7 Simple Ways to Be Happier at Work

Before you jump ship, make these adjustments.

Dolly Parton described it best: “Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living; Barely getting by, it’s all taking and no giving; They just use your mind and they never give you credit; It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it.”

Sure, there are moments when the daily grind can be unbearable, but there are ways to be a happier person at work. Here, Dr. Lynn Chang, a career counselor who established CAREER ZEN, and Lauren McAdams, a career counselor with Resume Companion, offer some tips.

But first, set an intention. Basically, be more positive—and be more present. “Exactly how would you like your day to go? How would you like to feel by the end of the day? More joy through work or more peace at the office?” Dr. Chang says. “Repeat your intention three times silently to yourself and then release it like a butterfly. That’s it! Let the universe take over from there. At the end of the day, revisit your intention and notice if anything shifted or change.”

McAdams agrees, “The grass is greener where you water it. Before people jump ship, they should try to adjust what they have and see if it can’t get any better.”

Ask for a Raise 

This problem is about value. Does your boss seem to value you and your efforts? A raise, even a small one, can be the boost that makes work more bearable. McAdams advises, “Sometimes, what you need at work is to feel more valued. The best way to see how valued you are is to look at your paycheck. If you haven’t asked for a raise in over a year but your workload, responsibility, or skills have increased, it’s probably time to have that conversation. For many workers, the simple act of getting more money for their hard work is enough. So if it’s money that will make you happy at work, ask for it.”

Change Your Schedule 

It’s normal for there to be “busy work,” but there should be non-“busy work,” too. Are you bored? Are you challenged? Are you engaged? Are you growing? These are questions to ask as you consider a chat about your schedule with your boss. McAdams advises, “One step to try is asking to change your workload. This could mean either taking on more or doing less. Perhaps you aren’t challenged enough or you find the work boring. Tell your boss and see if you can take on more responsibility or special projects. Or maybe you have too much going on, so much so that it’s causing you to hate work. Does your company allow you to work remotely? Maybe spending more time at home will help.”

Enhance Your Space 

Create an oasis in the office, a place where you can be cool, you can be calm, and you can be collected. Your desk should be clean and, perhaps, feature pictures (and other mementos) that make you smile. Dr. Chang advises, “Bring beauty into your workspace. Are there items from home that make you smile, such as art, plants, or music? Find creative ways to infuse more personality into your office so that it brings you joy. And tidy up your office space! You don’t need to complete an entire overhaul, but look around and notice. Is there clutter getting in the way of clear thinking? ‘Feng shui’ your space so that you know where things are, put away things you don’t currently need, and focus on the projects that require your immediate attention.”

McAdams agrees, “If you have some space that is your own at work, really make it your own. Bring your own coffee mug. Ask if you can listen to music on headphones. Decorate by bringing things that make it your office or cubicle or classroom or section. If you don’t have some ownership where you spend your time, it can be easy to feel out of place. So, try to make it your own place.”

Relish the Commute 

The commute is “you” time, when you can wind up (in the morning) and wind down (in the evening). These are chances to be productive. So what does that mean to you? Perhaps it means an hour of brain exercises. And perhaps it means an hour of relaxation. Dr. Chang advises, “Do you feel like you’re stuck in a rut? Change things up! Take a different route to work and notice the world through this new perspective. Sometimes a simple change up like this can yield big changes later on.”

McAdams agrees, “One of my coworkers is a voracious reader. Her favorite part of the day is always her commute. She takes the bus about 45 minutes each way and spends the whole time with her nose in a novel. I love listening to the news in the morning and then blasting music with my windows rolled up on the way home. Others do Sudoku or crossword puzzles, and others spend their commutes listening to motivational speakers. All of us have a commute routine. It makes not only getting to work better, but also helps gear us up for the day.”

Socialize With Coworkers 

Connect with coworkers for work environment that’s friendlier and one where you’re part of the fabric. It’s easier to be excited about hours at your office when there’s the “perk” of socializing. Dr. Chang advises, “Connect with a colleague for some quality time. Offer to make a cup of tea or share a pot of coffee with someone. Ask them what they’re looking forward to or excited about. Share an upbeat conversation with them!”

McAdams agrees, “Another thing I enjoy every day is lunch with my coworkers. We make a point to not sit at our desks and fall into our little worlds. We get out of the office and go somewhere we enjoy eating. We chat and spend time together, and this strengthens our bond as a team. Not everyone can join every day, and sometimes we split off into smaller groups, but we almost always eat with at least one other coworker somewhere outside the office. Make it a priority to get out for a little bit and take someone with you. Try to develop relationships where you work. Sometimes, the only reason people need to get up and go to work is because they care about the people they work with. In other words, making friends is important.”

Take a Break 

A walk around the block is a chance to “reset” your brain. (These breaks should be more than a walk to/from the water cooler.) Be sure to breathe in/out and release tension. Then, you can return to your desk recharged. Dr. Chang advises, “Do you need to creatively problem solve at work? Perhaps do more with less? Taking small breaks throughout the day can encourage spontaneous ideas to flow through you. Take a walk outside and notice how the air feels against your skin. Notice the colors and textures all around you. Nature is full of beautiful gifts in each moment.”

“We also have a little park right outside our office, and I decided that I’m going to walk around the park for about 10 minutes,” McAdams says. “I go three times a day: once in the morning, once right after lunch, and once in the late afternoon. It wakes me up, helps me focus and is healthy. After I started doing my park walks, I noticed I was significantly happier to do my work and also a bit more productive.”

Treat Yourself 

There are affordable rewards that can sweeten your day-to-day experience, whether it’s a lunch at a restaurant or a piece of chocolate in the afternoon. These treats have the power to better your mood. “When was the last time you had a picnic? Why not pack a picnic for your office? Place a blanket or towel on the floor and enjoy this change of scenery. It can be a fun way to break up the day,” Dr. Chang suggests. McAdams agrees, “High-quality coffee is honestly something little I look forward to every day. Don’t take this tip too literally. If you don’t like coffee, use the same mindset with something else. What is one little thing you could have at work that you can look forward to? Find whatever your expensive coffee is, and make it routine.”

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