We’ve all felt unhappy at our jobs at one point or another. Maybe your cubicle-mate is way too talkative at 9 a.m. Maybe your boss keeps adding more to your plate and you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Or maybe the 9 hour workday just seems to wear you down faster than your tough coworkers. Regardless of why you’re not feeling especially happy at work, you’ re not alone. A Gallup poll from 2018 found that 1 in 2 Americans is not satisfied at their job. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to make a drastic career change. Luckily, there are some easy and some not-so-easy steps you can take to improve your mood at work and make the work week taste a little bit sweeter.
1. Put YOU First
Sometimes we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of work and our daily stress we forget to complete the most important task of the day — caring for ourselves. You have to understand and accept the fact that nothing will get done as well or as efficiently unless you are rested and healthy. So, don’t kill yourself for your job because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do. Get enough sleep for yourself to function properly. For me that’s about 6–8 hours. But, some of my friends only need 5–7 hours a night to feel rested. Find out how much sleep you need and make sure you get it every night. Food and water on the other hand are not so subjective. We should all try to drink water throughout the day to keep ourselves and, most importantly, our brains hydrated. Drinking enough water helps us avoid those dreaded early afternoon headaches — which definitely put me in a sour mood when I get them. And lastly, watch what you eat while you’re at work. I know, I know, easier said than done, right? The vending machine is only 10 steps away, Karen brought in doughnuts, and there’s a birthday cake in the fridge for Tim’s birthday. And, you’re gonna sit here and tell me I can’t have any? Not at all. You can definitely have treats throughout the day, the occasional doughnut for breakfast, and early afternoon Hershey pick-me-up. But, do it in moderation. Don’t eat a heavy, greasy breakfast or lunch that will make you feel groggy and tired. That will only make the day drag on longer, make you feel less motivated (which will cause you to get less done), and most likely won’t leave you feeling good about the work you completed that day. So, take care of yourself first by getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and avoiding greasy, fatty food throughout the day.
2. Compartmentalize Your Crap
It’s not always or even sometimes easy, but you have to leave what’s going on at home — at home. Don’t bring external or personal issues into work with you. They will be at the forefront of your mind all day and hoard all of your attention. So, how can you do this? Obviously, in an ideal world, the best thing to do would be to resolve whatever issues you’re having before coming into work so they’re not affecting you. But, when that’s not possible, I like to take a few minutes before work to do something for me that makes me feel better. I’ll put on some of my favorite happy music, grab my coffee, and write down whatever’s bothering me. I’ll write it all out, tear the piece of paper out of my notebook, and shove it in the drawer where the problems can’t get to me all day. It may take some time to find what works for you, but compartmentalizing your job from home is a huge part of improving your overall happiness at work.
3. Make Your Space Your Own
You’re never going to feel happy at work unless you also feel comfortable in your space. So, do whatever you need to do to make your space your own personal creation station. If you work best in an organized workspace where everything has its own place and you know where all of your materials are right down to each paper clip, then spend one afternoon organizing your desk. Although, if you’re one of those people who operates better when it looks like a dump truck just visited your desk, then embrace the chaos. But, for you messy-deskers out there, remember to be courteous of your coworkers and be careful not to let your disorganization affect them or their work. Once you have your deck looking as organized or chaotic as you like it, you can even go a step further and decorate your space with things that make you happy. For more tips on how to decorate your space to make yourself more happy and productive, check out my last post 10 ways to boost productivity.
4. Spread the Love
When we’re surrounded by negative, pessimistic people, it makes us negative and pessimistic, too. But, when the people around us are happy and positive, it helps us feel happy and positive. Building a happy work environment is a team effort, but you can be the leader. Start by smiling at your coworkers throughout the day. Not only has smiling been proven to improve your mood, but it also prompts others to respond to you with a smile — thus, improving their mood as well. You can also promote a positive work environment by spreading appreciation throughout the office. Say thank you more often when a coworker does something for you or helps you with a project. Say please when requesting something from a coworker. Or, simply lend a hand when you see a coworker in need of help because helping others feel happy will help you feel happy in turn. Spread the love in the office by being kind, courteous, respectful, and helpful. Fostering an overall pleasant work environment for everyone will only make it easier for you to feel happy in your job.
5. Accept People for Who They Are
While spreading happiness and a positive attitude around the office is ideal, it’s not always possible. Some people are just going to be persistently difficult, and the best way to deal with those people? — Accept them for who they are. They might be selfish. They might be rude. They might be annoying, distracting, or just plain…*ahem* — unintelligent. But, that’s who they are. It’s not your job to change them, but it is your job to adapt to deal with them. Practice patience with these people and do your best to handle these problems interpersonally before bringing these problems up to your boss or HR and adding more stress to the situation.
6. Take Breaks to Reward Yourself
Taking frequent breaks to reward yourself for your hard work is essential in keeping up a good mood at work. Get up and move around — get your blood pumping to increase circulation, cut back on headaches, and reduce afternoon fatigue. Or you can keep some kind of toy or something to play with at your desk for a brain break like a small puzzle, a Rubix cube, a lump of clay, a coloring book, or one of those infamous fidget spinners — anything that will keep your hands busy for a few minutes so you can let your mind relax and wander. If the idea of a little bit of quiet time during your break sounds better instead — go somewhere peaceful and just meditate for a bit. However you choose to break, just make sure you are doing something that makes YOU happy and nothing else. Check out my last article 10 ways to boost productivity for more tips on taking breaks and rewarding yourself at work.
7. Stop Multitasking
It is a big ‘ole fat MYTH that multitasking makes you work harder or means you’re smarter. In reality, multitasking stresses you out, kills creativity, and murders happiness. Instead, focus on one task at a time until it’s completed and then move on to the next assignment. There’s no need to try doing a million things at once. You’re one person, so take things one at time.
8. Jam Out
The number one thing that is always sure to boost my mood is music. Nothing makes me feel better than when I put on a 60’s music playlist and just jam out. Make a playlist of music that makes you feel happy, whether that’s rap, emo, scream-O, oldies, folk, or classical. Make yourself a mix of your favorite feel-good songs and listen to them in the shower, on your way to work, or while you’re chipping away at your work and feel yourself get happier as the tunes fill you with good vibes.
9. Reflect on the Good
You made it. It’s the end of the workday and it’s time to go home — but, that doesn’t mean you don’t sometimes take work stress home with you, right? Instead, go home feeling good about the work you did that day by making one of those lists I love so much. Write down all of the things you accomplished that day. Write down what you’re proud of yourself for getting done that day. Write down what made you smile or laugh that day. Keep a list of all things that improved your happiness at work so you don’t carry the stress of your job home with you.
10. Find Meaning in Your Work
Sure, you can follow all these tips and try as hard as you can to be happy at work, but none of these are going to help you unless you feel fulfilled in some way by the work you’re doing. You don’t have to be in love with your job, but you will feel so much better about going into work every day and putting in your 9 hours if you feel like your job is contributing to something. Some people feel fulfilled by work that helps others, some find meaning in work that gives back to the community, and some find fulfillment in knowing the work they’re doing now will contribute to their future goals. Find your passion, find what makes you feel fulfilled, find what gives you meaning, and apply it to your work. You will feel infinitely happier in your job when you can leave the office every day and say, “This is why I do what I do.”
Chad Q. Brown’s Profile is a retained consulting firm incorporating distinct team building and talent strategies utilizing proprietary technology and behavioral assessment infrastructure. Our mission — help people get better at people.
Chad Q. Brown