To optimize your career, you want to make sure the hours you spend at work are more happy than not.
Even though it may not seem like it, there are ways to be happier at work, including making sure you carve out time to take breaks.
Here, 13 career experts share tips on how to be happier at work.
If you work 40 hours out of a 168-hour week, that’s nearly a quarter of your week spent at work. Of course, you probably want to make sure those hours are more enjoyable than not. But not everyone is happy at work.
In fact, Teem – a software and workplace analytics company that WeWork recently acquired – did some research on the subject. According to the 2017 Teem Employee Happiness Survey of over 1,300 US workers, 48% of those surveyed reported being unhappy or “somewhat happy” at work, which was up 8% from their 2016 report.
Among the factors contributing to this were poor work-life balance (48%), workers feeling underappreciated in their positions (46%), and people feeling obligated to respond to colleagues at all times, due to communication apps (49%).
“Work can be stressful, but that doesn’t mean happiness can’t be achieved,” Zach Holmquist, cofounder and chief of workplace experience at Teem, told Business Insider in an email. “While it may seem difficult to attain, it’s crucial for both employees and employers. To avoid burnout and ultimately maximize creativity and productivity, ensure you are truly working in an environment where you can thrive.”
Here, Holmquist and 12 other career experts share their advice on how to be happier at work. (Responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.)
1. Put your professional development first
Like many experiences in life, being happy at work all starts with how you mentally view your job and the people you work with. Put your professional development first — happiness at work is knowing you can grow and learn in your company. Professional development can be anything from taking classes to knowing how to become a good manager.
— Jillian Seijo, HR manager at Develop Intelligence
2. Figure out what truly motivates you
Many individuals are unhappy at work because they haven’t tapped into what fundamentally motivates them — they lack a sense of meaningfulness in their job or connectedness with their team.
So, think deeply about how you define enjoyment, success, and fulfillment, and see how that relates to what you do at work. Perhaps there’s a disconnect between what really motivates you and how you relate to either the projects you engage in or the teams you’re involved with.
— Kira Nurieli, founder and director of Harmony Strategies Group
3. Conduct an energy audit and make changes accordingly
For the next three days, write down all your tasks at work and beyond, and note whether each one drains you or fills your cup. Include both intentional activities and unintentional diversions (i.e., procrastination or getting caught up in emails).
After three days, review your balance sheet. Ask yourself if there are any changes you can make to do less of what drains you and more of what enlivens you.
— Sarah Greenberg, licensed psychotherapist and lead coach at BetterUp
4. Take 10-to-15-minute breaks
Take 10-15 minutes for yourself — whether it’s meditation, taking a walk, stretching, listening to music, or tuning into Brain FM. Allowing yourself more “you” time can help you feel more grounded and excited about work, as well as less stressed.
— Penelope Brackett, practice development manager at RiseSmart, a career services and transition management company
5. Keep a ‘smile file’
Stop comparing yourself to strangers on the Internet and keep a running list of your accomplishments, compliments, and thank-yous from real people.
— Lauren McGoodwin, CEO and founder of Career Contessa and creator of The Salary Project
6. Remind yourself of why you like working there
Remind yourself of why you looked forward to working at your job in the first place. Most of the time, we are super excited to get started at a new job, but over time, as stress piles up, we lose sight of what was exciting about it in the first place.
— Esther Gonzalez Freeman, board-certified career coach and founder of E Powered Media
7. Be disciplined about rest and balance
We cannot pour from an empty cup. To stay high-energy, productive, engaged, and happier at work, it is important to prioritize balance and time-outs. Taking care of ourselves and prioritizing sleep, hydration, nutrition, and exercise are important parts of being able to be happy at work.
— Shefali Raina, a NYC-based executive coach
8. Don’t be ‘on’ 24/7
Unless it’s an emergency or some sort of unique circumstance, employees should never be — or feel forced to be — plugged in 24/7. Organizations don’t need to, and quite frankly, shouldn’t implement an environment that encourages an “always-on” team. What they do need is a happy workforce.
—Zach Holmquist, cofounder and chief of workplace experience at Teem, a WeWork company
12. Build your network
Some of the deepest relationships in our lives are formed at work. We need friends, mentors, advisors, and advocates to bounce ideas off of, to ask for expert advice, to brainstorm, to cheer us up, help us find solutions, and to vent and/or celebrate with at the end of the week.
By building your network, I mean develop meaningful relationships with people you admire and respect, who support you in your career growth and care about your happiness, and who you will support equally in return.
— Deena Baikowitz, chief networking officer and cofounder of Fireball Network
10. Connect your work to your intrinsic values
To be happier at work, it helps to connect your work to your intrinsic values — even if your job does not have a grand purpose, you can live your values. These may include treating others well, teaching others, doing your job with positive intention, doing your best, working hard, and doing well to be a model for your children or provide for your family. Keeping these ideals in mind adds up and gives meaning to your work.
— Diane Rosen, attorney and cofounder of Compass Consultants, a practice that helps organizations better motivate and mobilize their employees
11. Limit time with negative coworkers
Some people will complain about work and gossip at the office, but never leave. So, limit time with negative coworkers. Spend time with the people who are positive and moving up. Those are the relationships to cultivate, because they will benefit you in the future.
— Rebecca Gebhardt, founder and consultant at Rise Up Consulting
12. Talk to your boss more often
The best way to be happier at work is to talk to your boss more regularly. While it can be uncomfortable at first, speaking to your boss will help you discover opportunities to have a more positive impact — find out what they care about, what they wish was possible, and what you can do to help them.
Taking a more collaborative approach to your work will increase the visibility of your achievements and give you a deeper sense of purpose in your everyday work.
— Dave Lane, CEO of Inventiv
13. Discard the idea of ‘right’ versus ‘wrong’
Your opinions and emotions are valid, and, therefore, the same is true of your opponent. Let go of your ego — civility means showing patience and respect towards people who think differently from you.
Breathe and take time to think before you speak. Then, try to be thoughtful instead of trying to prove you own the whole truth (because no one really does).
—Steven Dinkin, president of the National Conflict Resolution Center