By Catherine Jessen
We’ve all read advice on how to be more efficient and harder working in the office. Productivity tends to be the name of the game when it comes to professional improvement.
But ultimately, our mental health is just as important as the documents we draft and the spreadsheets we email out. So, how do we effectively walk the line between being professionally productive and personally happy?
Check out these 37 ways to be happier at the office—from things you can do right now to things you should implement in the next year for long-term well-being. (You—and your boss—can thank us later.)
1. Give Yourself Some Fun Rewards
If you don’t love the things on the to-do list in front of you, try incentivizing yourself with basic bribery. Think along the lines of: “If I finish this report, then I can go get a cupcake from the place down the street,” or “I can go to happy hour with my friends tonight, but only if I finish making this presentation.” You could even create a rewards jar to stay motivated for weeks to come!
2. Play Like a Kid
Okay, don’t get too crazy with this (you do still want your boss to take you seriously), but taking a few minutes to step away from your desk and play can seriously get you out of a rut. Doodling, playing with some clay, or keeping a small toy or puzzle on your desk to fiddle with for a few minutes can clear your head and spark your creativity in surprising ways. Try this three-minute exercise if you need a place to get started.
3. Buy Yourself Some Flowers
Aside from the obvious fact that flowers are beautiful and smell amazing, they can also make you feel happier and more energetic simply by looking at them. Flowers also promote creativity and brighten up a drab desk. So, go pick up a bouquet!
4. Create a Playlist to Boost Your Mood
Music can seriously improve your mood (and productivity) when you’re having a bad day. So pull together some of your favorite songs and use the beats to keep you going through the day. If you’re not sure where to start, check out Michele Hoos’ advice for creating the ultimate work playlist or check out our favorite pop playlists.
5. Have a Mini Dance Party During that Midday Slump
Once you have the playlists made, use them to help you get moving! Throw in some headphones, and have a mini dance party at your desk or in your office. You’ll get your heart pumping and your energy up, and you won’t be able to help but feeling a little bit happier.
6. Turn to the Internet
When you need a little boost, there’s no shame in turning to BuzzFeed for some laughs or cute animals. Try one of our favorite sites to get you through a rough day.
Okay, we get it—meditation is a buzzword. You might even think it’s slightly overrated, but that doesn’t mean its effects aren’t real. A study performed by Harvard Medical School and the Bender Institute of Neuroimaging in Germany found that participants who had never practiced meditation but began to experienced stronger emotional control, as well as mental and emotional enhancements. So, close your office door or pop in those noise-canceling headphones, set a timer for five or 10 minutes, close your eyes, and just breathe.
8. Walk Around the Block (Especially if it’s Sunny Out)
Sometimes all it takes to boost your mood at work is a quick walk around the block. Doctors at Mayo Clinic explain that walking is not only great for you physically, but it also lifts your mood. Grab that co-worker you’ve been meaning to talk to, and have an active outdoor meeting.
9. Eat Foods that Boost Your Mood
If you haven’t had lunch yet or are looking around for the midday desk snack, make sure that it includes at least one of these 10 nutrients. They are scientifically proven to help regulate mood on an internal level. Plus, you can find these nutrients in foods that you love, so happy eating!
10. Drink Water
This might seem slightly odd, but drinking water basically helps with everything. Keep a tall glass of H2O on your desk—it will help keep you focused and hydrated and will fight away any nagging headache. You will feel amazing, and your office outlook will be improved.
11. Just Smile
Smiling makes you feel happier. Simple as that. Research has discovered that smiling, whether it’s natural or forced, causes your brain to interpret that physical reaction as positive and will then recognize whatever activity you’re doing as being enjoyable. So, put on a cheesy grin while you’re typing up that report, and you might just find yourself feeling a little bit better about it.
12. Skip the Coffee, and Exercise Before Work Instead
Not only will you save about $4 every day on that caffeine fix, but your body will thank you for the long-desired activity. Exercising before work has proven to help improve energy throughout the day. More energy means more productivity, so forget about bringing your extra work home with you tonight, because it’s staying right where it belongs: the office.
