“Out of every goal human beings want to attain, happiness is usually the greatest.”
Usually when we talk about our happy place, we refer to a place in our mind—a memory, situation or activity—that brings comfort and peace inside. After an especially difficult day, if you pull up the image in your head, you can feel the warm fuzzes or pleasant feelings that offset stress. Your happy place might be the memory of a beachfront or mountain vista, soaking up some aspect of nature with your main squeeze or taking a nap with your Golden Doddle.
But what if you could turn your workplace, which can be stressful in and of itself, into your happy place? We all face financial and career-related stress at some point, but long-standing research shows that happiness at work reduces stress, raises your energy by 65%, boosts productivity by as much as 31% and builds a high-performing work environment and quality of life for employees. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could kill two birds with one stone and turn a place of potential stress into a a place of wonder? Although it’s possible, new research shows that it’s also a challenge.
What Stands In The Way Of A Happy Workplace?
A study released last September by Mavenlink, found that burnout and pay are the top threats to happiness and retention. Atomik Research, who conducted the survey of 1,002 full-time employees, found that 46% of employees plan to change jobs in 2020 for better pay.
More recently, findings from a Monster survey of 1,000 employees, conducted from November 6-14, 2019, announced this week that, from salary to mental health to workplace equality and inclusiveness, employers and recruiters fail to get on the same page. Fully, 34% of workers between 18 and 73 say heavy workloads and mounting debt negatively impact their happiness and mental health. They were most likely to feel mental and emotional distress at work as a result of a heavy workload (32%), not making enough money to cover bills (28%) and a toxic boss or coworkers (24%). Job stressors and negative mental health at work has serious consequences. Two in five candidates experienced anxiety (41%), one in four experienced depression (24%), and one in ten experienced physical illness (12%) as a result of their jobs. These feelings have an impact on employees’ careers most often by decreasing the quality of their work (17%) and leading them to switch to less stressful jobs (11%).
What Makes A Happy Workplace?
The answer to what makes a happy workplace often depends on who you ask, but many factors play a staring role: an empathic boss, upper management’s caring attitude, a relaxed and productive atmosphere, financial benefits, job security, commitment to excellence and open and honest communication. And this month you can add “opportunity for growth” to the list, according to a new study at Blind. The anonymous professional network recently surveyed more than 10,000 Blind users from December 9-31, 2019, uncovering remarkable insight into the link between employee happiness and growth. Nearly 68% of the workforce was satisfied with the growth opportunities at their current employment and 51% of all employees claimed to be happy at their workplace.
According to Kyum Kim, Blind co-founder, “Overall, Blind found that employees who felt they had significant growth were also the happiest and, as self-reported employee growth declined, so did happiness. Nearly 80% of employees who reported they had significant personal growth also reported they were happy in their current role.“ The survey also identified the top 15 U.S. companies with the happiest employees in ranked order: Netflix, Bloomberg, ServiceNow, Google, Tesla, PayPal, Pinterest, Facebook, Lyft, LinkIn, Spotify,T-Mobile, VMware, Indeed.com and Cisco.
Happiness At Work Is Partly An Inside Job
Ultimately, though, no matter your work circumstances, happiness is an inside job, as evidenced by a new study showing that financial struggles, educational regrets and career confusion may be causing the emergence of the “quarter-life” crisis among younger generations. At Fractl, Brad Daiber and his team recently surveyed nearly 1,000 Americans and discovered that Millennials suffer more and sooner in their lives than previous generations. Their findings included:
- 44.7% of Millennials and one in three Gen-Xers are currently experiencing a work-related life crisis (40% overall)
- Millennials experience a work-related life crisis 13 months into their jobs on average, compared to 15 and 23 months for Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers respectively
- Three in four Americans have experienced a work-related life crisis-taking three months to recover on average
- 46% of people believe their salary is never in their control (women are nearly 14% more likely than men), and 22% never feel in control of career success
Most of the answers to workplace happiness in the Mavenlink study were geared around self-care, wellness and mental health. And there was agreement across all age groups that workplace balance is the most important element of all. So regardless of the outside workplace conditions, perhaps your work resilience is the most important factor to cultivate happiness on the job.
Devise A Happy Workplace Plan
Just because workplace conditions are not conducive to your happiness doesn’t mean you have to become a victim and allow them to determine you mood. Nobody can unmake your happiness without your consent. What stands between you and happiness at work? Perhaps you get swept up in commitments, gossip from disgruntled colleagues or disappointments with compensation or advancement and don’t realize the toll—mental and physical—it takes. You can’t fire your boss, give a badmouthing coworker a pink slip or take over the company and restructure it. But you can be a better manager of your happiness. Here are 10 tips to reboot your happiness when workplace pressures throw obstacles in your way:
- Set Lifelines Instead Of Deadlines. They’re called deadlines for a reason, and if you’re dead, you can’t be happy or meet your career goals. Set realistic lifelines that can paradoxically give you more time, slow you down and make you more productive and effective. When you set lifelines, you don’t over-schedule or procrastinate. You put time cushions—chances to breathe, eat a snack, go to the bathroom or just look out the window—between work tasks. Lifelines make you less likely to hear that whooshing sound as deadlines go by or feel that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach for “always” being behind. Your days become less hurried and harried, and you enjoy them more.
