Happy + Work?

How do you view your career?  Is your job a means to an end, so you can enjoy the financial security to finance your dreams when you're not at work?  Or do you derive a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment from your work that enhances your overall happiness?

Photo credit: careesma_group / Foter / CC BY-NC

The Conference Board studies worker happiness in the U.S., and in 2014, the percentage of employees who were happy at work was a surprising 48.1%.  That's up .04% from 2013, and up from a low point of 42.6% in 2010.  Whether happiness is the same as engagement I will leave for another discussion, as well as ultimately how employee happiness affects business results.  It's no mystery that happiness at work affects our overall quality of life as employees.

So if you're one of those employees who is in the 51.9% of unhappy workers, how do you make it better?  Enjoying our coworkers and developing relationships with them can generate satisfaction that can counteract other negatives that depress us about our jobs.  That feeling that someone else truly understands what you're going through and has the same goals you do can make for powerful positive feelings that keep us from changing jobs, even when other circumstances may lead us to think about doing that.

Tim Leberecht, writing for Psychology Today, agrees that socializing with coworkers can help increase happiness at work.  He also suggests a few other tips, such as surrounding yourself with visual cues for goals, and engaging in walking meetings where possible.  The "where possible" is my addition, because when you work in an environment like I do, on a high floor of a downtown office building, there aren't many opportunities to walk in a peaceful, natural environment.  A walking meeting would involve a lot of distractions on a busy street, and it's really not practical.  A standing meeting is a variation I engage in all the time, because when anyone comes for an impromptu discussion at my desk, I am already standing.  I find that it's a great way for all of us to feel invigorated and present in our discussion, instead of noticing how tired we are when sitting, and slouching in our chairs.

But, let's be real:  something like a walking or standing meeting is not going to overcome strong feelings of dissatisfaction about your job.  Even great coworkers and strong relationships won't keep you in a job where other issues of fit aren't working.  Some jobs are high burnout, and it's important to recognize that change is inevitable and healthy, as long as you have thought through your goals and needs and what direction you want to take.

I recommend making a simple list.  Are you happy at work?  Write down all of the things you love about your job and your day at work.  Maybe some of them are a short commute, or how your day flies by when you are engaged in that state of "flow" while you're working.  Or your best friend is your cube neighbor, and your manager gives you great opportunities to learn and grow.

Not happy?  Take a candid look at why not.  Are you making too little money when compared with the work you are doing and its value in the market?  Consider whether it's actually the money, or the feeling of being disrespected or taken advantage of by being paid too little compared to your expectations, that is the real problem. Maybe it's time to talk to your manager about a raise, or look for a new position.

“If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door” ― Milton Berle

But when it comes to being purely motivated by money, Ron Friedman, a social psychologist and author of "The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace" states that time is more precious than money, and focusing on how we spend our time, which can't be manufactured, is what really generates happiness.  I would add to that sentiment that once sufficient money is there to create security and attain basic needs, time becomes precious.

Recently, I took on a new and broader challenge within my current HR department.  I am leaving a tight-knight group that performs a critical job for the HR team and the company...and I've received great opportunities to learn and grow there.  Why did I leave?  I reached the limit of what I could do in the position.  There was no path for further advancement and there were no new opportunities for learning available.  Luckily, there's a new path for me within the company, so I can stay and continue to build on the learning I've developed about how we do business.  From where I sit, it looks like a win-win.

For more information, visit Solve HR, Inc.