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 is 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. Finding ways to focus on the positive aspects of your life, your job, and your workplace, even when negative things happen, can foster your workplace happiness. Positive thinking is in many ways a choice – when we choose to see the positive rather than the negative, it attracts positive experiences to us.
One way to start your day off on a positive note, and to focus on positivity throughout the day, is to use a daily affirmation. Affirmations are simple, positive statements that you repeat throughout the day, either mentally or out loud. A simple affirmation could be, “Today is going to be a great day.” You can write your own affirmations, or use affirmations written by others – there are many books and websites that offer up daily affirmations. You might use the same affirmation each day, or choose a new affirmation every morning, once a week, or once a month. An affirmation gives you something to focus on when you are tempted to drift into negative thinking or you are faced with other people’s negative attitudes. Some people find it helpful to print out or write their affirmation and keep it somewhere visible.
There are also beautiful pieces of art with affirmations available, if you choose to put your affirmation in your office.One way to stay positive is to surround yourself with positive people. While you may have to interact with people who are less than positive in order to accomplish tasks at work, you can choose to surround yourself with positive people whenever possible. Choose to interact with coworkers and colleagues who have a positive outlook. When you put together your support team, choose people who have a consistently positive outlook. This doesn’t mean choosing people who will never tell you hard truths or who never have a bad day, but it does mean choosing people who attempt to find the positive in even difficult situations, who act with compassion, and who seek to lift others up rather than bring them down.
Another way to keep yourself focused on the positive at work is to limit your negative interactions. There will be times when you will have to interact with negative people, but it is important to limit these interactions if at all possible. Avoiding office gossip is another way to limit negative interactions. Once you have a list of positive people to surround yourself with, seek them out instead of engaging in negative interactions. It can be tempting to vent or join in when others complain, but this can bring negativity into your day. It’s understandable to want to vent frustrations, but if possible you should find a way to turn this into a positive interactions. If there are people in your workplace that are consistently negative and with whom you do not have to interact, keep your interactions with them professional and pleasant, but brief. Another way to limit negative interactions is to be aware of the type of media you consume – we can’t avoid bad news and negative images totally, but being sure to also feed your mind positive images is key to staying positive and happy.
Building friendships at work also helps keep you focused on the positive. Having strong friendships at work gives you a built in support network. When you choose positive people to build friendships with, it is easier to avoid negative interactions and choose positive ones instead. The time you spend socializing with colleagues helps to lay the groundwork for work friendships. Seek out colleagues and coworkers who share your interests, who make you smile or laugh, or who appear to share your goals and values. Collaborate with these people when possible, and seek to spend time with them that is not focused on work.
Finally, take control of your career happiness. It sounds simple, but one of the best ways to take control of your happiness at work is to take control of your career happiness. Seek out opportunities to improve your performance, take on new responsibilities, or otherwise engage in work that is rewarding and fulfilling. Investing time and energy into your career growth and development can result in greater workplace happiness because you feel like you are growing or working towards goals and aspirations.
Professor Akindotun Merino
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