How to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career

Having the time and money to afford leisure affects your job satisfaction.

Having the time and money to afford leisure affects your job satisfaction.

How to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career

We spend most of our adult waking hours working. Half of Americans continue to work when they reach their mid-sixties, and, according to a 2015 Gallup survey, full-time American employees work an average of 47 hours a week. If you’re keeping track at home, that’s six days’ worth of hours packed into five. Moreover, many of us today expand the role of work beyond just earning a living and expect our careers to provide opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment.

With more of us wanting and expecting our jobs to provide not just a paycheck but also human needs like learning, community, and a sense of purpose, we wanted to know what specifically makes people happy at work. Is it fair pay and benefits? Having a great boss? A clear career path? Opportunities to learn? Working at an organization with a clear sense of purpose? These are all the kinds of things that HR managers and talent developers obsess over, and also the sorts of questions people ask themselves when they’re deciding between job offers: Should I work at Company A, where I’d have better benefits but a worse commute, or Company B, which does important work but doesn’t pay very well?

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But when you ask people directly, or force them to rank a list of benefits, you don’t always get a clear picture of what they really value. People often have a poor understanding of what makes them happy, and this applies at work, too.

To figure out what really matters to employees, we analyzed data from our app, Happify. Users engage in various behavioral activities, including gratitude exercises, in which they’re asked to write about things they appreciate and value in their lives. Such exercises have been empirically shown to increase well-being by allowing people to recognize the good things in their lives and the reasons they matter. Our data science team analyzed the anonymized data to uncover elusive measures of work satisfaction.

As a first step, we extracted 200 different topics from the entire text coming from Happify users who were asked to “Jot down three things that happened today or yesterday that made you feel grateful.” Based on the way this question is phrased, we expected to get a glimpse into the things that people recognize and value on a daily basis. Of the 200 topics that were extracted, we identified 14 that prominently featured words that are work-related and were used frequently. The primary themes these topics covered were general job satisfaction, commute and work breaks, positive peer interaction, having time off, achieving high work performance, benefits and compensation, and interviewing and landing a new job.

We noticed that overall job satisfaction followed a U-shaped curve: starting high, dipping in one’s forties and fifties, and then going back up as retirement approaches. The U-shape is expected, and validates prior research. When we zoomed in on different age groups, we noticed that different things are more important at different stages in a person’s career.

This detailed analysis showed us that around ages 25–34 there is a peak of gratitude for topics related to landing a new job, positive work relationships, and external work conditions, such as an easy commute, breaks, or time off.

For ages 35–44 we saw a decline in gratitude in several areas, particularly work-life balance, time off, and pay. It may be that around this age people are overwhelmed by responsibilities and expenses, and thus aren’t feeling particularly grateful.

A different pattern emerges starting one’s late fifties, showing a peak of gratitude for topics related to finances and benefits. We can speculate that at that age people value getting their finances on track for their upcoming retirement, and so are less occupied with new opportunities, their job performance, or having more time off.

Taking a step back to put these findings in perspective, it seems that early on in one’s career, people appreciate a job that will bring future benefits as they continue to perform. The present job may not be ideal, as one tries to balance hard work with enough time to play. In midlife things get generally tougher: It’s harder to balance work and life, and people struggle to make ends meet. But as one gets older, one begins to be more satisfied with one’s present job and also to have more resources to achieve personal aspirations.

The bottom line: Satisfaction at work is influenced by factors such as benefits, pay, relationships, and commute length. But all of this boils down to two things being important, regardless of your circumstances: (1) having a life outside of work, and (2) having the money to afford it. If you have a job that grants you both of these, you might be happier than you realize.

When are you going to take yourself seriously?

I just received an email with the plaintive title of “Stuck. Bored. Unfulfilled.” The sender was seeking any advice I might have to get out of this rut. And this person isn’t alone; a lack of meaning at work is a common refrain among today’s workers.

What is particularly sad to me are the numbers of people who have been feeling this way for years, even decades. They hate their jobs, they hate their lives, they hate where they live, and yet… life goes on.

Readers describe endless to-do lists, meaningless assignments, pointless meetings, co-workers who don’t care, new projects that seem destined for failure, unrelenting politics, lack of promotion or recognition of talent, a poor economy, weak job prospects, unreasonable bosses—and all of these problems can lead to fatigue, boredom, a lack of meaning, and ultimately, burnout. People offer myriad reasons and justifications for remaining stuck—some are completely valid and some are just excuses.

