Happiness at work has long been researched and examined, and I believe experience has backed up these later results. We now have a pretty clear picture of what factors do bring and keep an employee happy with his or her job. In the following paragraphs though I would like to point out how to achieve happiness at your job, as an employee.
Let’s find out what are the intrinsic motivational factors first, then how to apply them in our job in order to be happy and productive there as well.
Some years back I have read Daniel Pink’s book “Drive”. I remember being so impressed with the new things I discovered back then, in 2011. Now, the things he mentions about what motivates us (at work or in our personal life) are quite well known, and very true in my opinion.
Below there’s an animation going through the motivational factors. Shortly, they are autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy means to be able to do things on your own, to be self-directed. Mastery refers to the possibility to improve and get better at the thing that matter to you. And purpose is the sense that what we produce serves something bigger, beyond ourselves.
Happiness at work
You guessed, in order to achieve happiness at work what you need is at least some degree of autonomy, mastery and purpose. Of course, these come in place once the money is enough and the time spent at your job allows for personal time as well. Happy employees are 12% more productive at work, and in many occasions their work in this case is much more valuable to the company and its customers.
Salary should be an amount that is satisfactory to you and is helping you keep the money worry off the table. If money is always an issue for you and it doesn’t cover your decent needs, it will always be on your mind, keeping you away from doing work that really matters. Here is an article detailing the level of salary that would assure employees happiness and satisfaction. Seems like $82,000/year would be the amount around which, if salary would be increased, it wouldn’t produce a higher happiness level.
Definitely, happiness at work is dependent of the salary level. So one of the first things you should achieve is having a salary that meets your expectations and puts the money thoughts off the table.
Number or working hours
While the 40 hours week is the norm by which most people on this planet work, there are many who work overtime. This is one of the causes for employee unhappiness. Recently, Sweden tested out a 6 hours/day working week. Also, there are companies trying out 4 hours/day or a working week of 4 working days/week. These tests are intended to see whether the time spent at work is proportional with the employee efficiency.
What actually matters is how productive you are at work. If you have enough time to relax as well, and you are happy with the amount of time you can dedicate to your passions and personal life, then these will definitely increase your productivity at work. So, are you happy with the hours you spend at work vs. the ones for your own? If not, do your best to change that. Long term, it will lead you nowhere close to being happy and productive.
Knowing the end results, are you allowed to do things on your own in order to achieve the desired outcome? Or are you supervised all the time, micromanaged and given indication on how to do things on a constant basis? Studies have proven that employees that are given more autonomy at work are happier and definitely more productive.
If you are given more autonomy, you also get more responsibility. But in the same time, you improve, you do your best, you research the best ways to do things. All in all, you are given confidence you can do a great job, and you live up to these expectations. Of course, it’s normal to have a lower level of autonomy when you are a junior or just starting a new job. That’s when you need advice and coaching. But once you grow into a more senior position, you need more and more autonomy in order to be satisfied and happy at your job.
Happiness at work comes as well if we see that we become better and better at doing the things we love every day. On the opposite, if we feel stuck in the same routine boring tasks, our motivation slips and we might start looking for different options. That’s why the sense of mastery is so important for any employee and company in the same time.
More and more organisations understand this and start applying things like guided mastery. It means that the tasks you receive fit your set of skills but are also meant to challenge you at each step of the way. In doing these tasks, you also have a very skilled individual next to you that is able to guide and help if you need to in order for you to successfully master the challenge.
Mastery at work also refers to your professional development and staying up to the latest trends. You benefit of training (internal or external one) constantly and you feel your skills are progressing continuously.
A sense of purpose, of contributing to something bigger and greater is the factor that leads to the deepest motivation to do work that matters. This is how the greatest inventions happened. People believed they are going to change the world to be a better place to live in. And that’s why they invested day and night into putting the work to achieve great things.
As an employee, you should understand how your contribution is making the world a better place, or you should see the purpose of your work and you should love it. This way, you’ll easily tackle the biggest problems, solve the bottlenecks and therefore making a relevant contribution. On the opposite, if you just do your job, you’ll just stick to what you are given as tasks and nothing more. And sooner or later you’ll need, find and go to a place where you can find purpose. Do you think you can find it now, at your current job, or should you already start looking for purpose in another place?
I hope these lines gave you an idea of what are the things that contribute to your happiness at work. If you don’t have them and you feel dissatisfied, start looking for these things. Start talking to your managers to try and change things for yourself. Look for autonomy, mastery, purpose and decent working conditions. If you’ve given it all and reached nowhere, by all means, start looking for these in another place. There’s no point in investing 1/3 or more of your life in something that is not bringing you happiness.
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