Making Yourself Happier at Work

Mark Sagor


key_to_success“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Stephen King

Some companies like Zappos spare no expense when it comes to trying to keep their employees happy. They provide snacks, ping pong, nap rooms, video games, free lunch and a wide assortment of other perks designed to improve morale and productivity. These companies know that the research overwhelmingly confirms the fact that happy employees outperform unhappy employees.

But what if you don’t work for a company that takes extraordinary measures to ensure your happiness?

According to a 2013 survey by Gallup, unhappy employees outnumbered happy employees by two to one worldwide.

What if you are in the unhappy majority? Or what if you are somewhat happy at work but would like to improve your happiness quotient in order to boost your productivity and overall sense of well-being?

Fortunately, you don’t need to stand on the sidelines and wait for your employer to start installing foosball tables and espresso machines. There are several things you can do on your own to increase feelings of happiness at work.

  1. Go with the flow. Give yourself the opportunity to experience the pleasurable sensation that accompanies total immersion in a task, something the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “Flow”. Maximizing “flow” opportunities means minimizing distractions- take breaks from the incessant interruptions of email.
  2. Get tasks completed. Teresa Amabile and psychologist Stephen Kramer studied diaries from nearly 12,000 workdays and found that the happiest days were those marked by a sense of progress. We love closure. More small wins = more happiness.
  3. Cultivate work friends. Research shows that “employees who have friends at work perceive their job as more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile and satisfying.”
  4. Feather your office nest. Make yourself feel at home and comfortable by personalizing your work area.
  5. Say thank you. Something powerful happens when you say thank you to your co-workers. The person receiving your expression of gratitude feels better about themselves and that triggers an increase in their motivation to help you again.
  6. Give yourself a break. Remembering to take mini-breaks between tasks improves mood as well as productivity and relationships with co-workers. Work hard. Rest and breathe. Repeat.
  7. Eat healthy, stay hydrated and move around at work as much as possible. Be disciplined about respecting these basic building blocks of well-being. This is the lowest hanging fruit of the work happiness tree…..pick it!.
  8. Don’t multitask. Focus on one task at a time. Trying to juggle multiple tasks at once is a time waster and a formula for frustration.
  9. Find learning opportunities. It’s a lot easier to deal with the more stressful elements of a job if you know you are simultaneously developing your skills and improving future career options.
  10. Accept people for who they are: avoid negativity. Don’t poison your happiness well by getting into negative conversations and gossip. You can’t change who people are but you can reduce your aggravation by not focusing on the shortcomings of others.

If you need some inspiration to get you moving on some of these recommendations, let me suggest that you study the example of Ethel Weiss.

Mrs. Weiss, who died last year at the age of 100, never published an academic paper on the subject of happiness at work but she was definitely an expert on the subject. Her credentials included showing up for work with a good attitude for 75 years at Irving’s Toy and Card Shop in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Her motto was: “Think pleasantly about your work and do the best job you can.”

I can’t think of a better personal mission statement.