If this fits you, I am so sorry for the pain you are feeling. I admire your courage in moving forward every day and doing what must be a challenging task. And I encourage you to take heart. My experience with clients tells me that only in the rarest of situations must you remain stuck. Even small changes can ease your pain.

I don’t have a magic bullet to solve your situation. But I do have some questions to ask you, and the first one is hard: When are you going to take yourself seriously?

Only when you acknowledge that you are worth it, and you are the one who has to create the life you want, will you make the hard and potentially difficult choices needed to change. You have to decide that finding meaning in your life is important and not a luxury reserved for a lucky few.

An interesting blog post by Nathaniel Koloc in Harvard Business Review, “What Job Candidates Really Want: Meaningful Work,” points out that people crave purpose at work—an opportunity to provide meaning and fulfillment. He quotes a Price-Waterhouse study that found “engaged employees are 50% more productive and 33% more profitable. They are also responsible for 56% higher customer loyalty scores and correlated with 44% higher retention rates, leading to great gains in productivity over the long run.” So being fulfilled at work isn’t only an issue of concern for workers but for employers as well.

Carl Rogers once wrote that “the only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” Before you waste one more hour at a “Thank God it’s Friday” or “Over-the-Hump Wednesday” celebration at your local bar, try answering these questions to help you learn about and change your situation.

1. Whose life are you living?

Why are you in this situation? Did you end up in your current job by choice or default? Are you fulfilling a promise made to your family or others? Are you in a career you chose at age 18 when you took a certain major in college? Take some time to assess how you got into your current situation. No need to place blame on anyone or anything—take a rational look at what has brought you to this point.

2. Does anything about your current life work?

Are there moments of fulfillment, meaning, or joy in your work? Can those moments be expanded through doing them more often in your current job, or by seeking a new job that would provide more of those experiences? Can you craft a better job within your current position?

Don’t forget to consider your life outside of work. Where else do you find happiness and meaning? Are there elements of your personal life that influence your attitude about your work—either positively or negatively?

As you ponder these questions, do you think it’s time for a major life overhaul—perhaps a new job or move? Or are there some small but important changes you could make now?

3. What would you rather be doing and how would you prefer to live?

Are you living on “Someday Isle”—that distant land when you will actually do what you say you want to do?

  • Try writing about your ideal life: How would you be living?
  • Start a list of “must-haves” in your new life or employment situation.
  • Make a list of your talents and strengths and start to identify potential employers.
  • Notice moments of jealousy or envy: What does someone else have that you would like? Whom do you admire? How might you move toward what they have?
  • Try my “lottery exercise” as a way to uncover your core values.
  • Identify elements that might improve your life and incorporate them into your present life.

4. What steps could you take now (or have you taken) to move toward your new life?

This is where the contemplation ends and action begins. If you’re full of ideas, but not moving forward, you need to examine this. I highly recommend the book Do the Work by Steven Pressfield for inspiration. Making major life changes is hard and important—and we all tend to resist what is hard and important.

I hope these questions help you think more clearly about your situation. Talk to a trusted friend or counselor for objective advice. Avoid discussing your ideas and plans with people who might have a vested interest in you remaining the same. There is a time to bring them into the conversation, but if you do it too early, you might remain stuck.

Finally—it’s very important to consider any medical or mental health issues that might be a factor. Fatigue, sadness, lethargy, and others may be signs of serious medical issues. Be sure to tell your healthcare practitioner how you’re feeling to determine if there’s a physiological reason for your emotional state.

©2013 Katharine Brooks. All rights reserved. Find me on Facebook and Twitter.

You don’t need to change everything about your job to see major benefits. A few changes here and there can be all you need.

How to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career

How to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career

Welcome to the Smarter Living newsletter! Every Monday, editor Tim Herrera emails readers with tips and advice for living a better, more fulfilling life. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

Do you like what you do?

Now, I don’t mean that in the broad sense of wondering whether you’re on the right career path. I mean on a day-to-day basis, if you thought about every single task your job entails, could you name the parts that give you genuine joy? What about the tasks you hate?

It’s an odd question. We don’t often step back to ask whether the small, individual components of our job actually make us happy.

But maybe we should. As many as a third of United States workers say they don’t feel engaged at work. The reasons vary widely, and everyone’s relationship with work is unique. But there are small ways to improve any job, and those incremental improvements can add up to major increases in job satisfaction.

A study from the Mayo Clinic found that physicians who spend about 20 percent of their time doing “work they find most meaningful are at dramatically lower risk for burnout.” But here’s what’s fascinating: Anything beyond that 20 percent has a marginal impact, as “spending 50 percent of your time in the most meaningful area is associated with similar rates of burnout as 20 percent.”

