Of course, being happy at work depends mostly on how much you like your job. But there are also smaller steps that can boost your happiness, as well.
Your work space:
Check for eyestrain: put your hand to your forehead in a salute. If your eyes feel relieved, your space is too bright.
Get a good desk chair and take the time to adjust it properly. (A friend works at Goldman Sachs, where they have a person who specializes in this, zoikes!)
Sit up straight—every time I do, I instantly feel more energetic and cheerier.
Think about how your space could be more pleasant. Could you invest in some desk accessories to help stay organized? Could you replace a hideous lamp with something more attractive?
Get a phone headset. I resisted for a long time, because it looks so preposterous, but it’s really much more comfortable.
Don’t keep treats around. A handful of M&Ms each day will mean a weight gain five pounds by year’s end.
Periodically, take time to deep-clean the loose papers that have piled up. I never do this until I specifically schedule a time, but am always amazed at the wonderful calm it brings.
Never say “yes” on the phone; instead, say, “I’ll get back to you.” When you’re actually speaking to someone, the desire to be accommodating is very strong, and can lead you to say “yes” without enough consideration.
Take care of difficult calls or emails as quickly as possible. Procrastinating just makes it harder; getting them done gives a big boost of relieved energy.
When accepting a responsibility, imagine that it’s something that you’ll have to do next week. That way you don’t agree to something just because it seems so far off that it doesn’t seem onerous.
Be honest about how you’re spending your time. You feel overwhelmed, but are you really working hard? How much time do you spend surfing the internet, chatting on the phone, looking for things you’ve misplaced, or doing a task that’s really someone else’s job?
Go outside at least once a day, and if possible, take a walk. The sunlight and activity is good for your focus, mood, and retention of information.
Even if you can’t go outside, take a ten-minute break each hour. Studies show that the break boosts your retention level.
Don’t let yourself get too hungry.
Let yourself stay ignorant of things you don’t need to know.
Try to make a lunch date with someone outside the office at least once a week.
Although some people believe it’s best to keep work life and personal life separate, and therefore avoid making friends with colleagues, for most people, having strong friendships makes work more fun. Science supports this: having close relationships is essential to happiness, strengthens the immune system, and reduces anxiety.
If you work alone, take time to mix with other people. Socializing boosts the moods of introverts, as well as extroverts.
Each week, walk around your company and introduce yourself to a few people you don’t know each week. You’ll feel more comfortable socially, plus knowing more people facilitates work flow.
If a colleague gets under your skin, figure out why. I used to work with a guy who enraged me at every meeting. When I started analyzing his techniques, I became fascinated with the brilliance of his subtle put-downs. (For a list of his strategies, see my book Power Money Fame Sex, chapter 3.)
A friend took a job where she knew she’d have a difficult boss. From the beginning, she told herself, “There is only love.” She doesn’t allow herself to criticize her boss, even in her own mind, and won’t listen to anyone else’s criticism. She says it’s tough to do, but it has made her job far easier.
Say “Good morning” to everyone.
Periodically, have lunch with co-workers. This can be a time to talk about personal life, and so become better friends, or to talk about work, so that everyone has a bigger picture of what’s going on in the office—both good results.
A reader, and fellow blogger at Thinking Meat, thoughtfully sent me a link to the World Map of Happiness, a very interesting map that shows the happiness levels of the 178 nations of the world. The three happiest countries: Denmark, Switzerland, Austria. Least happy: Burundi. USA was 23, Canada was 10, and UK was 41.