No one will be surprised at the fact that most people don’t like his or her job. This has been a major comedy trope on TV for decades, and the joke never gets old. Depending on whom you read, the statistics are pretty stunning in a bad way. Up to 85% of people report not liking or caring about their job according to one Gallup poll.1 Inc, on the other hand, has the number at 70%,2 while Forbes & CBS put the number at almost 70%.3 In other words despite the numbers and statistics, whoever is asked about their job, the number is going to be high: well over half. Why is there such a dearth of happiness at work?
This isn’t a question that should be blown off. After all, a very large portion of a person’s life is spent at work, and the percentage is higher than most think when you include going to and from work and take sleep out of the equation. If nearly half (or more than half) of your waking adult life is at work, then shouldn’t you do what you can to find any shred of joy or happiness in your job?
The Importance Of Happiness
There used to be a general consensus that happiness at work didn’t matter, that work is called work for a reason, and if you want to be happy, be happy on your own time. The trouble is that studies have shown just how important happiness is to physical, mental, and emotional health, and how damaging and even life-threatening stress can be to health.
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One of the major reasons minds are shifting is because more people than ever before are becoming aware of how important happiness is. From health to everyday life, and even to mental health, in some way or another you can make a pretty good argument that it affects about everything in life. Annual ratings of the world’s happiest countries is a new concept that gets major attention from virtually every major news source when they are released on an annual basis.
This knowledge of the importance of happiness and the huge disconnect between work and happiness has been a major part of the now changing tides in America. While there are many places where it is business as usual, there are also a surprising number of businesses and companies that are being strongly proactive in creating better workplaces that focus on happiness, work-life balance, and being the type of place that can attract and keep higher level talent.
A Changing Cultural Tide
There’s no question that things are changing. While there’s plenty of argument about “Millennial expectations”, what often gets lost in the argument, often follows with this: it’s right to think that there are better ways to run a company or provide for workers. On top of that, many companies need the specific skills, talents, and training that the younger generation has – and their willingness to walk away from the corporate grind for a better or more fulfilling gig means companies can either adapt, or they can try to compete without the talent they need to win.
Tech giants like Apple and Google have been at the forefront of this. They go the extreme by building massive work areas that are actually referred to as “campuses.” These have high-level cafeterias, recreation rooms, and many different types of offices including open area “collaboration areas,” fitness centers, and in some cases even, walking trails. In other words, they are looking at perks beyond pay that can make workers happier in a variety of small ways. That can add up and when workers are happier they’re not only more likely to stay, but they work harder, are more productive, and are going to increase the work satisfaction of those around them as well.
This isn’t just restricted to large companies. Many small companies understand the importance of having happy skilled workers, especially a large number of white-collar startups. There are many options. Even if the stereotypical Millennial office with no cubicles, a game room, and no restriction on coming and going from the office isn’t in play, things like remote work or “work from home” are increasingly becoming an option, at least on a part-time basis. Many positions offer more paid vacation or unpaid vacation for work-life balance, and some companies even have a mandatory “sabbatical” time of a month or more every 4-5 years to recharge.
There are many small steps that go a long way towards bridging that happiness gap. A number of companies were surprised to see a strong measurable uptick in production, as well.
But even if you’re not with one of these types of companies (yet), you still have options when it comes to being happy, or at least happier, at work.
So What Can You Control?
If you don’t have the level of happiness that you desire from your job, the first steps to take, are to look at the things that you can actually control to improve your situation right now or in the short term future. There’s no reason you can’t experience more happiness at work, and considering the amount of your waking life you spend there, that’s definitely a good thing!
Start With Re-Framing
This is one of those practices that can sound really “woo-woo” and ludicrous, but it really does work. Long a part of NLP psychology and self-help, re-framing has been scientifically shown to help individuals change their feelings, their perspectives, and their overall satisfaction in many cases.4 Taking even 2-3 minutes at a time to concentrate on deep breathing, journaling for two minutes about what you’re grateful for, or actively trying to describe annoying things in silver lining type terms can radically change how you feel about things both short and long-term.
Give it a try. This takes minimal time and effort and you have nothing to lose.
Consistently Practice Meditation
Meditation has been shown by repeated scientific studies to make people happier.5 This doesn’t just apply to the time when you are meditating but it also will affect you throughout the day if you focus on being consistent and meditating on a consistent basis.
Practicing meditation is not only fully in your control, but that is a practice that can easily be combined with essential oil aromatherapy to further enhance the relaxing nature of the practice. There are many scents that have reputations for promoting calm, killing anxiety & stress, and increasing happiness. Using one of these scents, or even blending them, with meditation can be a great way to take control of your happiness regardless of the job stress.
Beware Of Praise Addiction
The entire school system is designed to look for praise. Get good grades to get praise from teachers. Do well in sports to get praise from coaches. Be active to get praise from fellow students. Do all three to get praise from your parents. Almost everyone is conditioned this way, and it has been going on for years, but this can ultimately lead to two problems:
1) Being unsatisfied because the real world isn’t set up like schools even when you do a good job so you feel underappreciated whether that’s true or not.
2) You make bad career choices following encouragement and praise instead of choosing a path that would be more fulfilling for you.
Be aware of how this can affect you and you’ll be able to make better conscious decisions.
Ask Yourself What You Want
While 2/3 of workers or more are unhappy with their job, very few workers ever bother to stop and ask themselves: “What do I want?” Have you had this conversation with yourself? Have you done this and really dived in to figure things out in detail so you can actually look at a solution? There’s no way to solve a hazy problem.
If you’re not sure where to start, take a lesson from Millennials and what they want out of their job. This is a generation that wants more out of work and wants to be happy and fulfilled by what they do. If you’re not sure what would make you happier at work, take a look at their list as a starting point 6,7,8.
Examples from these sources:
- Trust, also known as independence to fulfill a job as they see fit within the company
- Have an understanding of what they do, why, and fulfillment from work
- Independence of workspace – if your job can be done via computer why not from home or a favorite coffee shop?
- Ability to actually use and enjoy vacation time, paid or otherwise
- Active coaching and training
Make Yourself Recruitable
This can be done by making yourself more desirable for a raise or promotion within your job, or it can be a great way to get the attention of other companies you would be happier working for. Learn new skills in your spare time, volunteer to help out a manager or supervisor willing to teach you some of their job, or even spend some time in another department.
Outside of your job, learn skills both technical and creative. Pursue other interests and gives yourself challenges that you can look forward to and that round you out as a potential employee for your company or for another one. Many people try to change in weeks but if you’re willing to look at the long-term it is absolutely amazing the skills you can pick up over 2-3 years.
While finding happiness in a job that is frustrating, exhausting or stressful can seem like a huge undertaking, in the beginning, the good news is that in today’s changing marketplace there are plenty of options. There are more companies of every size looking to become more attractive to a truly great employee, and they know that means increasing employee happiness. Take the tips here to strengthen your own happiness, make yourself more valuable as a potential employee to others, and you’ll be surprised how the little things really add up to make you happy at work.