Top 10 Ways to Be Happy at Work

Purpose, growth, and a sense of control can help you love your work

Many employers use a variety of workplace perks, ranging from free food to indoor rock climbing, to improve the happiness of their employees at work. This is good business: happy employees are more productive and motivated, as well as more likely to stick with a company.

But even without an employer providing fancy benefits, it's possible for employees to create their own sense of happiness at work. Whether your job is one you feel passionate about or one that you simply know you can do well, you can increase your happiness at work with a variety of everyday strategies.

Find a Career Your Enjoy

To be happy, you must do something you love every day.
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For some people, a career that they enjoy may mean finding a job that uses skills they are proud of. In other cases, a career you enjoy could be work that you are passionate about or find personally fulfilling.

No employee is happy at work every single day, and even jobs you are passionate about can sometimes be frustrating or tedious. But if your career is something you generally enjoy and feel proud of, you are more likely to feel happy at work. Take a look at yourself, your skills, and interests, and find something that you can enjoy doing every day.

Find a Job That Gives You Time Outside Work

Female designers fist bumping in conference room meeting
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Not everyone needs a career that inspires deep passion or speaks to your personal values. For many people, a job is something that allows them to create a lifestyle they value outside the office.

Consider what you want your life to look like. Do you want evenings and weekends off to spend with friends? Plenty of vacation time to pursue your hobbies? A predictable schedule that allows you to be home with your kids every night?

Even if you don't find a job you love your job, if you love the life it allows you to create, you are more likely to be happy at work.

Take Charge of Your Own Professional and Personal Development

Woman with goals, dreams, and plans drawn on the wall
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Take charge of your own growth by investing in your personal and professional development. Develop a plan and goals for your career, then pursue them.

Ask for specific and meaningful help from your boss. Look for assignments that will help you achieve career milestones or learn specific skills. Pursue opportunities and connections that you find valuable, even if your current employer isn't creating those opportunities for you.

When you feel in control of your career and can see yourself improving and growing, you are more likely to feel satisfied in your current position.

Take Responsibility for Knowing What Is Happening at Work

Knowing what is going on makes you happy.
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Feeling out of the loop at work, or knowing that you are missing key information that other employees have, can leave you feeling dissatisfied and undervalued. But if you wait for someone else to fill you in, the information you need may never come.

Instead of waiting to find out what's happening with your company, department projects, or coworkers, proactively seek out information that you need to do your job and make important decisions. Develop an information network and use it. Assertively request a weekly meeting with your boss and ask meaningful questions.

You may find that your coworkers or supervisor didn't realize there was a communication breakdown, or you may discover that your current office simply doesn't have a strong work culture of open communication. Either way, if you take charge of finding the information you need, you'll be better able to do your job and will feel a greater sense of control over the trajectory of your career.

Ask for Feedback Frequently

Feedback makes you happy.
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Receiving feedback about your work can either provide positive reinforcement that makes you feel valued, or it can fill in key skill and understanding gaps that will help you do your job and fit into your work environment more successfully. But employees who don't receive this feedback from their managers often feel undervalued, unable to do their jobs, and unhappy at work.

If you aren't receiving regular feedback from your supervisor, start being proactive about requesting it. Ask your boss for feedback at the end of major projects, or talk to the management team about implementing regular employee assessments to help everyone succeed at their jobs.

Talk to your customers, too; if you're serving them well, their feedback will be affirming. The more feedback you receive, the more likely you are to be successful at your job. This will lead to more positive reinforcement that increases your sense of happiness at work.

Only Make Commitments You Can Keep

Young woman making thumb's up sign. She's happy she keeps commitments.
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One of the most serious causes of work stress and unhappiness is failing to keep commitments. In many cases, employees spend more time making excuses for failing to keep a commitment and worrying about the consequences of incomplete tasks than they spend completing their work.

To manage stress levels and minimize unhappiness at work, create a system for tracking your commitments and managing your schedule. Stay organized enough that you can judge quickly and accurately whether you are actually able to commit to a request or a new assignment. Don't volunteer for additional work or office tasks if you don't have time.

If your workload is regularly exceeding your available time and energy, don't accept the unhappy status quo. Talk to your coworkers to see if anyone else is feeling the same way, then talk to your boss about how the company can provide the additional time, help, or resources that employees need.

Avoid Negativity

Are you the negative employee who is unhappy?
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Participating in a toxic work environment will increase your unhappiness, no matter how much you enjoy your job. Choosing to be happy at work means avoiding negative conversations, gossip, and unhealthy work relationships as much as possible.

No matter how positively you feel, negative people have a profound impact on your psyche. If you find that certain groups at work are more likely to engage in negative behaviors such as gossip or complaining, try to distance yourself from those people. If that's not possible, do your best to redirect conversations onto more positive topics.

You can also choose to talk to your employer about creating a company culture that values positivity and cooperation, rather than competitiveness, to create a happier work environment for all employees.

Practice Professional Courage

Sometimes, to be happy, you must practice professional courage.
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Many people are afraid of conflict, especially in a work setting when it feels like conflict can impact your professional future and financial security. If you've never learned how to engage in meaningful conflict, you likely think of it as scary, harmful, and hurtful.

Conflict can be negative, but if it's done well, conflict can also help you accomplish your work mission and your personal vision. When addressed openly, with positive communication, clear goals, and respect for your coworkers and supervisors, conflict can be a positive thing at work. Standing up for principles or ideas that you believe in can help you serve customers, create meaningful change, and be more successful at your job.

Practicing professional courage can also create new opportunities for you, either in your current position or further in your career. And when you stand up for your ideas, goals, and dreams, you are more likely feel proud of yourself and happy with your choices.

Make Friends

Having a best friend at work is special.
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In their landmark book, "First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently,"  one of the key questions that Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman asked was, "Do you have a best friend at work?" Employees who reported having strong friendships at work, whether or not those friendships carried over into their outside lives, were more likely to be happy and motivated at work.

Employees spend a lot of time at work; enjoying the coworkers that you spend time with there is one of the hallmarks of a positive work experience. Feeling understood and valued by even one coworker, especially if that's someone you interact with regularly, can significantly increase your daily happiness at work.

If All Else Fails, Job Searching Will Make You Smile

And, there is always the possibility that job searching will ensure your happiness.
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You don't need to love your job, but it shouldn't make you miserable on a regular basis. If creating any happiness at work feels impossible, you may be stuck in a toxic work culture or a job that simply cannot be a good fit for you.

In that case, it may be time to reevaluate your employer, your job, or your entire career. Even if you have to remain in your current position for a while longer, actively searching for a new job that is more in line with your professional interests and personal values may be the best thing you can do to gain a sense of control and put a smile on your face once more.