Today while doing my usual work activities, under headphones I listened to a documentary I had playing in the background of my work screens. The documentary was about happiness, entitled Happiness Is and I highly recommend it).
This made me think about my happiest work experiences (among other facets of my life where I’ve been happy or unhappy, but mostly I wanted to talk about my work experiences since this is an employment/unemployment blog). And I thought about when I was the happiest at work.
There are a few things that make me happy at work and it isn’t exactly a fancy title and a corner office with a six figure salary. Realistically speaking, I’m not even sure I’m willing to give over of myself to any company to earn a position quite like that, but I do have to work to pay the bills and that does mean that I will probably be spending the majority of my days at work.
I’m not happy where I work right now, but I know I have been and can be happy while I’m working.
So here’s a few things that have made me happy at work (of course, nostalgia can give you rose-colored glasses about the past; I know I haven’t been entirely happy everywhere I work, but I would say there are elements that have made me enjoy work and even laugh at work, which is not an aspect for me right now).
1) Connection with coworkers.
I remember I worked as an admin for a cell phone company once and I really enjoyed some of my interactions there. I ended up walking off the job and looking back, I think the trigger point for me to eventually leave was how isolated I became from everyone towards the end. I had developed coworker friends in the office, but they didn’t last and it got to be impossible for me to rebuild any new ones.
But I can remember vividly early on being in the lunch room of this company, actually enjoying my lunch hour, and laughing a lot with some of my coworkers. Sometimes we would laugh about customers we each would talk to, other times it was about our personal lives, and it got to be a time during the day I enjoyed the most.
Things changed of course, but looking back, I realize I enjoy interacting with coworkers and laughing and being on an even playing field instead of feeling an ugly sense of competition with them.
2) Variety of job duties and responsibilities.
My first job out of high school, I got promoted twice inside of about one year. Plus, I even got to change around desks and connect with new and different people in the company. It wasn’t a great place to work, but I loved the variety of challenges and opportunity.
Right now I feel stuck where I work, and promotions are few and far between for anyone here. I realize now that I like having the opportunity to take on new responsibility and change around my day a bit. I like variety and having a monotonous work schedule depresses me.
3) Shorter commute.
I spend about nine to ten hours a week on my commute (the morning commute lasts about 45 minutes, the afternoon can take up to an hour). This is the first time I haven’t been twenty minutes from home. My first job out of high school was a ten minute drive from home, my first job out of college was about a twenty minute drive from home. My admin job in between college was about twenty minutes from home.
For me, whether I’m driving or taking public transportation, a commute means stress. And I don’t like 10 extra hours of stress when I’m already taking 40 plus hours a week of stress at work. Plus, I associate my commute with work and right now, commute included, I work about 55 hours a week (10 of which, aren’t paid, of course).
So, to summarize – connection, variety, and short commute may just be the key to me finding happiness at work. Sure, every job has a downside. But the down side should definitely be outweighed by the good.
Have you found happiness at work? What makes you the happiest?