Woodfield, author of This is Your Moment (Panoma Press).

“Focusing on your unique strengths and investing time in them not only makes your work efficient and productive, it gives you a sense of fulfilment too. Often, when people identify their weaknesses, they stress over trying to master them, but that only promotes the idea that everyone should conform to the same basic skillset and produces teams where everyone is just average at everything,” explains Andy,

Instead, Andy advises accepting and respecting your weaknesses, and mitigating them by reaching out to others around you, finding their strengths to offset where you might lack. 

“This way, you construct efficient and well-rounded teams. Everyone is actively working toward their strengths, with opportunities to deliberately push themselves and develop further in areas they enjoy,” said Andy. “Plus, it promotes a culture of interdependence, where teams rely on one another, but give people space to grow. As soon as individuals no longer bear the sole responsibility for performance, let go of the ‘jack of all trades’ mindset and can really hone their skills, imposed expectations are lifted and you might feel happier when you work.”

Align your role with your values  

The pandemic has done people a favour in the long run, as it has exposed those businesses who have covered their brand in a fancy purpose wrapper, but have not taken the time to really consider how to organise around a core purpose and deliver more than paper-thin promises to society, explains Neil Gaught, a strategy advisor and founder of Single Organising Idea.

“It’s helped people to identify those businesses that are truly committed to improving society and the world around them, and identify roles in which they will be able to make the most impact, gain career fulfilment and feel genuinely happy to turn up for work each day,” explained Neil.

If you’re currently employed, Neil suggests taking some time to really look at your company’s sustainability plans and what actions they are taking to make a positive impact on their people and the planet.  

“If you feel things need to change, why not see if you can help move things along, perhaps by getting involved with projects that help take the business closer to its sustainability goals. If you find there is too much disconnect, it could be time to look for another job that is more closely aligned with your personal values,” suggested Neil.

Explore your passions through side hustles 

“The digital age has made it easier than ever before to build your own side hustle alongside your current employment,” explained management consultant and portfolio entrepreneur Christy Kulasingam. Christy is the founder of Radbourne Consulting, In Side Edge and Proatar.

“Exploring your unanswered passions has the potential to increase happiness and fulfilment across all areas of your life and gives you a positive outlet if you’ve had a tricky day at the office. Furthermore, the transferable skills you learn as an entrepreneur will benefit your day job and company too.” 

To get started with your own side hustle project, Christy suggests you take stock of the things you are really passionate about and complete some initial competitor and customer research to identify a problem that you could fix or a service that you could offer. “A popular choice are ecommerce sites as they can be relatively cheap to set up, however creating an online course or distilling your knowledge into an easily replicable service could provide a low maintenance option. The possibilities are endless, the only consideration is that you are doing something that makes you feel truly fulfilled,” said Christy.