In other words: You don’t need to change everything about your job to see substantial benefits. A few changes here and there can be all you need.

“When you look at people who are thriving in their jobs, you notice that they didn’t find them, they made them,” said Ashley Goodall, senior vice president of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco and co-author of the book “Nine Lies About Work.”

“We’re told in every commencement speech that if you find a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life. But the verb is wrong,” he said, adding that successful people who love their jobs take “the job that was there at the beginning and then over time they transform the contents of that job.”

To be sure, transforming your job isn’t easy. But you have to start somewhere, and there’s a wonderfully simple but surprisingly revealing trick that can help.

For a full week, carry a notepad at all times. Draw a line down the center of a page and label one column “Love” and the other column “Loathe.” Whenever you perform a task, no matter how small, be mindful of how it makes you feel. Are you excited about it? Do you look forward to it? Does time fly when you’re doing it? Or did you procrastinate, dreading every moment and feeling drained by the time you’re done?

It seems silly, I know. But this exercise — which Mr. Goodall and his co-author, Marcus Buckingham, co-head and talent expert at the A.D.P. Research Institute, write about in their book and practice in their lives — can show you hidden clues and nuances about work.

[Like what you’re reading? Sign up here for the Smarter Living newsletter to get stories like this (and much more!) delivered straight to your inbox every Monday morning.]

“It’s a beautifully simple way to inventory your emotional reactions to the reality of your day or week at work,” Mr. Buckingham said. “Understand what it is that lights you up. Understand what you run toward. Understand where you are at your most energetic, your most creative, your most alive, and then volunteer for that more and more and more,” he added.

This is, of course, just a starting point. You won’t instantly be happier at work once you have a list of things you dislike about your job. But this exercise gives you a road map about how to focus your time and energy on the things that get you excited. Rather than trying to get better at things you hate doing and know you’re not great at, reframe the issue and try to do more things that energize you and that you excel at. No one can tell you what those things are, and discovering them can be transformative.

“If you don’t know what you’re like when you’re in love with your work, no one can do that for you,” Mr. Buckingham said. “This has always been in your hands, and it cannot be in anyone else’s.”

What do you love and loathe about your job? Tell me on Twitter @timherrera.

Have a great week!

P.S. — Technology has become integrated in nearly every part of our lives, and the lines between public and private are more blurred than ever. This month The Times is starting a limited-run newsletter to dive into what that means — and what you can do about it. Sign up here to get it in your inbox .

Best of Smarter Living

What to Do When You’re Bored With Your Routines Blame hedonic adaptation: the tendency for us to get used to things over time.

Stop Letting Modern Distractions Steal Your Attention Making yourself inaccessible from time to time is essential to boosting your focus.

Tip of the Week

This week I’ve invited Dorie Clark, author of “Entrepreneurial You,” to teach us a tip about getting better at email: the personal trainer.

It’s a curse of modern life so many of us know all too well: drowning in your inbox. But often, the problem isn’t actually the time required to process the messages.

It’s the psychological resistance.

Some messages you can dash off in an instant: Sure, let’s meet Friday night! But emails that require emotional energy — turning down someone’s request, or figuring out complicated details — have a tendency to linger untouched in our inboxes for weeks, sometimes months, on end, like a digital ghost haunting us each moment we open our inbox.

But then I realized there was an analogy: fitness. You hire a personal trainer to motivate you to work out, even when you don’t feel like it. So I hired my virtual assistant, Jake Tavares, to become my personal trainer for email.

We talk on the phone for 30 to 60 minutes every weekday, and I answer “problematic” messages while he cheers me on. Because I’m on the clock, I work faster, and I force myself to get through the hard ones. Since we started working together, the average number of unanswered messages in my inbox has shrunk to 15 from more than 70.

You don’t need a professional for this strategy to work, either. You can partner with a friend or use a free service like FocusMate, which pairs you with a virtual accountability partner. Pushing through the most difficult messages helps you stay on top of important work, and gives you a virtuous feeling that lasts all day.

How to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career

What does it really take to find happiness in your chosen career? Must you always quit your job to find and pursue what you are passionate about? What about work and life balance? These are some of the questions that a lot of the people today are asking themselves as they search for career satisfaction. With an innumerable amount of people struggling to find a good work-life balance, it is no wonder why many are asking these questions.