13. Help a Co-worker Out
Research continues to show that altruism—helping others—actually makes us feel happier. When you prioritize lending a hand to a co-worker in need, you are actually creating a healthy mental reward system for yourself that promotes self-satisfaction. So, go ahead, take 10 minutes to help with that difficult project, and feel the lasting effects all week.
14. Spend Your Commute Thinking of 3 Good Things That Happened Today
Thinking about what you are grateful for—and very clearly identifying those things—has been proven to offer social, psychological, emotional, and even physical benefits (think better sleep, less sickness, and improved happiness).
15. Buy Yourself a Fun Mug
16. Give Your Work Space Some Quality TLC
If you work in a cubicle, it’s time to redecorate! Get creative with your space and make the most of it. If you share an area with others, get them involved, too. Treat this as a bonding experience and get to know your neighbors better.
17. Set Aside 20 Minutes a Day for Personal Tasks
We all have personal responsibilities to attend to. But sometimes, those pressing thoughts gnaw away at your brain, and anxiety soon follows. So, consider taking just 20 minutes per day to accomplish a couple of pressing personal tasks. Whether you’re arranging your child’s after-school pickup schedule for the week or making that dinner reservation for your best friend’s birthday, setting aside personal time can help you feel more at ease and way happier in the office.
18. Remember Your Value
Former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief and career expert Kate White suggests: “When you’re burnt out, it’s hard to remember why you’re doing what you do. Take some time to step back and think about past projects and achievements you’re proud of and how they’ve changed the company in a positive way. Then, map out a plan to take those accomplishments to the next level by developing a new set of goals you can get excited about. You should always have a goal (or three) to keep you motivated about how you can bring more value to your employer—and your resume.”
19. Try Tracking Your Efforts Instead of Your Accomplishments
Try making a habit of focusing on quality over quantity. It’s so easy to get caught up in how many followers, dollars, and hours you rack up per month, but the size of that number doesn’t always translate into the amount of happiness you feel. Keep track of what you’ve done, focus on the tiny wins, and know that the larger accomplishments will soon follow.
20. Switch Up Your Routine
Sometimes it’s just the fact that your days seem to pass by similarly that has you feeling stuck in a rut. So, find a way to switch it up! Walk or bike to work instead of your usual commute to give your mornings a fresh perspective. Ask a friend to lunch instead of grabbing a quite bite at your usual deli. See if you can spend a few hours in the afternoon working from a coffee shop instead of your cubicle.
21. Learn How to be Happier at Work With Our Free Class
Take our straightforward and free online class to learn how to be happier at work. In just five days, you’ll have lessons like “The Meaning of Your Work” and “Happy Today, Happy Forever”—and you’re bound to walk away with some life-changing skills.
22. Plan an Office Event
Get your co-workers together and organize an office event. Whether you start casual Fridays, create rival company soccer teams, or build a bar for weekly happy hour, having a designated “unwind” time will help incentivize your productivity and get everyone excited for the upcoming event!
23. Get Enough Sleep
It’s that simple. Being well-rested allows you to focus and think better, meaning you spend less time zoned out and more time engaged. Grumpiness is less of an issue when you’ve had those solid eight hours of sleep. The American Psychological Association found that Americans who got more sleep on average tend to be healthier, happier, and even safer. And as a bonus: You’ll finally get rid of those dark bags under your eyes.
24. Make Your Mornings Count
Set aside 15 minutes each morning to gather your thoughts and create your daily goals. You don’t need to get too complicated with this new morning ritual—one or two things are all you should be focusing on. Taking time for yourself will help center and focus you, meaning it’ll be easier to recognize what makes you happy and plot the steps to get there.
