• geoffashton

How to be happier at work

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

Whilst there are some very contented people who feel they are in their perfect job, I suspect most of us would like to feel a greater sense of happiness in our workplaces. The good news is that it usually is possible to be happier at work. Join me in exploring the following ideas.

Create your happiness scale

Think about your working a day in the light of the following question: On a scale of 1-10, how happy were you yesterday? It doesn’t matter if “yesterday” wasn’t in any way typical – if it was an exceptionally good or less good day – the question is simply a doorway into the subject. Having considered the question, and come up with a figure, ask yourself what would have made it one point higher. Think carefully over your day and identify the moments when your energy levels waxed or waned. As you start this journey of reflection, it’s likely that your thoughts will have started to explore one of the following areas.


In it’s purely neutral sense, “competence” simply refers to your ability to perform a task or role. As you identify specific moments when you felt less happy at work you may find yourself drawn to when you were unable to complete a task to the standard you wanted, or felt out of your depth in a situation.

What might this be telling you?

Are you identifying a training or mentoring need? Do you just need to sharpen or refresh your skills? If you recognise that have struggled to keep up with new demands or changing circumstances, this humble and honest recognition may well start you down a straightforward process of refining and updating your skill set.


Where were the moments in the day when you failed to take a course of action because you were uncertain of the consequences? It’s quite natural to have “what if?” moments when you face the uncertainty of the direction in which a decision could take you. If you notice a pattern of uncertainty – repeatedly holding back because of these “what if?” moments – dig beneath the surface a little and use this as a basis for positive change.

Find an example of such a moment and let the “what if?” question take you in two directions. First, think of the negative consequences of your decision and make a realistic assessment of which of these consequences is really likely to occur. And even if that consequence did occur, what would you do in response to it? In the light of that insight, decide how ready are you to respond to challenges that your decision would precipitate.

Having worked out how you will manage your worst case scenario (and the far more likely less negative scenarios), turn the question around. What if your decision had positive and beneficial results? What would these look like? How likely are they and what positive steps could you take to make these results more likely? Assuming your happiness score will increase the more you can manage effectively what’s happening around you, perhaps it’s time to push the boundaries of your own comfort and begin to explore the potential for exercising greater influence over your working environment.


As you review your day, you are likely to remember moments of particular pleasure and satisfaction. Take some time to re-live one or more of these moments – what was happening, how it felt, what it empowered you to do – and look out for more of them tomorrow. If they are very few and far between it may be time to be thinking about a change of scene. But for many of us the working day and the wider working life can be happier by maximising our opportunities for job satisfaction and taking deliberate and consistent steps to minimise our negatives.


For all the factors and issues that are outside your control, there are two that are very much in your power to deliver. Treat yourself, and treat someone else. Take your legal breaks and make the most of them with whatever small treat will give you a “pick-me-up,” whether that means taking a few minutes to look after yourself or sharing some joy with colleagues in the work place or friends outside of it.

Make your own investment in the “happiness capital” of your workplace, and draw on it when you need to.

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