Today is the UN's International Day of Happiness – a day set aside to raise global awareness that happiness is a fundamental human goal. Now, the average Brit spends 100,000 hours at work during their lifetime – that's more than 11 and a half years. Work is part of our life and if we were happier at work we would be happier in our whole lives. We'd be better partners, better parents, better people. So happiness at work is good for us, as individuals.
According to the Guardian, the costs of ignoring happiness at work are substantial. An average UK company will employ about 250 people. If it is average in all aspects, then about 40 of them will leave each year and over 1,000 days will be lost due to absenteeism. If the company had a really happy, engaged workforce, then staff turnover would typically halve, absenteeism would be cut by 25%, and productivity would increase by about 20%. Happiness in the workplace is high on the governments agenda too, the cabinet office looked at the relationship between different jobs and levels of life satisfaction and found the happiest workers are vicars and priests.
So, what can you do to make sure you are happy in your chosen career?
The first step is to understand your personality and work environments that you are best suited to. You may want to try the Team Focus Personal and Career Development Reports or Windmills Interactive; which help you clarify the kind of life you want and how you can start working towards it. The next step is to think about the skills you enjoy using. Reflect on your placement or internship - what bits did you enjoy the most? John Lees, author of How to Get a Job you Love recommends sitting down with a friend and discussing your work history. Afterwards, ask them for the times when you seemed most excited and engaged. This will help reveal the type of work you like best.
But what if you are already on placement or in employment? How can you ensure happiness at work?
- Challenge yourself: One of the reasons we can get restless in our job is, quite simply, boredom. Think about ways in which you could make your role more interesting. Perhaps you could volunteer to mentor new staff, or spend some time every week shadowing people in other departments to get a broader perspective on the business? Be proactive and discuss your ideas with your line manager, they will welcome your enthusiasm.
- Reflect on your successes: it is really easy to fall into the day-to-day routine of work and loose track of your successes! Keep a wee folder in your email where you store any thank you or well-done messages. Remember to read through these periodically.
- Ask for feedback: so much has been written about how to give feedback but not enough on how to ask for feedback. I thought this this article by Harvard Business Review is really well written with some excellent advice.
- Manage your workload: one of the biggest causes of stress at work is failing to keep commitments. Learn to say no constructively and be proactive in discussing your workload with your manager.
- Have a bit of fun: inject a bit of fun at work - this could be as simple as bringing some treats in for your colleagues (cake is always well received in the careers service) or join in the next team lunch. It is also important to recognise the little things that make you happy - smiling co-workers, good training, a supportive manager...
And don't forget, its Friday and this is definitely a good reason to be happy!