How to Be Happier At Work: 15 Changes You Can Make Today

Is hating your work ruining your life? It seems like there might be an epidemic of people who dread going to work, hate what they do, and are desperate to make a change.

You don’t have to be unhappy at work, even when there are things that are out of your control. It’s those things that are in your control that can make you happier at work.

Key takeaways

  •  Shift your perspective; A lot of how you may feel about your job is based on your current perspective, which good news, can change!
  •  Connecting and helping others goes a long way.
  •  Be positive. That’s the single most important change you can make to boost your happiness at work.
  • It’s important to be happy at work, but if you’re a manager, it’s also important to foster happiness in the workplace for your employees.

Table of contents

15 changes you can make today to be happier at work

1. Stop multitasking

We think that multitasking is a skill (which is why so many job descriptions and resumes list it as such), but the truth is that it gets in the way of actually being productive. And that leaves you feeling frustrated at work, because you feel incredibly busy and exhausted, but your to-do list doesn’t seem to get smaller.

The truth is, multitasking has a serious negative impact on you. It:

  • damages your brain
  • makes you less productive
  • makes you prone to cheating
  • reduces your ability to see what doesn’t work
  • lowers your work quality
  • keeps your brain from seeing important creative connections

Your brain isn’t actually capable of concentrating on more than one thing at a time. What actually happens during multitasking is that you start and stop in the middle of tasks, switch, and then repeat the process all over again. It might feel like you are doing multiple things at once, but that’s not the case.

Think of your car, and how much starting and stopping wears at the engine and brakes. Similar wear and tear is happening to your brain in terms of ability to concentrate, stay focused as a habit, and manage stress.

Stop multitasking, and make a new habit: finish one thing at a time. Focus on one thing at a time. You’ll feel more productive, you’ll be more productive, and you’ll be much more pleased with the work that you do.

2. Focus on the positive 

We just said that your brain focuses on only one thing at a time. This is why it’s important to focus on being positive.

This isn’t about being fake happy, or suppressing emotions and difficulties that are real. According to Scott Crabtree, founder of Happy Brain Science, focusing on what is positive, instead of what is negative, feeds happier thoughts and makes them more prevalent over the long term.

Crabtree is quick to point out that he isn’t advocating the idea that ignorance is bliss, but that you have the choice to choose to think positively. While sometimes unpleasant things need attention and need to be dealt with, much of the rest of the time fixating on what is negative only adds stress and worry to things that cannot be changed.

In the same way, feeding positivity to your coworkers instills good feelings in them towards you. So by focusing on what is positive in your own life and surroundings, and helping others focus on the same thing, you’ll create a better atmosphere and boost happiness at work.

Practicing this new positive attitude in what you think and how you act, even if you’re struggling to do it, doesn’t make you a hypocrite. It’s called practicing for a reason; you’ll get better and more natural at it as you go.

Related read: 18 Simple Ways To Keep A Positive Attitude At Work 

3. Ask for more responsibility 

Sometimes work gets us down because we don’t have enough to do.

Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Passing the time with busy work, finding ways to appear busy, coming up with a system to make what you do appear very complicated and difficult—these are all things we do to eat up time and they are exhausting!

Ask for more responsibility. Try it on for size. See if you don’t like having the extra expectation, and if it doesn’t make the time fly by each day.

You may also enjoy reading: How To Get Promoted—7 Traits To Get Noticed 

4. Look for new ways to grow (or ask!)

When you feel like you’re in a dead-end job, you effectively de-motivate yourself and lose interest in working. Your job quickly becomes drudgery because there is no hope for anything in the future.

While not all jobs have a chance for a promotion or advancement within their defined structure, you always have the opportunity to grow in your skills and prepare for the possibility of a change in career someday.

Take classes. Attend conferences. Learn all that you can. You may find that your employer will help pay part or all of the costs associated with continuing your education.

In a dead-end job, still feeling like you can better yourself makes it feel as if the possibilities are endless.

5. Help others at work

Helping another person is the best way to get out of a depressing funk or negative attitude. Is there someone at work who is overloaded and could use a bit of help to catch up? Offer to take on some of those projects or duties.

While you don’t want to delve into the personal lives of your coworkers, you are often aware of when someone is having a difficult day. How can you help? What can you do to make their day a bit better?

When helping out your coworkers becomes a top priority, work takes on a whole new appearance. You’re not just pushing papers or developing code. You’re making people’s lives better, and you’re increasing the likelihood that they’ll pay it forward.

And that leads us to the next big change: your calling.

6. Focus on  relationships

The people at work are not a means to an end. Even the most annoying person at work is, in some way, forming a relationship with you. It is up to you on whether or not these relationships will be positive or negative.

Now, you can’t change the guy who complains about everything, or who is never happy with your work. But you can change how you think about him and how you react to him. When you start to see people as people, and therefore as having the possibility of a relationship, they are less easily dismissed.

Pawns, on the other hand, serve one purpose: yours. This approach to your coworkers will put you at odds with them sooner or later. No one likes feeling as if they are being used.

7. Start your day on a good note

The easiest way to be happier at work is to start your day in a positive way. How your morning goes has a big role in how the entire day will go. If your morning gets off to a bad start, the rest of your day will carry those negative overtones.

In a study in the Academy of Management Journal, researchers found that how you start your day matters. They theorized that the start of your day is an “affective prime,” something that orients you and sets your mind to see the following events in a certain way.

Did your work day start tired and groggy? With a long and unproductive meeting? With a confrontation with your boss? While some things aren’t always in your control, you can create even small habits to get your day set on a positive note. Perhaps getting a cup of coffee or tea and savoring it for a bit before diving into work, or maybe reviewing what you did the previous day to get a better understanding of the day before logging into email. If you are on customer support for the day, give yourself a few mental moments to clear your head and get something positive under the belt before logging into the help desk and dealing with the sometimes negative messages that await you.

Whatever you do, find a method to start the morning that sets you up relaxed, not stressed, not time pressured, and gives you a day on your own terms.

If you are a manager, reconsider morning meetings. Don’t bring people into your office right away in the morning for a negative confrontation. Give people a chance to start their day positively first.

8. Get outside!

Are you taking enough breaks? Getting away from your desk and moving around are important not only for physical health, but to give you a mental break as well. But why not take it a step further and get some fresh air on a regular basis?

In the book The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor, studies show that getting even just 20 minutes of fresh outside air makes you feel good about yourself physically, clears your head, and puts you on a more even emotional keel.

Get up from your desk, go outside, walk around the block, and breathe some fresh air.

9. Avoid decision fatigue

This might seem counterproductive, after telling you to ask for more responsibility, but consider decision mitigation.

Making decisions takes a toll on you. It’s called decision fatigue. You have a limited amount of energy to devote to making decisions, and when you burn through it, you become tired, stressed, cranky, and make poor decisions.

Some decisions you cannot get away from, but think of the extra decisions you’re making: what to wear for the day, where to eat lunch, what to eat, what kind of latte to get…

Make some things part of your regular habit. Steve Jobs said he wore the same thing every day so he didn’t have to make that decision. Consider reducing your work wardrobe, or wearing the same thing the same day of the week. Do the same with your lunch, eating at restaurant A on Mondays and bring a sack lunch Tuesdays for example.

It sounds a bit crazy — the same thing every day?! — but it adds up in the long run.

10. Find meaning in your work

If you only imagine yourself as clocking in and clocking out, and shuffling papers in between, you’ll hate your work. But, if you imagine the work you do as an important calling, part of the bigger picture of not only your life but society, your attitude changes.

In his book The Happiness Hypothesis, author Jonathan Haidt suggests you can turn a negative situation at work into something much better simply by seeing it as a calling. According to Haidt, most people see work in three ways: a job, a career, or a calling. When it’s a job, you are only interested in trading time for money. You stare at the clock, dream about the weekend, and wish you were doing something else.

