Although people say that money will solve the problem of happiness at the workplace, countless studies show that this is just a false pretense. After the basic salary needs are met, there are other factors, sometimes surprising, that make an employee satisfied with his or her job. The list below presents findings of what people with the so-called happiest jobs considered as main drives in their success.
There is a strong correlation between happiness and relationships, so if you are thinking of ways to increase your overall state of well-being, it is time to build strong relationships at work. Researchers discovered that employees who have at least one good friend at work are more likely satisfied with their job than those who don’t. While you cannot force yourself into a relationship, at least you can spark the emotions that usually lead to friendship. For example, showing that you care for your coworkers, spending quality time with them, being vulnerable and so on makes them willing to return the sentiment. A good friend at work means a dear face you look forward to seeing the next morning when you come to the office. This gives a boost to your daily energy and you are more productive when you know that someone is there to support you for good or for bad.
Closely linked to relationships is the sense of belonging, which starts with a close friendship, but expands over some other aspects like being accepted into the team as a real dependable member. Employees may have best friends at work, still, they may feel marginalized or excluded from the larger circle of coworkers. Or they may have many good friends at work, but all of them may feel disengaged with the work they are doing or with the company. It is true that a company whose employees identify themselves with its core values and purpose is more productive, but the opposite is true as well. The sense of belonging makes employees more engaged and productive. Perhaps it is not always possible to extend this attachment to the entire company, however, it is important for your overall quality of life to develop a strong connection with your colleagues. When you feel like a family or at home with your office mates, then you have already found your happy place at work.
- Positive emotions
As difficult as it may sound to foster positive emotions at your workplace, this is possible when you realize that happiness is just a choice. Choosing to be happy at work opens your eyes to the things that you should block out, like negative people or pessimistic attitudes, and the things you should invite over, like positive people or situations that put a smile on your face. It is demonstrated that positive emotions such as optimism, gratitude, hope, etc., go far beyond the present moment. They contribute a lot to how people perceive the work environment and how well they perform professionally. If you feel good, you are more likely to enjoy the projects you are working on and to finish them successfully. It is also true that your emotions will create a halo of positive energy around you that will have a great impact on your colleagues as well.
Engagement or flow, as psychologists used to call it, is the state when you are so immersed in an activity that you feel like it is effortless and the time is flying by. You are so intensely concentrated, that you can’t feel anything else. This is the peak of fulfillment and many of the happiest employees rated this as the most satisfying factor. What produces this kind of mystic state? The activities that you like most, or excel at doing them, or the activities where you set and achieve goals enhance this kind of engagement. To have an idea of what this flow involves, you need to know that it rarely occurs in leisure activities. Surprisingly, it is more likely to be experienced at work than in your free time, because it demands a certain investment of effort, challenges to overcome, and even rules to abide by.
Deeply engaged people find meaning in the job they are doing. While a positive attitude can be a family legacy, to find meaning in your work can prove more difficult than imagined. In How leaders kill meaning at work?, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer point out four traps that senior executives usually fall into, thus killing meaning in their subordinates. But astonishingly their findings apply to common employees as well. They underline the power of progress in a meaningful work, the feeling of doing extraordinary projects, not mediocre work for a mediocre company, and the articulation of goals in a way that connects emotionally with people. When you feel that you are making progress, when you are aware of the importance of the job you are doing and take responsibility for that, and when you have a target ahead, you are feeding the right food to your sense of meaning.
Achievement is not only about accomplishing a job, but about how much that job matters to you. The amazing feeling of satisfaction is sometimes a more tangible reward for the work done than a financial compensation. To make it easier for you to notice your achievements, especially when they are overlooked by your manager or colleagues, make a habit of tracking your meaningful efforts, because you will feel more satisfied when you see the quality, not the quantity. Another tip is to focus on yourself, not on your managers’ target. They can make you feel miserable about not reaching a goal. Make the effects of your work count for you, be them more dollars in your bank account or a smarter approach to the next projects. Finally, seek regular feedback. Confident workers ask their managers for feedback, because they know they did well and that their work needs to be recognized.
The way to authenticity is paved with vulnerability. In her studies about vulnerability, the famous author Brene Brown discovered that all people who live wholeheartedly have this thing in common. When you demolish your defense wall and choose to show up to work with your true self, you are more likely to find your happy place in the company. Satisfaction at work is directly linked to the sense of authenticity. If you feel that you need to become another person in order to meet the expectations, then you need to change your job, otherwise you will never feel fulfilled in that position. However, the opposite could be an issue as well. The fact that you like the job, but feel uncertain about your values, priorities and skills could make you feel miserable. The perfect balance of authenticity is attained when you know what has a deep meaning for your personal welfare and decide to behave accordingly with an authentic self.
Doing things just for the sake of promotion or financial rewards will kill the creative sparkle within you along with your love for the job you are doing. When all days look the same and routine starts to install in your life, you need to find something new that will fuel your excitement again. For example, ask for a challenging project that may satisfy one of your curiosities or something that ignites your innovative ideas. If that’s not possible, make little changes that can give the illusion of novelty. You can plan an office event with your colleagues, redecorate your workspace, go out on your lunch break and walk around the block. If you have a flexible schedule, plan to arrive and leave at different hours and organize your days to fill your free time with challenging activities. Adding novelty to working routine has a subtle long lasting effect on your overall happiness.
There is a trend today that the conventional management style gives way to a greater autonomy among the employees because it allows for more innovation and commitment. Autonomy, or how much control people have over their work, is a very important motivator that works miracles, more than bonuses and incentives. Recent studies have demonstrated that employees who are allowed to manage their own time and make their own decisions at work lead more fulfilled lives. The paradox of autonomy lays in the fact that people who have control over their time are willing to work longer hours than those who have little autonomy and higher incomes. If your job doesn’t offer you this gift, then your level of happiness and job satisfaction could be decreasing whether you may notice it or not. Find ways to increase your autonomy level if you want to keep that job. You may ask to take the lead of a project or at least take control of the process. These apparently small steps are huge steps for your general welfare.
Maybe you didn’t enjoy studying when you were in college, but this is not the same. Learning new things, acquiring new skills, and discovering new ways of doing things at your workplace has a taste of fulfillment that you may have never had before. It is part of the game of happiness. Why? Because your satisfaction at work depends on how good you feel at what you are doing, but this is not possible if you are stuck in the same old patterns for ten years. Learning makes the perception of progress more palpable, it nourishes the yearning for novelty, helps you engage in new challenges and experience the flow. It renders your work as meaningful and rewarding, strengthens relationships and influences your positive attitude. All in all, learning new things comprises all the above-mentioned factors and gives happiness the necessary boost to go on.