Everyone has a bad day once in a while, and unfortunately for many people that’s part and parcel of this thing we call work.
But if your bad days are starting to outweigh your good ones, you need to do something about it. It may well be time to switch jobs, but if there’s still plenty that you do like about what you do, it might just be about taking some small steps to improve the way you feel.
Equally, if you’re a manager, you should already know that a happy workforce is a productive one, with studies suggesting happy employees could be as much as 20% more productive than those who aren’t.
Much like any problem then, it should start with a diagnosis…
1) Identify the problem
The best way to approach making yourself more content at work is to begin by recognising what it is that is causing you the unrest in the first place.
Sometimes this is going to be pretty obvious, whether it’s a belligerent boss, a workload that’s overflowing on your desk or a stressful project that you’re struggling to cope with.
If it’s not so obvious however, start to note the times that you find yourself unhappy. After cross-referencing, the chances are you’ll start to see a pattern appearing, even in seemingly unconnected episodes of workplace despair. It may be something that you’re doing that you didn’t even realise, a nagging problem or something completely unconnected to work altogether.
While this might seem a bit futile if there really isn’t anything you can do about your boss that’s driving you up the wall, simply identifying the problem is likely to benefit you. It will help your ability to mentally deal with the feeling of unhappiness when the situation arises again, as the distance you get from understanding the problem can help to combat the feelings themselves.
2) Give a little
One of the best ways to improve your mood in the office actually has nothing to do with you.
The overwhelming scientific opinion is that giving actually makes us happier than receiving, and we could all do with treating our colleagues a bit more. Consider setting up a calendar reminder once a day to do something nice, whether it’s giving somone a compliment, buying their favourite snack, or offering to give them a hand with a difficult project.
Not only will it help to improve your relationships and collaboration, but the chances are you’ll get some of the helper’s high associated with doing good deeds. What’s more, you’re also more likely to receive something nice straight back!
3) Chart your wins
Every time something good happens at work, just note it down. Whether it’s a success on a project, a new sale, or even just a compliment from a colleague, when you chart down the good things you do, you have an invaluable resource for when you’re finding it tough.
Everyone likes to feel that they’re doing a good job, and the actual act of marking them down ensures that you give the proper time to recognise and celebrate each success.
4) Find the meaning in what you do
How do you consider your job in your head? Do you ‘Run the marketing team’ or do you ‘Make sure that everyone possible knows about our product’? Too often, people feel like a cog in the machine, and yet it is the meaning in what we do that really makes us feel content and proud of what we do for five days of our week.
Being inspired by what you’re creating is integral to our happiness, even if what you’re doing isn’t always the most inspiring. Charting your success should help this, as well as shaking up your mind-set to focus on the things that you achieve, and the effect of the work that you do.
5) Stop moaning
We all have our office gripes and gossip, and blowing off some steam with colleagues can often be cathartic. But make sure you check quite how much you’re doing it. Often, it can end up being all that you talk about when alone with colleagues and it’s not conducive to a happy work environment.
For one thing it can make any problems appear to be bigger than they are, and the constant talk of work also means you never get proper breaks. Studies suggest that people who take better breaks by disengaging from work and doing activities they enjoy are less likely to suffer from a variety of both mental and physical ailments that can contribute to stress and unhappiness.
6) Be mindful of decision fatigue
If you’re high up within a company, particularly if that company is a start-up or small business, your unhappiness might be stemming from decision fatigue. It seems that the more decisions we make, the worse those decisions are, and the more exhausted we are by the process of making them.
If you think the sheer volume of your decisions is getting you down, try to stop making so many that don’t matter. Steve Jobs famously used to wear the same thing every day so that he had one less decision to make, and these decisions like what you eat for lunch or how you dress are things you can plan ahead or automate.
Another option is to delegate some of your business decision making to those around you. It can be difficult to give up control, but if you place trust in the people you’ve hired, you’ll be surprised at how much better you’re able to approach the really important choices.
7) Say thank you
Do you need a little bit more help in your workday? It might just be as simple as remembering to say thank you. Studies at Harvard Business School suggest that 2/3rds of students offered to help a fellow students by reviewing his work just because he said thanks in advance.
Don’t discriminate either, thank your boss, other people in your team, and the receptionist and security guard. You never know when you might need the help, and for such a simple gesture, you can genuinely affect the relationships you have.
8) Get things done
Sometimes, we all have those jobs that seem to hang onto the end of our to-do list, always taking last priority or waiting on someone else to finish.
Try to start off your day by getting some of these little jobs done before you open up your emails or do anything else. It’s a great way to start the day off positively and productively, and achieving something concrete with your day is important for feeling content. If you’ve got a big project, break it up into smaller tasks and that way you can actually tick things off your list as you’re going along.
Matt Arnerich is a content writer for the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency, Inspiring Interns. Check out their website if you’re on the hunt for internships or graduate jobs in London and beyond, or head to their blog for more graduate careers advice.
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