When you see work as a career, you view your work in terms of advancement opportunities with a larger goal in mind. The excitement of the pursuit of that goal keeps you going, and gives you drive to do lots of work. Yet, Haidt says, you’ll have moments where you wonder if it’s worth it and if you’ve missed the boat on what matters.

When work is your calling, though, it is fulfilling. You are not doing the work for money, competition, or to achieve something else. Instead, your work is part of the greater good. This is the kind of work where if you won the lottery, you’d probably still work for free just because you feel the work is important.

Can you see your work as a calling? Perhaps it might help to view it as serving other people, and making their lives better.

11. Track your progress

If you’re like many people, you remember the negative far more than the positive. That’s how we forget the good things we’ve achieved and the hard work that has paid off. Instead, we remember the details of our failures.

Track the progress you make toward goals. Write it down or acknowledge it in some way so that, when you feel like you’re not accomplishing anything, you can go back and see that you are. This is particularly important for large projects, which take much time to complete. Without breaking it up into small, achievable parts you can track, it will feel like you’re not making any headway.

It’s one of the reasons so many people like to-do lists: Each time you check something off, you can see that you are making progress and that you’ve accomplished something.

12. End your day on a positive note

Just as you started your day in a positive way, you should end it. Think about what you’ve done. Think and jot down what you will do tomorrow to help start tomorrow on good footing. Find things you are thankful for.

In other words, look back at the way and find a way to see it in a positive light. You’ll feel better about it as you go home from work, and it will help keep you from dreading tomorrow.

13. Develop an office support system

Take the time to make friends at work. Having these people to go to when you’re feeling down can help you be happier at work. Instead of just focusing on going to work, getting your work done, and then going home, think about how much time you spend there. 

Invest in a few key relationships so you don’t constantly feel alone. You spend a lot of time at work, so it would make sense that you would want to have some people close to you. It will make the happy times even more fun and the low times easier to get through, because you’ll have each other for support.

14. Take care of yourself

Happiness at work starts with you. If you’re not taking care of yourself by eating right and exercising, then you’ll be predisposed to feeling negatively about yourself and your situation at work. 

Regular exercise is great for your work performance, giving you more creativity, better memory, and improved concentration. And exercise has the added benefit of elevating your mood, so you’ll be predisposed to being happier at work.

A healthy diet has also been proven to affect your mental health and help you be more productive at work. Remember, everything in moderation. Yes, you want to exercise and eat a healthy diet, but it’s also okay (and can make you happier at work) to have a cupcake for a coworker’s birthday.

15. Close your eyes and breathe

When you’re really struggling with feeling stressed out at work, it’s time to breathe. Using meditation at work can help you be more focused and less stressed. 

So when you feel your positive feelings start to wane over the course of the day, take 5 minutes to turn off your notifications, find a quiet place to sit, and take some deep breaths. You can use an app to walk you through some guided meditations if you’re new to the practice of mindfulness. 

Don’t let it be intimidating, though. It’s easy to get started—the important thing is to just try it.

How to create a happy hourly workplace

The same tips that help you boost happiness at your job are the same ways your employees will find more happiness and satisfaction with their job. Which is key to employee engagement and employee productivity. And you want happy employees, because they can make the difference in your business growth.

So be sure to give your employees the space to practice these happiness tips and encourage them to do so. Share these tips with your team and see how it works out

Empowering hourly workers to find more happiness at your workplace

Part of creating a happy workplace is about the tools you equip yourself and your team with. Take scheduling shifts for example; sure it sounds simple in theory, but it actually takes a lot of time and mental gymnastics to complete. Plus, there are always last-minute changes that can be frustrating to whoever is building the schedule, and the team members that are affected every time the schedule changes.

Related read: The Price Of An Inconsistent Work Schedule

Use an employee scheduling software and communication tool to save time and give your employees more say in their schedule. Let them choose to take a different shift, work with people they don’t know, or give them a way to take on more responsibility. When I Work helps you reinforce positive behaviors and much more. 

Sign up today for your 14-day free trial to see how When I Work can save you and your team time and boost happiness at work.

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