15 Ways to be Happier at Work
Some studies show that over half of all Americans are not happy with their jobs. While this is an improvement from years’ past, it’s still a dismal reality for over half of the working population. If you happen to fall into that unfortunate category of professionals who dread Monday mornings and are generally unhappy in their workplace, consider these 15 strategies for meeting your dissatisfaction head on and transforming the way you feel about your job.
1. Identify the problem: You can’t fix what you don’t know. The first step to having a more fulfilling, satisfying work-life is understanding exactly what it is that makes you unhappy, then making a focused plan to overcome or remove that obstacle.
2. Be honest with yourself: Perhaps you’re unhappy because you’re in a toxic work environment or you’re not being challenged to grow and develop as a professional. Or… maybe it’s you. If you’re stuck in a cycle of negativity, poor health, trouble at home, or any number of other threats to your overall happiness, this will inevitably carry over to your work. Until you start being honest with yourself about what the real problem is, no job change or new project or new department will fix what ails you.
3. Ask for more responsibility: This may seem counterintuitive at first, but not being challenged at work or encouraged to grow is a common source of poor job satisfaction. Professionals who don’t feel engaged either with their work or their organization will eventually ‘check out.’
4. Make friends: Workplace friendships are powerful stuff. If you have a great relationship with even one or two coworkers, chances are you’ll feel happier about your job and look forward to going to work each day.
5. Remember the bigger picture: In his Ted Talk, “Science in service to the public good,” Siddhartha Roy reminds everyone working in the sciences that making people’s lives better and taking care of the planet are at the heart of everything we do. Even if you feel mired down in mundane tasks or tangled up in workplace politics, never forget why you do what you do.
6. Talk to you boss: If you’ve identified the main cause of your dissatisfaction at work (and it's not directly related to your personal life), schedule a one-on-one with your boss to talk through some of your concerns. You don’t want to come only with complaints, obviously. Instead, raise what you feel are the most important issues – especially if they are widespread or systemic throughout the organization – and discuss how you think your team, department, or company can improve for the betterment of everyone.
7. Take breaks: If you’re spending all day in front of your computer or in the lab without much of a break, you’re at serious risk for burnout and you're probably not very happy. First of all, make a point to eat lunch away from your particular place of work, even if it’s just down the hall. Next, carve out a few short breaks throughout the day where you can step away from your work and unplug.
8. Know what you want, then ask for it: Maybe you’re unhappy because you want a more flexible schedule, higher pay, more responsibility, or additional resources. Don’t be afraid to approach your leadership with your request; just make sure it is specific, well-thought-out and supported with a good track record.
9. Practice mindfulness: As we recently discussed in this article, practicing mindfulness in the workplace can reap huge benefits to individual employees and teams, from lower stress levels, reduced conflict, and increased productivity, to an overall improved sense of wellbeing and happiness.
10. Set long-term goals: If you’re not working towards anything, you’re not growing or learning. And if you’re not growing or learning, you’ll quickly become bored, disengaged, and unhappy in your current position. Make sure that you’re being provided the support and tools you need to advance and achieve your goals; otherwise, it may be time to consider finding a new employer who is more supportive of your long-term career plan.
11. Find a mentor: You need a knowledgeable insider who you trust to bounce your ideas, complaints, and feelings off of.
12. Improve your lifestyle: If you feel better, you do better. You’d be surprised how much of an impact unhealthy habits (lack of sleep, poor diet, no exercise, addictions, etc.) have on your workplace satisfaction levels, or your overall happiness for that matter. If you don’t tackle the root cause of your unhappiness, things will only continue to get worse.
13. Take control: Remember, happiness is ultimately a personal choice. You, and only you, are in charge of your happiness levels, regardless of the type of environment you’re working in. Some jobs or workplaces may present more challenges for you than others, but don’t let these external forces (most of which are probably out of your control) dictate your true happiness.
14. Re-evaluate your career choices: If you’re not truly satisfied with your line of work – and you know it’s the work itself you’re unhappy with – then it may be time to make a plan to pursue something else.
15. When all else fails, look for a new job: If your unhappiness level is directly tied to your current company, then it’s probably time to start looking for a new employer. While no place is without conflict or problems, your workplace shouldn’t make you miserable. If it is, it’s time to put yourself on the job market and find a better environment.