Why we need to talk about happiness and work

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I think that we should take our happiness at work more seriously. Here’s why.

Whether we work in a big multinational corporation, in a small company or on our own, we all go to work. The few who do not work are either too sick or too old to do it.  And some people are rich enough that they do not need to work. However most young people go to work almost every day. And we often do this not because we want to, but because we need to.

Why work matters

Let’s face it – most of us only work so that we can afford to survive. We need the money to pay our rent, our bills, buy food and occasionally reward ourselves with a fine dining experience or a shopping spree. We often do not enjoy the work we do or the environment we work in. And while many people think this is normal, here’s why I think we should question this normality.

1. We spend a big part of our lives working

Work is a really big part of our lives. Most of us  go to work for 8 hours on 5 days a week. Some work extra hours or have to jobs to keep up with their expenses. If that does not sound like much, consider this: it is estimated that over a lifetime, we spend about 90,000 hours working.1 For some people that figure can go as high as 150,000 hours.2

We spend a long time working and we should try to find ways to enjoy it.

After all, would you want to spend these thousands of hours being bitter and frustrated because of your work or being challenged by, interested in and generally satisfied by your work?

2. Our work affects us even when we are not working

We may be tempted to think that even though we are unhappy or stressed at work, it does not matter. As soon as we leave the office, we can enjoy our lives until we have to go back. And this would work perfectly if we could really separate our work from our personal life.

But we are usually not indifferent, strong or self-disciplined enough to completely forget about work and leave it behind as soon as we leave the office. It would be hard or impossible to never spend a minute of our free time thinking about something that made us angry at work, or worrying about a project we must complete next week or the workload waiting for us when we come back from vacation.

We cannot completely separate our work life from our personal life.

Imagine these two scenarios:

Scenario Nr 1: You have had a terrible day at work. You are working on a big project that you are very stressed about. To make things worse, your boss keeps checking in on you every day and expects you to complete that project much sooner that it is possible. You are so stressed you cannot sleep at night.

How do you behave when you get home from work?

Scenario Nr 2: You like your job and you are always working hard. Your manager noticed this and gave you a hint that a new position might open up soon. Since you are very hard working, you will probably get that promotion. Today your boss praised your hard work at the weekly meeting.

How do you behave when you get home from work?

 

I think you agree with me when I say that your behaviour in these 2 scenarios will be totally different. If your boss makes you angry, you come home and complain about him. If you are about to get a promotion, you come home shining and ready to celebrate.

In most cases, separating your personal life from the influence of your work life is very hard.

And if you are a freelancer or an entrepreneur, work/life separation is even harder to create and maintain (if not impossible). So because our work and our life are always intertwined, how we feel at work influences the way we feel and behave on our time off.

3. