Happiness at Work

Happiness at Work2


When we have a job that doesn’t check all of our boxes—maybe it’s bridge to our dream job, or it’s the job that pays the bills, or it’s the best job we can find at the moment—it can feel difficult to feel happy. We might be missing those traditional markers of workplace happiness, like a fulfilling job, recognition from those in charge, a good use of our skills, or financial compensation. We have two choices: leave, or figure out how to create our own happiness given the circumstances.


If we choose option two, we can begin to hone in on a few things that we know might turn the tides:

  • Building our own rewards into the job: when we meet a goal, whether that’s an employer goal or one we’ve set for ourselves, we can celebrate it in our own way. Self-reward, both in big and little ways, can bridge the gap when employers are dropping the ball

  • Responsibility for self: focusing on what we can control, when there may be so many things we can’t control. We can’t control our employers, co-workers, and we might not be able to control the work we have to do, but we can control our own behavior, our own self-care outside of work, our efforts, and so on

  • Avoiding negativity, gossip, or judgement: one study noted that happiness is contagious at the office, and in the same turn, so is unhappiness. If you’re feeling down at work, put your blinders on and avoid the water cooler at all costs. Others’ negativity breeds negativity.

  • Focusing on flow: how can you “get in the zone” more? Flow is a fantastic feeling, and when we can hone in on building that, it yields happiness on its own. Making the perfect pizza, nailing the spreadsheet, folding the perfect pile of jeans… there are all sorts of ways to get into flow at work.

  • Single-tasking: keep your stress down and your productivity up by focusing on one task at a time, instead of multitasking. Do one thing well instead of five things poorly, and begin building your self efficacy at work.

What does happiness at work look like to you, and how can you increase it on your own?

Frone, M. R. (1999). Work stress and alcohol use. Alcohol Research & Health, 23(4), 284-291.

Kivimäki, M., & Kawachi, I. (2015). Work stress as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Current Cardiology Reports, 17(9), 1-9.

McKee, A. (2017a). Happiness traps. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/09/happiness-traps

Rosenthal, T., & Alter, A. (2012). Occupational stress and hypertension. Journal of the American Society of Hypertension, 6(1), 2-22.