The Truth About Your Job

Finding career satisfaction is one of the most important factors in choosing a job. This is especially true with Millennials, and with more people from this generation entering the workforce, someone might already be filling the position of your dream job. So how do you solve this? Looking for a backup plan sounds good and all, but is it really worth it when you know you like something else? Research shows that you are not alone in this dilemma. Around 61% of employees feel they have been misled during job interviews and about how working for company would be like. If you are one of these people, the truth is, you might have set your expectations too high. No job is going to be all fun and games. There will always be stressful situations that are sure to make you feel like quitting, but if you’re looking for happiness in your career, days like these are something that you have to go through.

Your Passion: Should You Pursue It as a Career?

To some people, working at least 40 hours a week doing their job means spending more time at work than at home. If this is the case for about a million other people in the world, would you want to spend this much time on a career you hate or would you spend it doing something you love? Nowadays, career happiness is often associated with pursuing your passion. In fact, it’s easy to actually think this way due to the many benefits of choosing a career you love.

How to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career

The idea of never feeling like working, having a fun and easy job, and experiencing lower stress levels is very enticing to anyone. However, unknown to a lot of people, pursuing your passion does not always turn out how you think it would be. There are a variety of problems with pursuing your passion. One of these is the fact that most people’s passions are do not fit the job market. This means that though you may be passionate about sports, music, or art, there are only a handful of jobs in these industries which make job hunting, let alone career growth, very difficult.

What It Takes to Be Happy with Your Career

Many studies have revealed that the most consistent factor for career happiness is having an engaging work. Different jobs have different features and research has shown that it is these features that actually determine career satisfaction.

How to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career

One of these determinants is independence. Most people, particularly Millennials, prefer to have control over their jobs to a certain extent. Things like the manner of carrying out a task and when to do a job are some of the things that people like to maintain control of.

Another is factor is having a sense of completion—feeling involved in a company is something that a lot of people are looking for. Though you may not admit it, everyone likes to feel like they are part of a team and see that they make a difference in the company. This is where career growth and corporate culture come into play. Corporate culture affects career growth by instilling a sense of purpose while letting you expand your skill set and providing proper feedback.

Happiness is Up to You

Now that you know the factors behind career happiness, do you think your company is able to give this for you? The fact is, you need to decide whether or not you are satisfied with your career. If you continue to dread going to work every day, you know that you need to change something. If what you need is a change of environment, then perhaps that is what you need to do. Remember that career happiness should always be your number one priority.

Nevertheless, not everyone has the luxury to change their chosen careers easily. Most of the time, we are powerless to change our work environment no matter what we do. Instead of trying to change our surroundings, sometimes the best that we can do is to learn how to enjoy our jobs and be professional. There are many ways to learn how to do this. If you are artistic, why not find ways to express your creativity through your job? If you are able to find what you love in your job, then you can find happiness in going to work. You can start doing this by asking yourself what your strengths are and how you can utilize these in different way as well as surrounding yourself with like-minded people.

Once you are able to find what you love in your job, feeling satisfied with it becomes effortless. Doing this not only lets you enjoy the time you spend working since it also allows you to develop new skills and be more productive, increasing your chances of moving up the career ladder. Keep in mind that the importance of happiness in your career affects not just work, but also your entire life. If you don’t put yourself first, then the stress you get in your job would lead to health issues and depression among many other problems. So consider changing the way you think in your current job, help yourself out by learning how to communicate better. You never know you, that way you may help you land a promotion faster. Then maybe you can find the fulfillment you are looking for. Remember, one of the most important elements of living a good and happy life is doing something that you love.

You don’t need to change everything about your job to see major benefits. A few changes here and there can be all you need.

How to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career

How to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career

Welcome to the Smarter Living newsletter! Every Monday, editor Tim Herrera emails readers with tips and advice for living a better, more fulfilling life. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

Do you like what you do?

Now, I don’t mean that in the broad sense of wondering whether you’re on the right career path. I mean on a day-to-day basis, if you thought about every single task your job entails, could you name the parts that give you genuine joy? What about the tasks you hate?

It’s an odd question. We don’t often step back to ask whether the small, individual components of our job actually make us happy.

But maybe we should. As many as a third of United States workers say they don’t feel engaged at work. The reasons vary widely, and everyone’s relationship with work is unique. But there are small ways to improve any job, and those incremental improvements can add up to major increases in job satisfaction.

A study from the Mayo Clinic found that physicians who spend about 20 percent of their time doing “work they find most meaningful are at dramatically lower risk for burnout.” But here’s what’s fascinating: Anything beyond that 20 percent has a marginal impact, as “spending 50 percent of your time in the most meaningful area is associated with similar rates of burnout as 20 percent.”

