Creating workplace happiness – Part 2
Happiness at work can be cultivated. Even if we work well independently, it is important to take time to relate to others in the workplace. Building work relationships helps us feel less isolated and creates a support network.
Relationships also help us feel part of a team or workplace community, which can promote happiness. When we have strong relationships with our coworkers, we may even look forward to going to work! Instead of being a place where we are disconnected, work can become another place where we connect with others.
Something as simple as taking the time to greet your colleagues when you come into the office can make all the difference! Can you remember a time when someone just saying “Hello” improved your day? When we take the time to greet others, we make a connection. It is likely that your colleagues will greet you back, spreading the good feeling. Starting the day with a positive interaction with another human being helps you feel connected and can turn a rough morning into a productive, happy day. You don’t have to stop to have lengthy conversations with every person you meet, but taking the time to smile and wish them a good morning is a worthwhile investment of your time.
Remember to smile! Even when you don’t feel like smiling, the act of using your muscles to smile releases happy chemicals into your brain. And as the saying goes, when you smile the whole world smiles with you – you’ll see smiles in return, which can improve your mood. You don’t have to always be jolly when you’re at work, but remembering to smile when you interact with others, or just to yourself, can improve your mood. Smiling also makes you seem more approachable, which means you may be able to more effectively connect with others. It might help to have a mental list of things that make you smile so you have think of these throughout the day!
Having a support team at work is key to success and happiness. Your support team isn’t just the team members or coworkers who provide administrative or other support for your work. A good support team is made up of people you can turn to for advice, help, feedback, or just a kind word. As you build relationships with your coworkers, consider who you want on your “support” team (and who you can offer support to). You might include your manager or supervisor, people with whom you often collaborate or cooperate, or colleagues who you have built more personal relationships with. Once you have built your support team, check in with them often. Checking in with your support team might be something you build into your breaks, as it gives you a chance to bounce ideas or seek support if you are struggling. However, be sure to check in with your support team when things are going well, too!
It may sound like exactly the opposite of what you should be doing at work, but take the time to socialize with others during your day. Take a few minutes to chat with a colleague when you refill your coffee cup. Ask a coworker how her day is going. You want to keep these interactions relatively brief so that you are still accomplishing work, but also long enough to make a meaningful connection. Many people also find they are happier at work if they take the time to socialize with coworkers outside of work hours, whether by meeting for dinner regularly or otherwise sharing non-work time together. Whether you choose to limit your socialization to work hours, or you choose to spend time with coworkers away from the workplace, it is key to have interactions that aren’t wholly centered on work. Getting to know your colleagues as people, and letting them get to know you as a person, helps you feel connected. This can make you a much happier person at work!
No matter what steps we take towards happiness, if our workspace is uninspiring or depressing, it can bring us down. There are many simple steps you can take to create a workspace that promotes happiness. While you must keep in mind your workplace’s rules about workspaces, as well as take into account any colleagues with whom you share space, you can personalize your space and make it part of your happiness plan.
Does your workspace – your office, cubicle, or desk – make you happy? Why or why not? What steps could you take to improve it? Once you know what rules are in place about decorating or changing workspaces think about what changes you could make to create a happy space for yourself. Every person’s needs are different; so don’t be afraid to think about what makes you happy.
One of the easiest things you can do to create a happier workspace is clear the clutter! Clutter is any unnecessary or distracting items in your space. A clutter-free space doesn’t have to be bare – things just have to have a place, and unnecessary or unloved and unused items should be removed. An item is clutter if it distracts you or you have to constantly move it to get to things you do need. Every person has a different level of preference for clear spaces – some work best with a totally clear desk, while others find the empty space depressing. Spend time looking around your office or workspace for clutter, then remove it (or make a plan to remove it, if the items are big). Keep inspirational items and items that make you smile, as well as those things you use every day. You cannot organize clutter – get rid of it! Then find ways to organize what you have left.
When you’ve removed the clutter from your workspace, bring in some personal touches. Bring in only things that make you smile or otherwise evoke pleasant feelings. This might include pictures of your family, a favorite coffee mug, awards that you have received, or a piece of art that you enjoy. If your workplace allows, you might even be able to “wallpaper” with cloth and liquid starch to bring in some color – but ask first! Even if you can’t make large-scale changes to your workspace, taking time to personalize it will make it a happier place to be. You can also bring in personal touches that are functional – a type of pen that you prefer, or notepads in a soft pastel shade work just as well as less personal options. Given the amount of time you spend in your workspace, taking the time to make it reflect you and your personality is an investment in your overall happiness. A personalized workspace also helps your colleagues connect with you.
Studies show that green is a color that promotes happiness. One of the easiest things you can do to promote happiness in your workspace is to bring in some green! Green plants literally bring life to a space – in Feng Shui, they are thought to bring positive energy into a room where they are placed. If your workplace allows, and your workspace has enough light, bring in a potted plant or two. Pothos and ivies are good, low-maintenance plants, as are cacti. Having a live plant in your workspace gives you something to care for as well, which can promote happiness. And green plants create oxygen, which contributes to your overall health! If you can’t bring in a live plant, even silk plants add a touch of life and green to your workspace.
It’s hard to feel happy at work when we focus on the negative. Making the small shift to accentuating the positive can go a long way toward greater happiness at work.
Professor Akindotun Merino
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