January 23, 2014

7 Simple Ways to Be Happier At Work

How to be happier at work

It’s important to remember that happiness is a state of mind, and ultimately you can control your own happiness, but this is often easier said than done. Sometimes a bad boss or an annoying co-worker will make you unhappy no matter how hard you try and convince yourself otherwise.

I’ve heard that literally forcing yourself to smile can actually make you happier, but I don’t believe it. I understand the science behind it, but my guess is it’s very short term, and not all that effective.

Below I’ll share 7 tips that I honestly think can work to make yourself “be happier at work,” But if none of these work, it might be time to look for a new job. A new job board called WeWorkRemotely that was recently set up by 37Signals shows you jobs from companies that are open to remote workers. It’s definitely worth checking out.

1. Work On Improving Yourself

This tip actually helped me personally at my last job where I really felt “stuck in a rut”. I honestly thought I was getting dumber as the days went by.

So I made it my personal goal to study 3 nights a week, after work, for 1 hour. It was a very manageable goal, and I’m proud to say that I’ve learned something new. I now know HTML, CSS, and some basic Javascript.

Find something that would interest you, and go for it. There are plenty of online resources to help you learn something new, but my personal favorites are Coursera, edX, Udacity<, and Udemy. If you can’t think of any specific subject to learn, check out Lumosity, which is a site for “brain games”.

Basically little games, designed by scientists to help keep your brain active.

2. Think More Than You Work

One of my favourite companies is Hubspot. I love what they do, their culture, their management team, everything is amazing about them.

Their co-founder wrote a great article not long ago called: 99% of corporate cultures are stuck in the past. At the end of the article, he talks about how he maintains a work-life balance, and what he says really stuck with me:

“The other hack I have, I find that people work work work and don’t think think think, and that the percentage of time people work versus think is off. I’ve tried to shift that, and I try to think lot and try to increase the amount of time I spend thinking about things versus on the phone or in a meeting or emailing people. So I see people working a lot and I say what’s your time spent thinking versus working?”

Don’t worry so much about impressing your boss and looking busy. This is a concept known as busy work.

3. Take Advantage Of Benefits

Another way to increase your happiness is to make sure you’re maximizing the perks and benefits that your employer offers.

It’s possible that there are a bunch of benefits that you’re entitled to, but you aren’t yet using.

Ask your boss. It’s possible that the company would be willing to pay at least part of your gym membership, or some of those online courses I mentioned earlier.

4. Celebrate Together

If your company works using agile methodologies, then you might already do something like this, called the “sprint retrospective”, where you look back at the last week/2 weeks, and have an open and honest chat about what went right, what went wrong, what you’d ideally like to improve in the next “sprint”.

If you don’t work using agile methodologies, then I feel really bad for you. You and your team should try and get together once a week and do a review.

Praise other employees on something they did good this week, giving feedback to your team can help boost engagement.

Pro Tip: Make the meeting super relaxed and informal.

If you can, maybe do it over lunch and order some pizza paid for by the company. It’s a nice way to unwind at the end of a week while still gaining good insights into your company’s performance.

5. Take Frequent Breaks To Avoid Burnout

This one seems fairly obvious, but it’s worth mentioning since so many people still don’t do this.

I get it, you’re busy, but you need to take a break. In one of my earlier posts, I shared 6 simple productivity hacks, and one of the hacks was to use a work technique called Pomodoro.
Essentially, what it is, is that you work in blocks of 25 minutes, while taking 5-10 minute breaks in between. It’s been proven that the brain can only really focus on a single task for 25 minutes at a time, hence the 25 minute work interval.

If you choose not to follow that technique, that’s fine, to each his own, but please take some breaks during the day. Ideally, go outside for a walk and try to get some sun. That will definitely make you happier :)

6. Give Your Time To Help Others, Even If You’re Busy

This one I learned from a co-worker, and this was something about him that I always respected.

He had crazy, unrealistic deadlines to meet, he had so much more work to do right now than I did all week, but whenever I asked him for help with something, he would gladly say “Sure :)”.

There was a study done at the University of Wharton that showed that if you help someone for 10-30 minutes per day, you actually feel LESS time constrained, which seems completely counter-intuitive at first, but then when you think about it, it might make sense.

Helping someone makes you feel more confident, and more capable of doing things. Try this one out and see how fast your happiness improves.

7. Be Happier at Work By Finding a Work BFF

I’ll admit it, work can be boring at times, and sometimes (rarely, hopefully) we feel like we’d rather be out socializing with our friends, than at work working.

A good trick to make yourself a bit happier at these times is to have a friend at work. A study done at the London school of economics found that socializing with colleagues is the only thing proven to make you as happy than when you’re not at work.

Similarly, Gallup found that if you have a best friend at your work, you’re much more motivated and productive. So feel free to head over to your friend’s desk and interrupt them no matter what they’re doing, especially if they’re on the phone with a client.

This has been proven many times with science, but if you doubt me at all, I recommend you read this incredible post by the folks over at Buffer (one of my favorite companies) about why exercising makes us happier.

Now it’s your turn!

Any tips to share? Let me know your thoughts on twitter @Officevibe.

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