In other words: You don’t need to change everything about your job to see substantial benefits. A few changes here and there can be all you need.

“When you look at people who are thriving in their jobs, you notice that they didn’t find them, they made them,” said Ashley Goodall, senior vice president of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco and co-author of the book “Nine Lies About Work.”

“We’re told in every commencement speech that if you find a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life. But the verb is wrong,” he said, adding that successful people who love their jobs take “the job that was there at the beginning and then over time they transform the contents of that job.”

To be sure, transforming your job isn’t easy. But you have to start somewhere, and there’s a wonderfully simple but surprisingly revealing trick that can help.

For a full week, carry a notepad at all times. Draw a line down the center of a page and label one column “Love” and the other column “Loathe.” Whenever you perform a task, no matter how small, be mindful of how it makes you feel. Are you excited about it? Do you look forward to it? Does time fly when you’re doing it? Or did you procrastinate, dreading every moment and feeling drained by the time you’re done?

It seems silly, I know. But this exercise — which Mr. Goodall and his co-author, Marcus Buckingham, co-head and talent expert at the A.D.P. Research Institute, write about in their book and practice in their lives — can show you hidden clues and nuances about work.

[Like what you’re reading? Sign up here for the Smarter Living newsletter to get stories like this (and much more!) delivered straight to your inbox every Monday morning.]

“It’s a beautifully simple way to inventory your emotional reactions to the reality of your day or week at work,” Mr. Buckingham said. “Understand what it is that lights you up. Understand what you run toward. Understand where you are at your most energetic, your most creative, your most alive, and then volunteer for that more and more and more,” he added.

This is, of course, just a starting point. You won’t instantly be happier at work once you have a list of things you dislike about your job. But this exercise gives you a road map about how to focus your time and energy on the things that get you excited. Rather than trying to get better at things you hate doing and know you’re not great at, reframe the issue and try to do more things that energize you and that you excel at. No one can tell you what those things are, and discovering them can be transformative.

“If you don’t know what you’re like when you’re in love with your work, no one can do that for you,” Mr. Buckingham said. “This has always been in your hands, and it cannot be in anyone else’s.”

What do you love and loathe about your job? Tell me on Twitter @timherrera.

Have a great week!

P.S. — Technology has become integrated in nearly every part of our lives, and the lines between public and private are more blurred than ever. This month The Times is starting a limited-run newsletter to dive into what that means — and what you can do about it. Sign up here to get it in your inbox .

Best of Smarter Living

What to Do When You’re Bored With Your Routines Blame hedonic adaptation: the tendency for us to get used to things over time.

Stop Letting Modern Distractions Steal Your Attention Making yourself inaccessible from time to time is essential to boosting your focus.

Tip of the Week

This week I’ve invited Dorie Clark, author of “Entrepreneurial You,” to teach us a tip about getting better at email: the personal trainer.

It’s a curse of modern life so many of us know all too well: drowning in your inbox. But often, the problem isn’t actually the time required to process the messages.

It’s the psychological resistance.

Some messages you can dash off in an instant: Sure, let’s meet Friday night! But emails that require emotional energy — turning down someone’s request, or figuring out complicated details — have a tendency to linger untouched in our inboxes for weeks, sometimes months, on end, like a digital ghost haunting us each moment we open our inbox.

But then I realized there was an analogy: fitness. You hire a personal trainer to motivate you to work out, even when you don’t feel like it. So I hired my virtual assistant, Jake Tavares, to become my personal trainer for email.

We talk on the phone for 30 to 60 minutes every weekday, and I answer “problematic” messages while he cheers me on. Because I’m on the clock, I work faster, and I force myself to get through the hard ones. Since we started working together, the average number of unanswered messages in my inbox has shrunk to 15 from more than 70.

You don’t need a professional for this strategy to work, either. You can partner with a friend or use a free service like FocusMate, which pairs you with a virtual accountability partner. Pushing through the most difficult messages helps you stay on top of important work, and gives you a virtuous feeling that lasts all day.

Your work environment can greatly influence how you feel about your job. Because of this, it’s important to find an employer that fosters a positive atmosphere and encourages you consistently. When you have a positive work environment, it can improve your happiness, increase your productivity and motivate those around you. In this article, we discuss what a positive working environment is, why it’s important and the various characteristics that comprise a positive working environment.

What is a positive working environment?

A positive working environment is a workplace that promotes employee safety, growth and goal attainment. These environments are most conducive to a successful workforce as they encourage employees to perform to their highest ability. Companies can achieve a positive working environment by focusing on their overall culture, supporting employee growth and making employees feel safe and comfortable.

