Most of us spend a significant chunk of our waking hours at work, and each person has complex reasons for choosing their job. Naturally we need to earn an income to survive on, but job satisfaction arises from many factors besides the size of our paychecks. If you feel like you need a new infusion of joy in the pursuit of your work, here are five tips that address different aspects of job happiness.
Improve your relationship with your employer
It’s very easy to feel alienated from a person or entity who has power over you. This sense of alienation increases if you feel like you’re just performing tasks in order to get through the day and stay out of trouble. If you make an extra effort to empathize with your employer’s true goals and hopes, you can find a way to align the work you do with the employer’s mission. Stretch your sense of empathy to identify with what your employer is working to achieve, and you’ll feel like a team-member instead of like a minion.
Add positive energy to your workplace
Sometimes work environments can be bare of human comforts, simply because everyone’s got their hands full just performing the necessary functions. If you work in an office that doesn’t actually have client traffic, it can develop a kind of bleak utilitarian feeling that nobody enjoys. Taking a few minutes to bring in fresh fruit or to clip and post a cute cartoon on the water cooler — or even splurging on a vase of grocery-store daffodils for the employee lunchroom — can bring you the satisfaction of having some power to make things better.
Get up and move around
There’s an abundance of research demonstrating that you’ll be happier, less stressed and even smarter if you add some periods of physical exercise to a sedentary day. Take advantage of coffee breaks or lunch hour to get out for a brisk walk around the block, or try jogging up and down the stairs in a large building. You might also consider getting up early for a trip to the gym before work, or parking a half-dozen blocks away from your workplace. You’ll feel healthier in mind as well as body, and be better equipped to handle the daily stress that’s involved in building career success.
Make friends with your co-workers
This doesn’t mean you have to make dates to socialize with them on the weekends, since we often end up working side by side with people who seem mystifying or downright strange. However, making the effort to be friendly and interested in your co-workers’ lives will provide you with a sense of community that will cause you to feel like your workplace makes more sense on human terms. It’s also a useful exercise to put aside the personal biases that come into play when you choose your non-work friends, and make an effort to get friendly with co-workers who are very different from you.
Focus on improving your non-work life
When things aren’t going well in general, it’s easy for that dissatisfaction to be displaced onto our jobs. After all, you’re still the same person whether you’re at home or at work, and usually you have far more control over how you spend the hours that you’re not at work. Pursuing new educational or creative pathways in your spare time, starting an exciting new project, spending more time with the people who matter most to you; there are countless ways to make small positive changes. Even making the effort to get enough sleep can transform your whole way of responding to daily challenges.
The essential ingredient for improving your job happiness is empowerment: when you make a small effort to change the status quo, you realize how much of your life is actually yours to define — and this sense of power is the basis for happiness in any realm.