Happy employees are productive employees. They get more work done, they’re more motivated, they tend to stick with their employer longer, and of course, they have better health and better outcomes in their personal lives as well. You don’t need me to tell you that happiness is a good thing.
Unfortunately, for many employees, achieving happiness is easier said than done. If you’re an employee stuck in a rut of unhappiness or stagnation, or if you’re an employer hoping to give your employees a better shot at happiness, there are a handful of habits that can make a positive difference in your life.
The Habits of Happy Employees
These employee habits are highly correlated with employee happiness. Practicing them doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be happier—but it does give you much better odds of success.
1. Expressing gratitude.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is expressing gratitude on a regular basis. It’s been experimentally demonstrated that even a small expression of gratitude can instantly make you feel more positive emotions, and force you to look at the positive circumstances surrounding you. It’s also great for building relationships if you express gratitude to the people around you. Take time throughout your day to focus on what you like about your job, and the good things that are currently happening to you. For example, instead of lamenting your heavy workload, be grateful that you’re an indispensable asset to your company, or give thanks to your team for supporting you.
2. Assuming positive intent.
How often have you become frustrated or irritated with a coworker because of how they worded an email, only to find out that they meant nothing by it? In the modern world of digital communication, this is a common problem. Too often, people become wracked with negative feelings because of a simple misinterpretation of intent. Happy employees tend to assume positive intent at all times; instead of resorting to the worst possible interpretation of a message, stick with the best possible interpretation, and only deviate from that view when proven wrong.
3. Focusing on controllable factors.
Happy employees spend their time focusing on the variables they can control, rather than the ones they can’t control. There are many things you won’t be able to control in your job, from traffic on the way to work to the annoying buzzwords constantly slung by your coworkers. Don’t fixate on them; instead, keep your attention on the factors that are perfectly in your control.
4. Taking breaks.
There are conflicting theories for the best length of time for breaks, and the right number of breaks to take throughout the day, but one thing is certain; breaks are good for your mental wellbeing, and can boost your productivity. That’s why you’ll find that the happiest employees tend to take breaks regularly, and they feel no shame in doing so.
5. Taking vacations.
Similarly, happy employees tend to take vacations. No matter how much you love your job, it can become frustrating or tedious over time. Taking a vacation away from work is often the only real long-term solution. And when you take a vacation, take a real vacation—no checking email or knocking out tasks in the middle of your break.
6. Engaging with positive people.
Happy people tend to surround themselves with other happy people. Attitudes and feelings are contagious, so if you’re constantly engaging with other optimists and positive people, you’ll have a much easier time staying happy in your own position.
Have you ever noticed that people who work out regularly tend to be happier? It’s no coincidence. Happy employees often use their lunch break for a quick exercise routine, or make time for the gym before or after work. Exercise relieves stress, keeps you in better shape, and improves your mental and physical health in practically all areas. If you want to increase your happiness at work and in other areas of your life, schedule 20 to 30 minutes of exercise every day—even if you’re just walking around the block.
8. Learning, growing, and changing.
Happy employees also commit themselves to ongoing learning, growth, and change. They’re constantly seeking new modes of stimulation, and they never stay at the same level of cognition or skill for too long. This serves multiple important functions; seeking out new information is stimulating, learning new skills makes them feel empowered, and constantly pushing for new things leads to enjoyable, novel experiences in the workplace. It’s a perfect recipe for feeling happier.
When to Move On
These habits can increase your happiness at least marginally, and being happier can lead to higher productivity. However, there isn’t much they can do if you’re stuck in a toxic workplace or if you’re working in an industry that’s thoroughly uninteresting to you.
If you’ve tried these strategies and you’ve tried to change your workplace for the better to no avail, your only remaining option may be to move onto another opportunity. Just make sure you make a genuine attempt to improve your current position, and think through your decision carefully before following through.