Why is a positive working environment important?

Positive working environments provide several benefits for both employees and employers. This is because this type of environment can lead to employee success and happiness both personally and professionally. Here are four reasons why a positive work atmosphere is important in the workforce:

Increases productivity

Having a positive working environment is a great way to increase your work output. When you’re happier, you may be more productive and more equipped to complete your tasks efficiently. This can also help you become a better employee, which leads to raises and promotions.

Improves morale

Because your mood and attitude affect your team members, a positive working environment can be a good influence on those around you. When you view your work in a positive way, it can influence how others in the workplace see their responsibilities too.

Fosters growth

When you’re motivated to succeed in your position, you’re more apt to find opportunities to advance in your career. When your employer provides positive reinforcement, it can make you feel like a valuable contribution to the company, and it may motivate you to continue or improve upon this behavior.

Promotes collaboration

When you’re motivated on an individual level, you’re more likely to support and encourage others in your company. This can also lead to improved professional relationships with your colleagues. The greater the bond is between coworkers, the better chance a company has of achieving its short- and long-term goals. This is because teamwork is often the foundation of company success.

Characteristics of a positive working environment

A positive working environment has several noticeable factors. To better understand this atmosphere, it’s important to know its common attributes so you can look for them with your current or future employer. Here are seven characteristics of a positive working environment:

  • Productive atmosphere
  • Open and honest communication
  • Compassionate team members
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Growth opportunities
  • Positive thinking
  • Good work-life balance

Productive atmosphere

A positive working environment has a calm atmosphere that leads to greater productivity. When you’re able to work with minimal distractions, you’re more likely to stay on task and accomplish more of your daily responsibilities. It also means you’re able to work in a stress-free setting that promotes your cognitive performance and physical well-being.

Open and honest communication

Positive working environments often include clear communication between various members of an organization. This includes communication between employees and upper management, and between coworkers themselves. When you have the opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback, it can help you feel valued in the workplace. It also allows you to grow by getting open, constructive feedback.

For example, if you’re working on a new project that requires brainstorming, you can get ideas from your colleagues. Knowing you can ask them questions and receive honest feedback can help you grow your professional relationships and improve your overall quality of work.

Compassionate team members

A positive working environment encompasses a level of respect, empathy and overall understanding between colleagues. These sentiments can also foster collaboration and help you feel heard and valued at your workplace. For example, when a coworker thanks you for assisting them on a project, it lets you know that you’re appreciated and that someone genuinely cares about your contribution to the company.

Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a way for employers to praise you for your good work. Companies that provide positive reinforcement can help foster a positive working environment for all. Here are some examples of positive reinforcement that you can receive from your employer:

  • Work bonuses
  • Catered lunches
  • Pay raises
  • Reserved parking spots

Growth opportunities

It’s important to have a positive working environment where you’re encouraged to grow your individual skills and strengths. This can help you find contentment in your job. This facet of a positive work environment is important because it means you’re able to advance in your field with the support of your employer, manager and coworkers. Also, the more motivated you are, the greater the quantity and quality of work you’ll produce.

Positive thinking

Looking at work with a positive mindset can help spread a good mood throughout the day. For example, if you’re a team leader and you experience an issue with a client, the way you handle the situation can impact the attitude of others on your team. If you’re able to overcome the obstacle with an optimistic outlook, your team is more likely to follow your example. Ultimately, a positive outlook can help you and your team focus on the pros rather than the cons.

Good work-life balance

A positive working environment consists of a healthy balance between your personal and professional life. This ensures you can continue to find job satisfaction without letting your job overtake other areas of your life. Ultimately, a positive working environment encourages employees to find fulfillment in both their work and personal lives.

If you work 40 hours out of a 168-hour week, that’s nearly a quarter of your week spent at work. Of course, you probably want to make sure those hours are more enjoyable than not. But not everyone is happy at work.

In fact, Teem — a software and workplace analytics company that WeWork acquired back in 2018 — did some research on the subject. According to the 2017 Teem Employee Happiness Survey of over 1,300 US workers, 48% of those surveyed reported being unhappy or “somewhat happy” at work, which was up 8% from their 2016 report.

Among the factors contributing to this were poor work-life balance (48%), workers feeling underappreciated in their positions (46%), and people feeling obligated to respond to colleagues at all times, due to communication apps (49%).

Most recently in 2019, CNBC and Survey Monkey teamed up and polled over 8,500 professionals nationwide across various industries. The survey found that 85% of respondents are either somewhat or very satisfied with their jobs, and 30% have seriously considered quitting their job in the last three months.

