Every now and then I re-read magazine articles I enjoyed to learn more from them. So this past week I was spending some time with the Harvard Business Review January/February 2012 issue. Their special focus was Happiness with several articles focusing on happiness in the workplace. Usually when you observe people they are happy when they are leaving work not going to work. That is what attracted me to the issue. Two articles that stood out to me were "Creating Sustainable Performance" by Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath and "Positive Intelligence", by Shawn Achor.
Both articles brought to light research metastudies that showed how happier and positive employees are more productive, more creative, and go beyond the call of duty. It makes sense that if you hate your job you have less energy and when asked to go the extra mile “forget it”, is the first thing that comes to mind. I thought of my own work over the years and I would say the jobs I enjoyed the most I put more effort and energy into them.
I want to discuss a few ideas from the articles that can help us improve our happiness levels in our work. The first item I want to share is how Shawn Achor discussed the importance of creating positive habits. New habits that are positive can keep us growing to thrive in our lives. He presented ideas such as to write a positive note to someone in your social network on a regular basis. Also to keep a journal and write down a few minutes each day a meaningful experience from your day or write down three things you are grateful for. Since the focus of this is to increase happiness at work I would suggest to think about meaningful experiences in your workday. Maybe you had a positive experience in solving a problem for a customer. Or jot down how you encouraged a co-worker who was having a difficult day.
One thing that can drag us down is workplace stress. Shawn gave an interesting reminder that stress although we don’t like to experience it, often is the fuel for growth in our lives. He listed how one company he consulted with, he asked the managers to list 5 life experiences that helped shape their lives. All the items they listed were times of stress and struggle. He states, “few people grow on vacation”. So, when we are in the stress of work have a mindset of how can I grow through this experience. He suggests to look at the stressors affecting you and list those that can be controlled and those that can not be controlled. Consider the stress factors that can be controlled and then brainstorm specific ways you can lessen the stress.
Another item that helps with happiness levels is discovering a sense of meaning in your work. Look at your work and see the bigger picture of going beyond just putting in your 8 hour day. How does what you do touch others lives? How are you adding value to the world around you in your work? Life long learning relates to this. What new things can you learn to grow in your job position to improve how you serve customers or help your fellow co-workers? As we learn and grow we can find deeper levels of meaning in our work to appreciate and enjoy our work on new levels.
As I have mentioned in the past we spend much of our time in this thing called work so doesn’t it make sense to be happy in it rather than carry a sense of dread about it. Some of the research in the articles show that the benefits of being happy at work carries over to happiness outside of work. If we are happier in our work we do not carry home the burden of stress and anger that is then often displaced on those living with us, or the household pet having to run and hide.
Reflection – Think over your work life then list a few things you are thankful for about your work. Write down a way you can bring new meaning to the work you do. What is your mindset about stress? Look at three turning points of growth in your life. Did they occur out of a time of struggle or a vacation time?