We all spend a great deal of our time at work, yet many suffer from boredom, frustration, stress, and unhappiness. I think we all deserve more from our jobs than just a paycheck. Not surprisingly, many job experts agree. Annie McKee, an international business adviser says that happiness at work should be the ultimate goal. It isn't always easy, or appropriate, to leave one job and find another, so it's important to learn how to be happy at work, wherever we are. Miss McKee tells us that too many of us, frogs and humans alike, fall into the trap of "work is work" and work isn't supposed to be fun or a source of happiness. Research shows that the opposite is true; happier employees are more productive which benefits the employer as much as it benefits the employees. But here;s the catch; making employees happier doesn't come from giving them more money or even more "goodies," it comes from making sure that basic needs are met on the job.
1. Meaning or purpose - The feeling that our work matters and is aligned with our personal values.
2. Hope or optimism - The sense that our future can improve if we just understand our needs better and create a plan for ourselves.
3. Friendships or positive relationships - Connection to others, which matters as much to our happiness as other aspects of our job.
McKee believes that one of the biggest obstacles to finding happiness at work is overtime. Working longer hours burns us out and actually serves to make us less productive. Another common work trap is accepting a promotion only because we need to make more money or because we think it'll be good for our careers. Many of us blindly take the promotion without considering how it will (or won't) fulfill our basic needs. "Not being in touch with our intrinsic values, our purpose, and relationships, but rather the intrinsic values of money and prestige is a mistake," writes McKee. This leads us to soul-destroying work, the antithesis of happiness. “When we are unable to see the impact of our work or find meaning in what we do, we often become dissatisfied and resentful,” she writes. But “seeing our work as an expression of cherished values and as a way to make a contribution is the foundation of well-being, happiness, and our ongoing success.”
Ms. McKee provides some exercises to help all of us start thinking more about our personal happiness and our jobs differently. To begin with, she suggests taking a little time and reflecting on the time in the past when we were happy with whatever we were doing. When you have your list, keep an eye out for opportunities at your job to do these things again; join a group that's researching new, healthier options for the vending machines, volunteer to help the company set up more environmentally-friendly practices., etc. Adding these kinds of activities to your job will go a long way in helping you feel useful; like you're serving a purpose that's greater than simply collecting a paycheck. To cultivate optimism, McKee suggests envisioning potential work goals for yourself that align with what makes you the happiest. Then take concrete steps to achieve them. This may not be the "fast-track" to career success, but the longer, slower path might yield the more positive results. She says that one of the best ways to build good work relationships is to help co-workers with unpleasant tasks...not just with the fun stuff. Become a team player and participate in both the good and the not-so-good aspects of your job.
If you want to be happier at work, have the willingness to reflect on your inner self and "what makes you tick." Having emotional intelligence, "the ability to read others emotions as well as your own and to have empathy for other," McKee reminds us, can be invaluable in making our workplace more productive, more motivational and, yes, even happier.