Updated: Sep 24
Is work something you endure and go through the motions of while looking forward to that far off thing called ‘retirement’?
Does ‘happiness at work’ just sound like an alien and idealistic concept?
If this is you then you are certainly not alone but it's also time for you to understand that happiness at work is possible, no matter what work you do and it really is time for you to discover it!
This week, it is "International Week of Happiness at Work", an initiative started by two Dutch women in 2017 with the first official ‘week’ launched in 2018.
Over the years, I have had various nursing jobs both within the NHS and private sector, some of which I was very happy in and others that I really didn’t enjoy. Reflecting back now, the jobs that I felt happiness in had a wider positive impact on the rest of my life and mindset at those times, while the reverse was also true and the research into happiness at work backs up my anecdotal experience.
Finding happiness in your work is crucial as it benefits both you (the employee) and the employer or wider organisation. Despite this, 56-73% of people were found in a 2017 US report to feel ‘actively disengaged’ from their work and certainly did not see it as a pleasurable aspect of their life that gave them happiness.
When the typical full time worker in the UK now works an average of 42 hours a week (and other countries have similar figures), this is a large proportion of your life in which to be unhappy and this unhappiness will naturally extend through to life beyond work: your personal life and relationships, as well as the all-important, ‘work-life balance’.
To go through a working week, dreading getting up in the morning, resenting your boss, feeling put upon by colleagues, unappreciated for the work you do and counting down the years to retirement, leaves the ability to feel positive, optimistic and in control far out of your reach.
However, if this describes your relationship with work, the good news is that it does not have to be like this.
Happiness at work is not only possible but it will also have far reaching positive effects on your life and it really is in your employer’s best interests to invest in your workplace happiness too!
But What is Happiness at Work?
Happiness at work is not about the complete absence of stress or absolute acceptance of all that happens in the workplace. It is about being more resilient when bad things happen, due to feeling a deeper sense of purpose in what you do and a greater connection to your work, your employer, colleagues and others around you during your work-day.
Happiness at work can be derived from knowing that your work is important, feeling appreciated for what you do, having a voice, feeling some level of autonomy and being able to find a state of flow in your daily tasks.
Recognising that your personal values and beliefs are not jeopardised in your work-life is also vital.
The Benefits of Being Happy at Work
If you are happy at work, you are going to have a more fulfilled life in general.
You will be healthier, more cheerful, live with a greater sense of purpose, be more resilient, have better relationships, be more productive in your work and experience greater success as a result. Being happy at work will make your life feel more possible because it will be and your risk of overwhelm or burn out will be greatly reduced.
If you are an employer, the happiness of your staff should also be important because having happy staff members will enable them to be more creative and productive and better at problem solving. They will be more cooperative for you and have stronger loyalty. Sick days are likely to be lower in your happy staff members and you are less likely to find conflict between employees. Staff turnover rates will be lower and your customers or clients will be naturally more drawn towards your positive workforce and so will also be more loyal and committed to your organisation.
And… let’s face it, if you are an employer and you get these benefits from having happy staff, your ability to derive pleasure from your work is likely to increase too!
What can be Done to Improve Your Work-Place Happiness?
At the core of being happy in your work, you need to feel that what you do has purpose and is valued.
To be able to take on responsibilities with a feeling of pride in what you do, aligning them to your core individual values is important, along with feeling recognised.
As an individual that recognition in your work can even come from within by self-rewarding when you know you have done a good job, while also recognising and acknowledging the work of your colleagues and any employees you have.
The ability to take control of some aspects of your work is also valuable. Having a say over your day to day schedule and tasks where it is practical to do so and finding opportunities for development will increase the sense of ownership over the work you do and improve your engagement.
Recognising the importance of down time both at work and outside of work is crucial to prevent burn out. Remove the expectation on yourself and others of being available 24/7 and encourage a working climate in which people take a proper lunch break. This time out to refresh and switch off from work will enable you to be more engaged and productive when you are at work, than if you slog on, hitting an inevitable wall of illness or exhaustion.
Another approach to being happier at work is to use methods to increase your self-awareness which can help you to recognise when you are over reacting to situations at work and bring yourself back to deal with them in a less emotionally reactive and more measured way, while still remaining authentic to who you are. This will make you naturally more resilient and more likely to manage work situations calmly, in a better-balanced state of mind.
When all the people in a workplace treat one another with trust, respect and kindness, it goes a long way to making the whole culture of the organisation more positive and any conflict is more likely to be dealt with constructively and effectively.
Sometimes, on an individual level, we have to be the change we want to see. Lead by example and the rest will follow.
Happiness at work is crucial to your overall health, well-being, work life balance, relationships and most importantly to your sanity(!) and there are things you can do to increase both your workplace happiness and that of your colleagues and where relevant, your employees.
Ensuring that work is aligned with personal values is more widely understood by millennials today as they are known to have higher expectations of their work fitting their overall life and they are much less willing to settle. If you are a little older than your millennial counterparts (as I am), perhaps there is still something the younger generation can teach us in terms of knowing the value of happiness and even demanding it.
I hope you are not among the two thirds of the workforce who are unhappy in their work but if you are and feel stuck, perhaps there are titbits of information you can take from this article that might help you start to make small changes that will improve your working life.
Please don’t go through to retirement expecting to be unhappy at work and believing this is something you just have to tolerate to pay the bills and keep the kids fed. You not only deserve more, you can have more.
My work as a life coach involves supporting people who believe that being happy and fulfilled at work is out of their reach or feel powerless to make it happen. If this describes you then I can help you to identify and make changes that will create a work-life that is happier and a work-life balance that is much more… well, balanced!!
To get in touch with me and find out more through a free introductory call, please click HERE.