14 tricks to keep happy at work


We spend at least 8 hours a day at work, five days a week. Assuming we work 49 weeks of the year and work for about 45 years (20 to 65) we will spend about 88 000 hours working in our life time. If we are spending that much time there we may as well be happy.

But how?


  1. Take charge of your own development.

    • You cannot rely on others to develop your skills. Your manager may agree to pay for some training, but the decision to ask for it is all yours. You are the person most interested in your development and its outcomes, so take charge and plan your growth. If you don’t you will stagnate and this can lead to unhappiness with your career.
    • Do something you enjoy.
    • It is a cliché to “do what you love” but it certainly makes getting out of bed in the morning easier. We can’t all be scuba instructors or artists, but even course developers or bank clerks helping customers open the right accounts can enjoy what they do if they see themselves as advisers and guides; helping their fellow man make sense of the complex world of banking or training.
  1. Find meaning in your job.

    • This ties into the point above, but its more than just enjoying what you do – see the meaning in your day-to-day job. See the impact you have on people’s lives when they can afford to send their daughter to university because you advised them how to save to do it. Wharton management professor Adam Grant, found that “employees who know how their work has a meaningful, positive impact on others are not just happier than those who don’t; they are vastly more productive, too.”
    • Have a work space that reflects your personality and ‘other life’
    • Put up pictures of loved ones and your children’s art (if the office rules allow) and make yourself comfortable. For some people this may be a special coffee machine and their personal cup painted by their daughter, whereas for others it may be awards and mementos. Whatever it is – nest and enjoy your space.
  1. Ask for feedback.

    • It may seem that managers give a disproportional amount of time to poor performers and ignore the average and top performers. It’s not ideal, but it is a fact because managers are busy too (and they think “you must know I am happy because you are still employed!”). But even if you know you are doing a good job it is nice to hear it every so often – so ask. Ask your manager, saying you are looking for feedback so you can grow and ask your clients if you are serving them well.
  1. Find a work BFF (best friend forever).

    • Christine Riordan states in the Harvard Business Review that employees who “have friends at work perceive their job as more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile, and satisfying.” Furthermore, having friends at work can create a support system, comradery and a sense of loyalty. You are spending a lot of time at work so you may as well have some good friendships there too!
  1. Avoid negativity.

    • It is my firm belief that someone in every office fulfils the ‘negativity spot’. When this person leaves, someone else gets sucked into being negative as if it is an all-powerful spiral. Avoid negative talk and negative energy. Choosing to be happy at work means avoiding negative conversations, gossip, and unhappy people as much as possible.
  1. Smile.

    • The very act of smiling tells your brain to be more happy thanks to the release of neuropeptides. Smiling is also contagious and will make your co-workers smile as well. If you are all smiling, you must be happy!
  1. Reward yourself.

    • Every job has dreary bits. Boring tasks and unpleasant activities that could make us want to run away. So bribe yourself. Think along the lines of: “If I finish this report, then I can go get a big slab of healthy chocolate.” (This one is for Esme – who must be the happiest person in our office because she has lots of chocolate rewards!).
  1. Try and leave your personal problems at home.

    • And if you can’t, take a days’ leave and deal with them. Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out, says “when your personal life is in tumult, a lot of emotional hijacking goes on. Emotions consume you and stress exhausts you.” And all this stress could make you blame your job and make you unhappy at work.
  1. Set yourself goals and celebrate your successes.

    • Know what you are aspiring to in your life. Is it is to just be a worker bee in an office for 88 000 hours and then retire and die? I don’t think so. What do you want then? Is it to own your own home? Pay for the kids to go to university? Move abroad? Get a degree? Become the best manager at XYZ company? Set specific long term and short term goals, write them down, set time lines and get yourself pictures to help you visualise them. And when you achieve – reward yourself. (See point 8.)
  1. Appreciate your co-workers.

    • And they will appreciate you back. Its human nature. And if everyone is nice to you, work will be a nicer place. So start by saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and offer kind words of encouragement and praise. Most people will reciprocate. (And if they don’t, avoid them – see point 6.)
  1. Eat properly, drink enough water, get enough sleep and go to gym.

    • I know, your mother used to say the same, but often the best way to deal with a crying grumpy toddler is to give him some water to drink (I know – I am a mother too). Avoid the chips, pre-packaged fast foods and sugary drinks. Eating foods that keep your blood sugar within a normal range will stop headaches and fatigue, and will help you concentrate better. Walk up the stairs rather than use the lift and go for a walk outside if you can. Have some sun on your skin. It all lightens the mood.
  1. Be organised.

    • An untidy desk and person flitting from task to task is not happy. Chrystal Doucette suggests on Chron.com that having a “clean desk makes the work environment seem less hectic and stressful.” You have enough stress in your life, so avoid the additional stress that clutter and scrambling for lost items will cause. And as for multi-tasking, it is really better to finish one task before moving onto the next.
  1. Take time for yourself.

    • Don’t put off going on holiday. You may really love your job, but you do need a break. I like taking frequent, short, energising breaks as opposed to one long annual holiday, but not all employers will support this approach. Get out of town, smell the sea or climb a mountain. Whatever it takes to unwind. And leave the cell phone behind.
  1. Disconnect the technology at night.

    • The ‘always-connected’ trend is a curse and a blessing. Its great because I can go away on short breaks without stressing that something might need my attention while I am away. But it is a curse because we never really switch off and relax completely. I often look at my phone the last thing before closing my eyes at night and it is the first thing I look at when I wake up! That is unnecessary stress. Learn to switch off. Go away and tell people you don’t have roaming where you are going. Leave that message on your cell phone that says you are out-of-range-so-don’t-leave-a-message-please and put an out-of-office on your email. And go away. Relax and recharge. And come back to work re-energised with new ideas.

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