“Work can be stressful, but that doesn’t mean happiness can’t be achieved,” Zach Holmquist, the former cofounder and chief of workplace experience at Teem, told Business Insider in an email. “While it may seem difficult to attain, it’s crucial for both employees and employers. To avoid burnout and ultimately maximize creativity and productivity, ensure you are truly working in an environment where you can thrive.”

Here, Holmquist and 12 other career experts share their advice on how to be happier at work. (Responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.)

How to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career

Are you happy at your job? If you’re like more than half of Americans, you’re not fully satisfied with your job. That statistic may sound pretty abysmal, but that’s the highest job satisfaction has been in more than a decade. But, it begs the question: Why are so many people unhappy at work?

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that an increase in happiness is correlated with an increase in productivity (up to 12 percent, according to one study), and that your job satisfaction could even impact your health later in life, increasing or reducing your risk for chronic health conditions. But what is it that makes you happy at work? Does it boil down to having a more positive attitude? Is it finding your “one true calling”? Or is it merely the result of luck?

8 Things We Learned from The World Happiness Report

Now in its sixth year, the annual World Happiness Report strives to objectively measure happiness around the world, and analyze the root causes for that happiness. In its latest 2017 report, Norway’s citizens topped the list as being the happiest in the world, which is attributed to high marks in the following categories:

  • Income
  • Life expectancy
  • A close friend or relative
  • Generosity
  • Freedom
  • Trust

Of these, income, freedom and trust all relate to professional responsibilities. The report delves into more specifics related to happiness at work, analyzing self-reported measures of happiness and well being (which are distinct concepts treated somewhat interchangeably in this report) that represent 98 percent of the global population.

These are some of the key findings of the report:

  • Employment is good. You may feel unsatisfied with your job at the moment, but you’d be far unhappier without one. The report shows, without variation, that unemployment increases unhappiness steadily over the course of the unemployment period. The longer you’re out of work, the less satisfied you’ll be with life.
  • More income is better. You won’t be shocked to learn that higher income leads to higher feelings of happiness—but only up to a certain point. A study from Princeton confirmed this effect back in 2010, calculating that once you reach about $75,000 in annual income (as a single earner—that’s about $83,000 today), more income doesn’t make you any happier.
  • Work-life balance is a strong predictor of happiness. Spending more time with family and less time in the office, with less demanding work is a good thing—and with 24 percent of the American workforce working from home at least some of the time, we may be moving in a positive direction here.
  • Variety and education are valuable. If you do the same thing every day, you’re going to be unsatisfied. Workers with some variety in their work, and those who have the opportunity to learn new skills regularly report higher levels of happiness and well being.
  • Autonomy leads to satisfaction. For the most part, having more control over your actions can also make you happier at work. Being given autonomy gives people more freedom, one of the key factors for happiness overall.
  • Job security and safety matter. If your job puts you in danger, or has significant consequences for your health, your happiness is going to decrease. Similarly, if you feel that your job is in jeopardy or that you’ll be unemployed in the near future, you’ll also feel less satisfied with your work. Stable, safe jobs are the ones that yield the most happiness.
  • Social capital is a moderate predictor of happiness. Though less important than factors like income, work-life balance and variety, social capital can also influence your happiness at work; getting along with your coworkers and engaging in collaborative exercises can make you more satisfied.
  • Not all types of employment are the same. The report also suggests that different types of employment yield different effects on happiness, mostly for reasons related to the above criteria; for example, self-employed people tend to report lower happiness, in part because of lower job security than full-time employees.

Being Happy at Work Starts at Home

According to a recent study by Oregon University, a happy home life can result in an increase in immersion and productivity, leading to a happier work life. Specifically, they found that workers with an active sex life reported higher levels of engagement and satisfaction than those with strained relationships or other stressors at home.

As much as we try to separate our personal and professional lives, there’s no denying that there’s a correlation here. Failing to address your satisfaction in one area can cause a self-perpetuating spiral; dissatisfaction at home leads to dissatisfaction at work, which leads to even more stress at home, and so on.

So, What About Finding Your Passion?

Do you need to follow your bliss to be satisfied with your work? The answer is a resounding “no.” Ben Horowitz’s commencement address to Columbia University in 2015 illustrates some of the main issues with this idea. Namely, passions are hard to prioritize, they tend to evolve over time (especially when you’re working on them for 40 or more hours a week), it leads to self-centeredness, and your passions don’t necessarily reflect what you’re good at—or what’s in demand.