- Extinguish Your ‘Blame Thrower.’ If you’re like most people, you have a relentless “Blame Thrower” that lives in your brain, ruling your mind and career, bludgeoning you with criticism, blame and oppressive words such as must, should, ought and have to: “I must win that contract;” “I have to get that promotion;” “This project should be perfect.” In an effort to perform better, the relentless voice kicks you when you lose a promotion or miss a deadline. Coming down hard on yourself after a setback reduces your chance of rebounding. Instead of kicking yourself when you make a mistake forget, or fail at a task, being kinder helps you bounce back quicker. Studies show that forgiving yourself for slip ups provides shock absorbers against self-recrimination, reduces distress and boosts motivation. Your blame thrower will be silenced, and you will get out of the way of your own happiness.
- Avoid Gobble, Gulp And Go. Slow down. Even the fast lane has a speed limit. A healthy lifestyle—nutritious meals, ample rest and regular exercise—give you the stamina to withstand the fast lane. The acronym H-A-L-T, which stands for “hungry, angry, lonely, or tired,”is a gentle reminder for you to stop and bring yourself back into balance when you’re out of gas: eat when hungry, let out your anger in a constructive way, call someone if you’re lonely, and rest when tired. Indulge in a restorative activity—a hobby, yoga, massage or hot bath—that rejuvenates your mind and body and restores your creative juices. Take care of yourself first, and you have more to give to personal job goals and to others. And you’ll be happier in the long run.
- Change Your Scenery Outside And Inside. Scientists report that “nature bathing” for 120 minutes—no more and no less—a week boosts your happiness. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing (running, playing tennis, or walking) or how you break it up, two hours a week outdoors gives your fatigued mind a break, boosts your mood, and recharges your batteries. Dine away from your desk outdoors, take a walk around the block or sit in a park before returning to the office. When indoors, consider giving your workstation a makeover. A disorganized or sloppy work area can raise stress. If your desk look like a tsunami struck, a pleasant work space can raise happiness levels and establish feelings of calm and control.
- Choose The Perspective Less Taken. Mother Nature hardwired you for survival, which means you, like everybody on Planet Earth, have what scientists call a negativity bias to keep you out of harm’s way. It takes three positive thoughts to offset one negative thought. Although negativity hard-wires you for safety, it works against your happiness in the workplace. You always have the power to choose your perspective. “I didn’t get the promotion; I’ll never be happy in this job” becomes “I didn’t get the promotion, but plenty of opportunities lay ahead for me to build my career.” Focusing on problems, instead on solutions, constricts your outlook, jails your ability to see possibilities and keeps you from believing in yourself. Studies show that pessimists are less likely than optimists to scale the career ladder. Happiness is yours once you flip your perspective and pinpoint the opportunity in a difficulty instead of the difficulty in the opportunity.
- Reward Yourself. Your brain is hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. If you’re like most people, your brain loves a reward. After you complete a portion of a job task—not before you complete it—give yourself a payoff. Instead of having the frozen yogurt before completing an aspect of the task, plan to have it after finishing a designated part of the project. This approach raises your motivation to get something done and gives you a treat to look forward to and enjoy.
- Come Up For Air And Clear Your Head. The human body wasn’t designed to be desk-bound for long periods of time. Move around and stretch. Be mindful of your surroundings and bring attention into the present moment to raise happiness and generate more performance energy. Take off your socks and shoes and feel your toes against the floor. Pay close attention to how the floor feels against your feet. If you have an opened window, focus your senses on nature: sounds of chirping birds, fragrance of blooming flowers or sight of squirrels nesting in trees. Take 60 seconds to identify the sounds around you (traffic in the background, voices off in the distance, the gurgling of your stomach) then notice your heart rate slow, your muscles loosen and your mind clear.
- Send Distorted Thoughts Packing. Chances are there are days when self-doubt and fear of failure take up residence in your head. They say you’re defeated before you begin. When they precede your path, you’re already halfway down, and you haven’t even started the journey. These distorted thoughts overshadow facts about who you truly are and what you can achieve. Each time you step out of fear and doubt’s shadows, you learn more self-truths. Don’t believe everything you think. Just because you think something doesn’t make it true. Your mind is filled with constant chatter and false beliefs, much of which is meaningless and inaccurate. Learn to watch your thoughts much like you would inspect a blemish on your hand, and you will recognize the distorted thoughts for what they are. If you have a self-defeating outlook blocking your happiness, replace it with a positive outlook and take steps to make the positive thoughts reality.
- Make A To-Be List Alongside Your To-Do List. The compulsion for being “always on” defends you from feeling unpleasant emotions and gives you safety and security even if the task itself is satisfying. When you commit to a happier life, you notice you can just be without requiring yourself to constantly do. Watch a sunset or a bird build its nest, listen to nature sounds around you or feel a breeze against your face. These activities recharge your batteries and contribute to job success. Meditating or contemplating at your desk for just five minutes is restorative. It helps you unwind, clear your head and refresh your mind, body and spirit.
- Don’t Let Your Work Schedule Manage You. When you say yes but want to say no, you become slave instead of master to your work schedule. When you allow your schedule to call the shots, you reduce your happiness. Learn to draw the line when someone asks you to do something you don’t have time for. Integrate personal time into your workday (such as taking your child for a doctor’s appointment) as often as you integrate work into your personal time. Tell yourself there’s a limit to what you can do and see this practice as a strength, not a weakness. Scrub making yourself accessible to work 24 hours a day and avoid working during personal times with family and friends. Create clear boundaries between work and home and protect your personal domain from electronic leashes. Know when to unplug and block off time for relationships, leaving space in your schedule for coworkers, friends and family. Take health days off instead of waiting for the proverbial sick day and take vacations instead of guilt trips. Don’t require yourself to do everything. Learn to ask for help when you need it. Delegating tasks is a sign of a confident, integrated and happy worker.