Hey everyone! I’m still enjoying the newlywed life out of town so the fabulous Erika of All Things E is guest posting today! Be sure to check out her blog or hit her up on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and show her lots of love!

When Katie first asked me to guest post for her while she’s away getting married (seriously, congratulations!), I came up with the lovely idea to post about staying positive and being happy in the workplace.

Work is such a huge part of our lives and the fact of the matter is, most people aren’t that happy at their jobs.

Do we appreciate the paycheck? Absolutely.

But do we wake up every morning eagerly anticipating our commute to the drudgery of work? For a lot of us, no.

While I’m pretty content with my job, I won’t ever try to tell you that I’m happy with it all the time. I’m simply not. It’s not “my life’s work” or “my dream job.” But it pays the bills and allows me to be happy outside the office, so I try not to complain much.

I’m a big believer in the fact that you CAN be happy at work, even if you’re not in love with your job or career.

When I sat down at first to write this post, I made a laundry list of small, easy to implement suggestions (i.e. Decorate your desk! Take a break every now and then! Be friendly!).

But when I really looked at it, I realized that happiness in the workplace boils down to three main ideas:

How to find happiness in the workplace

1. Advocate for your needs.

Of the three of these suggestions, this is probably the hardest one to learn, especially if you’re a people-pleaser or just feeling really lucky to have a job. But I’ve found it to be the most important. Advocating for your needs comes in many different forms: speaking up when you feel slighted or you feel like something is going on that you don’t think is right, going against the typical “office culture” to suit your lifestyle, or even asking for a raise.

Let me give a quick, practical example:

At my current office, not taking a lunch is very normal. People have meetings through lunch, they read emails through lunch over their meal, and in general, the most successful people at the firm don’t leave their desks (or their meetings) for lunch. I did this for a long time, heating meals up in the microwave or ordering Jimmy Johns and sitting at my desk “reading emails (okay, blogs and Twitter)” while I ate.

In January, I stopped eating at my desk. I leave every day now. I go for walks around the neighborhood, check out new restaurants, run errands, and in general, look away from the computer screen for an hour every day at lunch time. My afternoons are more productive after a break and I feel healthier. I advocated for my needs by going against the typical culture and doing what worked for me. It’s important. And even though it made me nervous, I’m so glad I did it.

2. Maintain your sense of self outside of your work.

When I was in college, I was convinced that I would become “a career woman.” I was convinced I’d live and breathe my work, become a known ‘expert’ in my field, gain all of this recognition, blah blah blah. Honestly, I was ready to throw my whole life and spirit into work.

Then I had a HORRIBLE first job out of college.

And I realized: I would never find my true bliss in work, especially while I was working for someone else.

So I started blogging. I started learning calligraphy. I got back into reading. I gave running a try. And I committed myself to having a full life that had nothing to do with my job. Because honestly, if I wake up tomorrow and my boss decides he doesn’t need me anymore and my job gets eliminated, the worst thing would be to completely lose my sense of self. Now, I know that even if I lose my job tomorrow, I’ll still be the same me.

Plus, my happiness at work increased substantially after I started having a full life outside the office. Embrace a new hobby and reap the rewards of an engaged brain.

3. Create systems that work for you.

This last one is a very practical suggestion. Routines and systems make you more efficient. Efficiency makes you better at your job (in many cases). If you’re good at your job, your bosses will love you. If your bosses love you, you won’t be worrying quite as much about getting fired. Thus, you’ll be happier at work. I have systems to organize emails, template documents, and routines that I try to follow as often as possible to make the day-to-day tasks of work that much easier to accomplish.

At the end of the day, my main recommendation for happiness at work centers around maintaining your autonomy and putting yourself in the best position to do good work and feel happy while doing it.

Have you ever advocated for your needs at work? How did it turn out?

  • For me, learning how to say no at work is one of the biggest ways that I advocate for myself. No, I cannot take an extra shift on my one day off this week. No, I cannot come in two hours early this time. It’s hard to feel like I’m disappointing someone sometimes, but I also know that without balance I will end up stressed, burnt-out, and generally unhappy. That doesn’t make me a good person or employee.

    • Man, I’m finding the skill of saying No is one that’s very worthwhile to have in ALL environments! Glad it’s working for you! 🙂

  • A thousand times yes to advocating for yourself in the workplace. There are many things I love about my job, and one is the fact that I’ve been there for long enough to establish a rapport with colleagues and my boss so I usually feel comfortable expressing new ideas or needs. I drive a 2+ hour (sometimes 3 hour on rough days) commute every day, which has really taken a toll, literally and figuratively…so eventually I asked my boss if I could work from home one day a week. It has made a HUGE difference in terms of my happiness, sleep and productivity! (I recognize that I work in a more flexible office than most and that this wouldn’t be allowed in many places, but I do think greater flexibility is a trend in the workforce and is worth advocating for.)

    • Is your 2+ hour commute both ways? That’s incredible…a short commute is definitely one of my must-haves, so props to you!

  • It is SO HARD to go against the culture. Everyone eats at their desk at my job as well. I’ve gotten into the habit of talking a 20 minute walk in the afternoon. It’s not a consistent habit yet, but I know it helps the way I feel about my workplace.

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  • Caitlin | The Siren’s Tale

    I came across your blog from Alicia @ Jaybird Blog’s Friday link recommendations. My oh my, I love this post! 100x yes to everything you said – especially advocating for your needs. My job sounds similar to your job about the lunch break. Either people skip it and eat at their desks, or they huddle into the break room together where there is nonstop tension and work-place arguments. At first I went along with it, but I realized it was making me resent my job and having to work at all. Now, like you, I leave every day for my hour lunch break. I read books, take walks, zone out… heck, anything! Just having that “me” time during the long work day is so important. Thanks for the awesome read!

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