What’s even more important is that the overall appeal or industry of your work doesn’t appear to modulate your satisfaction with that work—instead, it’s factors like income, work-life balance, and autonomy that lead to satisfaction.

6 Ways to Be Happier at Work, Starting This Week

Do you want to be happier in your career? These are the key points you need to walk away with:

  • Prioritize your personal life. Commit to finding happiness in your personal life, and preserve it with a healthy work-life balance.
  • Seek higher income. Ask for a raise, get a promotion, or find another line of work (at least until you’re making $83,000 a year)
  • Accept and seek new challenges. Do something new in your job every day, and force yourself to learn new skills.
  • Demand autonomy. Set your own standards—if you can’t, work up the ladder until you can.
  • Find safety and stability. Your health and job security are important.
  • Be social. Find a job with coworkers you relate to—or work harder to build relationships with the ones you have.

There’s no surefire recipe for happiness in any career, but if you can follow these tips and look for work that accommodates them, the science almost guarantees you’ll feel happier.

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

How to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career

Franchise Your Business

How to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career

Looking back on my career I’ve been fortunate to work for four great companies and have gone through three “career transitions.” I went form WE Communications to Microsoft, then from Microsoft to startup Porch.com, and most recently I went back to my big company roots taking on a new role at SAP.

Every time I changed jobs, it felt like I had gone through a process that put me in the right role, at the right company, at the right time.

Thinking about what I’ve learned, here are 10 tips you might find useful when the time comes to make a career transition.

1. Know your requirements.

One of the most valuable exercises you can go through is to determine what really matters to you. What are your requirements? For example, do you want to be a manager or an individual contributor? Is money the most important thing? Do you want to travel? Do you want to work from home? How important is commute?

This is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but what’s universal is that everyone has a list of requirements and understanding what matters most is key.

2. It’s all about the people.

When you think about how much time we spend with co-workers, it’s crucial to find great people to work with. Not just people you can laugh and have fun with, but people who will really challenge and inspire you to do your very best. Spend time getting to know the people you are going to work with. How will they make you better? How can you make them better? Who will inspire you?

3. Take your time.

When you’ve decided that it’s time to make a transition, be patient. Take lots of meetings and get to know people. Expand your network. Do your homework and find out what you want to do, then find the place that allows you to do that.

It’s not about finding a new job right now; it’s about finding the right role, at the right time, with the right people.

4. Run to a job (never run from a job).

You may be in a position where you feel like your career is stuck in a rut. I know that can be a tough position be in, but you never want to make a rash or drastic decision. Do your best to find a role that inspires and excites you. You never want to run away. You want to find something that motivates you for the right reasons, so you are running towards the perfect role.

5. Don’t be afraid to try something different.

I am a very curious person. I like to try new things, expand my network and learn from new people. It’s fun to try new things and learn new skills. Don’t talk yourself out of something great, because it might not be in your wheelhouse — it could be the domino that leads to something that is a once-in-a-career opportunity.

6. Put inspiration before title.

I’ve seen a lot people make a career transition because of the allure of title. That’s a hollow approach to building a great career. Titles are not transferrable between companies and to be frank, WHAT you do and HOW you do it means a lot more than the title under your signature. If you find yourself working with and for people who really don’t care about titles – people that give everyone a seat at the table – that’s a good sign you are heading to the right place.

7. Create your personal board of directors.

Don’t feel like you are going at it alone. Build out your own personal board of directors — people who can advise, challenge, support and help you make the right decision at the right time for the right reasons. These are the people who can be brutally honest with you because they care and know you in a way many others don’t.

8. Act ‘as if.’

Once you’ve narrowed down the opportunities you might consider, pause for a moment. Before you make your decision, find some time to “act as if you had the job.” Spend a weekend doing some of the work you would be required to do. Work on projects you would expect to do in your new role. Do you enjoy what you are doing? If not, that could be a red flag.

9. Be active in your transition plan.

Once you’ve made your decision to move on, play an active role in making sure your transition plan sets your employer up for success. Don’t leave people high and dry. Take the time to make sure that the people picking up where you left off are ready to succeed. In many ways your transition represents an exciting new opportunity for someone else. Honor them and respect their process, so they’re set up to carry on what you leave behind. And remember: always leave things better than you found them.

10. It really is all about you.

Though you need to take a lot of people into consideration (family, teammates, management), it really is all about you. It can be hard to make the right decision when you are trying to consider the needs and wants of too many people. Put your oxygen mask on first and make sure you are comfortable and excited by what’s to come. If you do that, everyone benefits.