25. Laugh Daily
Contrary to the idea that laughing at work means goofing off and getting distracted, Stanford Business School student Eric Tsytsylin suggests that laughter is actually “one of productivity’s greatest allies.” Laughing puts everyone at ease and promotes a “ready to work” attitude once you’ve had that moment of catharsis.
26. Bring Your Pet to Work
Talk to your boss about bringing your beloved pooch to work every once in a while. Research out of Virginia Commonwealth University has shown that bringing pets to work can help decrease stress, improve inter-office communication, and increase overall job satisfaction.
27. Make the Most of the Weekend
When Friday afternoon rolls around and you’re tempted to sneak that file into your bag, just say “no!” Dragging your work home with you every weekend sets you up for a obvious downfall: You will feel like you never left the office. Treat the weekend like the holy grail it is and spend time unwinding with family and friends or rebooting your batteries in private. We promise that it will prepare you for happiness in the boardroom come Monday morning.
28. Add Novelty to Your Job
Find a tantalizing new challenge at work you can run with. Don’t just do something simply because it’s going to make you more promotable—pick something that excites you on a visceral level, satisfies a yearning, or scratches a curious itch. It will make you feel excited to go to work again.
29. Make Sure to Communicate
Communication is an invaluable skill, yet we often forget to utilize it. Whether you start sending more reminder emails or take an extra minute to check in with your manager about the day’s events, communicating will inevitably aid in feeling less stressed out.
30. See if You Can Get Into the Field
Remember how excited you used to get when your class took field trips in middle school? Engaging with the material you were learning about helped keep you focused, engaged, and aware of new opportunities for discovery. The same applies now to your work. Actually getting out from behind your desk and interacting with users and professionals in the same field can reinvigorate and excite you about the work you are doing. See if you can get out of the office for a day and go to a conference, visit your company’s storefront, or do anything else that lets you engage with your work in new ways.
31. Talk to Your Boss About Creating a Flexible Schedule
Do you feel like you’re dragging yourself out of bed every morning just to sit at your desk for two hours tired and groggy? Or are you staying late at the office and doing shoddy work simply because that’s the expected norm? Talk to your boss about schedule flexibility. Whether you work from home once a week or start at 10 AM instead of 8 AM, working around your most productive hours will not only make you a more reliable employee, it’ll make you a much happier one, too.
32. Take Advantage of Your Office Perks
Every office has its own benefits and perks program. But in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the workday, we often forget to take advantage of them! This year, plan out how you will take advantage of those big benefits (Airbnb gives its employees $2,000 every year for travel!) as well as the smaller perks offered daily (like ZeroCater’s in-house chef). Companies create programs like this specifically to make you happy, so now is your chance to make use of them!
33. Take Those Vacation Days
Seriously, they exist for a reason. Not only does taking that vacation help improve your happiness, it’s also good for your career. Nearly 57% of Americans don’t take advantage of their vacation days, which means they’re missing out on deeper sleep, higher work productivity, and feeling more positive about their jobs. Start dreaming of where you want to go today, and then snatch up those plane tickets!
34. Or Plan to Take a Workcation
If you don’t want to disconnect completely, consider taking a workcation. Workcations involve working remotely from another place, whether that’s Hawaii, Iceland, Russia, or your backyard. You still stay connected to the office and get work done, you just do so while basking in the sun. How could that not make you happy?
35. Start a Side Project
Side projects give you the opportunity to explore a new interest that you don’t have time for while at work. They can make all the difference when it comes to feeling happy and productive—or bored and disinterested. Brainstorm the side project you want to take up this weekend—and get going!
36. Get That Raise or Promotion
It’s difficult to be happy at work if you feel like you are over-achieving but under-earning. So, when it comes to getting that raise or promotion you’ve been eyeing, it might be time to go for it. Not sure how to go about asking? Here’s some expert advice on how to ask for more and get it.
37. Get a New Job
Leaving a job that makes you unhappy can be crucially important for your mental and emotional well-being. If you feel truly disengaged and unfulfilled from your work, chances are it’s time to move on. Here are seven signs to help you know for sure.