How to love the job you already have

A new-year guide to falling back in love with your job.

Do you like your job? Were you excited to get back to your desk on your first day back in January? Perhaps not.

Recent findings show that only eight per cent of the UK workforce are actually enthusiastic about their jobs. New Zealanders are a more satisfied bunch, with 85 per cent of all employed NZers “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their jobs, according to Statistics New Zealand’s Survey of Working Life, released in 2013.

But there’s always room for improvement, right?

The UK’s stats are partly why combating workplace misery has become the mission of Bruce Daisley, European VP of Twitter and host of the podcast Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat.

His latest book, The Joy Of Work, is designed to make us fall back in love with our job again – something, he says, that can only happen when we fix our work culture.

Daisley’s book debunks many long-held assumptions about the workplace, such as the notion that open-plan offices are conducive to great work, or that longer working hours equals more work and, most crucially, that happiness in the office means no work is getting done (it actually makes us more productive).

All this makes sense, but how does it help us day-to-day? After all, we can’t build walls in our offices or ask our boss to stop emailing us at 9pm on a Sunday. Or can we?

“People feel powerless,” agrees Daisley, who insists he’s targeting the average working person, not the high-powered CEO.

“But we can all gradually improve work a little bit, for ourselves and for everyone, even just by making suggestions about these things at team meetings and starting a conversation about workplace happiness.”

Find the ‘I’ in team

Daisley argues that work should be like that bit on a flight when they tell you to fix your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else. If we want to improve our work culture in general, we have to first figure out how to make ourselves happy.

“Happiness at work starts with self- awareness,” agrees Dr Annie McKee, a US-based business consultant and university lecturer, whose book How To Be Happy At Work became a bestseller last year. “It’s about knowing what is necessary for you – what you need and what you want.”

That’s advice Isabella, 30, a London- based PR executive, tried to follow. Last summer she quit her job, after isolating what would make her happy at work and realising that her current position couldn’t offer her that. A twist in the tale meant that when she communicated this to her boss as she handed in her notice, they scouted out another position within her company that more effectively met her needs.

“It made me feel valued by my job,” she says, “but also that there is power in finding out what you want from work and asking for it instead of just giving up.”

We may not all be so lucky, but knowing what makes us happy can also be applicable to improving our current job. Too many of us accept that we must all work the same way – what Daisley calls “learned helplessness” – but in finding out what works best for us personally, we can be both happier and more productive.

One of his suggestions is “Monk Mode Mornings” – figuring out the hours of the day during which we are most efficient and removing ourselves from email and other distractions over that time. He suggests keeping track of how much more work you get done during these digi-blackouts, in order to prove the utility of it to your boss.

“Most people find the mornings, say 9am or earlier, to be the most efficient time,” says Daisley, “but this differs for everyone, so it’s important to find a time that suits you.”

Work less, achieve more

“Work is the lie we tell ourselves,” says Daisley, who is keen to deconstruct our obsession with overworking – a product not just of our bosses or our constant connectivity to work (the smartphone has added roughly 2.5 hours to the average working day), but of our blind assumption that we have to be working all hours of the day to get things done. He calls this “the evil mill-owner inside you.

“Overworking may actually hamper productivity,” he says. “The work you produce is more important than how many hours you do, but we are working ourselves into creative stagnation.”

Indeed, the science behind his book shows that shortening your working week increases both the quality and quantity of your output. He cites one investment banking firm whose employees usually worked a punishing 56 hour-work week with no day off. When they switched to a 48-hour work week with a Sunday break, better (and more) work was produced. It also helped employees themselves learn to switch off.

“Working in a high-pressured environment requires you to develop your resilience, and over time I have learnt to deal with specific situations in a more measured way,” says Katherine, 31, a corporate lawyer. “Learning the world won’t end if something does go wrong was an important lesson for me.”

Ultimately, you are the boss of yourself. Discipline yourself into leaving work at a certain time and not working after that, switch off your email notifications, take an actual lunch break away from your desk and work in “concentrated bursts” instead. You’ll be happier and you’ll also get more done.

Love your colleagues

“Having genuine friends in the workplace is really a great solace to me,” says Katherine, who adds that a supportive work environment has been the biggest factor in her enjoyment of her job.

Daisley agrees. He dedicates two-thirds of his book to engaging with your workplace in order to increase joy at work for everyone, with suggestions as simple as laughing more, having more social tea breaks and even knowing when to leave people alone.

“In the face of the flexible working revolution, a lot of extra effort has to be made to ensure we do still have that sense of community,” agrees McKee.

“Working from home is great, but you have to make sure that when you are in the office you maximise face time – embrace personal relationships with your team and don’t just hide behind email.”

After all, our team can have a huge effect on our happiness.

“I’m a really rational person so it took me a long time to realise that it was actually interpersonal stuff at work that was making me feel upset,” says Isabella, citing a previous experience of workplace bullying.

“I am learning that people and culture matter more to me. I now pick projects based on teams that inspire me.”

“You can fall in love with your job again,” Daisley promises. “You just need to get some balance back.”

The Joy Of Work: 30 Ways To Fix Your Work Culture And Fall In Love With Your Job Again By Bruce Daisley (Random House Business) is out now.

This story originally appeared on our sister site, Grazia.

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