Perspectives

How to be Happy at Work

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The most recent of bestselling author Dan Buettner’s insightful “Blue Zone” books shares lessons from healthy and thriving people around the world. In “The Blue Zones of Happiness,” Buettner summarizes a broad sweep of research and recommends ways for all of us to achieve greater well-being.

According to Buettner, the latest studies suggest that by cultivating three elements of happiness, you can achieve greater fulfillment. He says you need:

  • Purpose, which means you find opportunities in your daily life to use your gifts and talents in pursuit of meaningful goals;
  • Pride, meaning that your jobs and activities give you a sense of accomplishment, and;
  • Pleasure, including fun, awe and joy – particularly from socializing for hours every day.

I agree with Buettner’s wise advise about building a rewarding life. And I was intrigued by his three-part formula, because I have been using a similar framework when coaching clients around issues related to happiness at work.

“Engaged employees” tend to be relatively happy and committed to their work. And these upbeat workers are likely to achieve more than their negative, disgruntled peers. Because research underscores the link between attitude and job performance, organizational leaders often feel pressured to find new ways to promote “employee engagement.”

There’s no single, easy technique leaders can use to generate enthusiasm. But whether you want to inspire your team or yourself, a starting point is to reflect upon the things that do help you feel happy while you’re at work.

When coaching clients, one way I get at these issues is by exploring what I call the “Engagement Triangle.” Often, workplace happiness is the result of managing three basic factors. You’ll feel more jazzed about your job when you have:

  1. Purpose. It’s easier to love your job if you’re working for something that matters more than just a paycheck.
  • Sometimes your work has meaning because you support the vision or values of the organization. Among successful companies known for their core values, Zappos says it will “create fun and a little weirdness.” At Salesforce.com, leaders say nothing is more important than trust. And Google says, “We believe everyone deserves the chance to learn, succeed, and be heard.”
  • Your team’s values can be motivating even when they are unstated. People share a sense of purpose in groups that offer superior service or a highly valued product.
  • Even a tedious job can feel rewarding if you have a good reason for working so hard, like supporting your family or laying groundwork for the next phase of your career.
  1. People. Your job satisfaction is influenced by your colleagues, by your broader circle of clients and professional contacts, and by the other people you bump into throughout your career.
  • According to Gallup research, having friends at work is a key to employee retention. And if you have close friends at work you’re likely to be happier than your colleagues, more productive and better at engaging customers.
  • Many studies confirm that we accomplish more in an environment where coworkers treat each other with respect, gratitude, trust and integrity. Studies suggest that your office culture is more likely to promote success if people treat each other like friends.
  • In “The Culture Code,” bestselling author Daniel Coyle argues convincingly that highly successful groups tend to develop a culture that feels much like a family. He says that in strong teams people have a sense of belonging, communicate constantly and feel safe around one another.
  • If you work alone, or in an environment doesn’t feel friendly, it may be time to broaden your professional network, and explore activities that allow you to interact with simpatico folks.
  1. Performance. You’ll probably love your job if you find enjoyment in your tasks, if you continue to build expertise, and if you frequently feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • Buettner suggests that time can move quickly in the best jobs because “your goal is clear, the task is challenging and you’re getting immediate feedback on how you’re doing.”
  • When work starts to feel dull, a good way to find new energy is to learn something new. The sense of accomplishment that comes from acquiring a fresh skill or deeper knowledge may jumpstart your next upward spiral.
  • Workers with autonomy tend to be happier and more productive than their micromanaged peers. If you are the team leader, be specific and consistent about goals, and let folks on the ground decide how to reach them. If you’re the one feeling micromanaged, focus on the decisions that you can control, and gain greater satisfaction from repetitive tasks by continuing to find ways to improve each process.
  • The way you perform your tasks helps you to support other people, contribute to the shared vision, and define your role within a group.

Do you want to have a bit more energy tomorrow morning? Try starting your day by writing answers to these three questions:

  1. What core value will I keep in mind during my work today?
  2. Who will I remember to appreciate in the course of the workday?
  3. What task will I perform with special attention?

Subscribe to Bev’s podcast “Jazzed About Work” at Apple Podcasts or Google Play.

Beverly Jones, an alum of Ohio University, is a former lawyer and Fortune 500 executive, an executive and transitions coach, and a leadership consultant with a broad and varied practice. Her column appears at Clearways Consulting LLC. Republshed with permission. For archives and additional content, visit the Clearways Consulting website.