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Why be Happy in our work?

Estimated reading time: 5 mins

Work is important to us. It fills most of our day. So why not be happy in it?

If you’ve read my post ‘Why We Work’ you’ll have seen the science that goes behind our motivations; work is important in terms of generating income, creating opportunities to do interesting things, influencing how we view ourselves , and producing products and services needed by our communities, country and global economy.

First, let’s be clear on the answer to an important question: Are happy people more successful than their less happy colleagues in their work?

Well, according to research conducted by the American Psychological Association, happiness is a proven factor in our performance at work. The research states:

Once a happy person obtains a job, he or she is more likely to succeed. Employees high in dispositional positive affect receive relatively more favorable evaluations from supervisors and others”;

and that

one of the reasons that happy, satisfied workers are more likely to be high performers on the job is that they are less likely to show “job withdrawal”—namely, absenteeism, turnover, job burnout, and retaliatory behaviours

Being happy, it would seem, makes us likely to perform well in our work.

What else does being happy do for us?

  • Income – money, cash, whatever you call it. Research confirms that happier people earn more
  • Community Involvement – happy people appear to volunteer more than unhappy people, be it for charity and community service groups.
  • Organizational Citizenship – happy people help their co-workers more, protect their organization from threats, create organizational opportunities and purposefully develop their own abilities that server their organization better.
  • Social Relationships – happy people have more and better social relationships in the workplace
  • Promotions and Mobility – happy people get promoted quicker and into better jobs

How to Become Happier at Work

Perhaps a simple answer: do more of the things that make you happy more often.

Try that for size. Make room for them. Make time for them. Treat yourself. Don’t let anything get in your way.

There are things we can do in our job that can increase our happiness too.

According to AOL  Jobs,  there are five proven ways to increase your happiness at work:

  • “Get organized”: This one puzzled me at first, but it soon became clear. When we are organized, we can be more confident in the doability of our work. It becomes less stressful. It also means we can plan the work better, perform it in less time, and be sure that we can complete it on time.
  • “Now that you have more time, work less”: Or, do work that interests you more, if you must. But research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed that people who work overtime often are more stressed and anxious.
  • “Balance where you spend your mental time”: No matter where you are physically, our brains can be in one place – work. Balance your mental time between work matters and other things like hobbies, family or whatever gives you a break. Finding this balance is a very personal thing, but the more practice you have in achieving it, the easier it will be.
  • “Strive to work autonomously”: According Marylène Gagné, people who work in an environment where they can be more autonomous (i.e. decide what work they do, when they do it and what decisions to make, etc) are happiest and most creative. If you have a boss who micro-manages your every move then it’s time for a conversation to ask for more of a say in the work you do and how you do it.
  • “Stop thinking about your job when you’re at home”:  I am guilty of this, especially when I am working as a freelancer (see the 24×7 freelance trap.) Switching off isn’t easy – but it’s one route cause to misery. When we get home, stay at home (and that includes where your brain is at).

In addition, I have other personal tips I’ve used before:

  • Regain your sense of purpose: if you’re not crystal clear on why you do your job and who benefits from it, rediscover it. It’s surprisingly common to find oneself in a job where you don’t see how it impacts other people – colleagues, customers or the community. Take time to re-connect to why your job is important
  • Play to your strengths: you might be in a job where you’re completely out of your depth, or, you’re just not using your strongest skills. This can be a miserable situation (I know!) It’s time to put you where you’re good at… have a talk with your manager or HR and make positive steps towards work that you know you can excel in
  • (Perhaps in contradiction to above) challenge yourself more: if you’re feeling unchallenged then you’re standing still, and that is a problem. Talk to your boss about stepping up the challenges in your job; take on more responsibility or increase your targets!
  • Take regular breaks: your country or state may mandate that workers can take regular breaks, especially for lunch. It’s surprising, though, how many worker don’t take them. Go for a quick walk; grab a coffee; do whatever helps to get your body moving and your brain onto something else. A short break can lift your spirits
  • Join a social/activity club, or start one: many employers have clubs where you can get involved in all sorts of sports, activities and interests. I usually join at least one, wherever I work, as it’s a great way of meeting new people and having something to talk about other than the job. If there isn’t a club that interests you, start one

And lastly, take a look at these great resources:

  1. 10 Steps to Happiness at Work
  2. Achieve Anything in Just One Year: Be Inspired Daily to Live Your Dreams and Accomplish Your Goals
  3. The Happiness Habit: Choose the Path to a Better Life
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This post is part 10 of 15 in the series Working & Living
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About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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