I was recently interviewed by The New Paper about my thoughts on attaining a happy work life. My complete interview is reproduced here since the published version is pretty truncated:
- Why, in your opinion, do you think workers are frequently unhappy at work?
There are many reasons why workers are unhappy at work. In most cases they are not satisfied with their job. It could be because of the role or perhaps they are not given the opportunity to have their input appreciated by management. In some setting, the disconnect on a personal basis is very wide. For the management to send an email at 11pm could be very common but for the recipient who is trying to coax her baby daughter to sleep, this could be a bit overbearing.
A lack of training and development could signal to the worker that the company isn’t keen to invest in them and value them over long term. Communication breakdown could also contribute to unhappiness at work especially in current times where we are so accustomed to on-demand information.
And how can we forget about compensation. As roles get more demanding and businesses become more challenging, workers expect better compensation to undertake the additional workload and shorter deadlines.
Interpersonal relationships would rank high in workers unhappiness. If you have poor relationship with your supervisor or you often get outcast during lunch, you probably won’t feel more for the company beyond the pay cheque.
- How can one cope with increasing work stress and pressures, yet still stay happy and positive?
Identify a sense of meaning in your role. Many times the situation is the same but a slight shift in perception could change the sentiment significantly. And draw that meaning in your role to the objective of the organisation. This will help to contextualize the importance of your role.
Work might seemed never ending but one could still make a point to take micro steps to up the game and secure more efficiency. Such milestones could be set up by yourself to ensure you are constantly improving and pushing yourself.
Finally work is just a means to making a living. It should not consume you to the point that all other things in life are neglected. If it is too much, put a pause and go back to your personal life. You can continue with it the next day.
- What are some things that office workers do that frequently cause them to feel worse about their job? (e.g. comparing oneself with others)
There are always two side of a coin. If one simply focus on the negative, even a swanky promotion could be deemed as extra work load dished out.
Being unrealistic is another downer. For a new worker, he might expect a quick promotion within a year but if it could possibly be done only 3 years, that guy is going to be unhappy.
Comparing with others, gossiping, forming cliques to outcast new workers, etc are political activities that I deemed as children’s politics. These activities not only create people to feel lousy, they don’t lead to an outcome!
- Can you share some quick tips on how office workers can try to be happier at work?
Ask yourself an honest question on what need to be change for you to be happy. Drill deep to find out the underlying element and assess if it is an external factor or an internal one.
Acknowledge that there will always be trade-offs. A good job might come with a lousy boss and vice versa. One has to come to terms with that and accept the situation to be happier eventually.
Take the initiative to connect with your co-workers on a personal level. Having a best buddy will most certainly increase your happiness level at work.
- How can one tweak one’s daily behaviour in order to be more at peace with his or her job? (e.g. less gossiping, etc)
Exercise has a profound effect on our happiness. Scientifically we know that exercises produces chemicals that make us feel good and happy. An hour at the gym over lunch might not appeal to many but one can always do a few minutes at the work station to stretch and work those muscles. It helps you to feel more relax and make you more alert too.
You might also wish to skip that midnight tv series and catch up on your sleep. Sleep help us to recover from the day and allow us to be more focus and productive on the next. And we all know how grouchy we become if we have too little.
Remember the last time you did charity work and how happy you felt? Try applying that onto your co-workers and help them out in their daily grind.
Lastly, try to smile more. Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition).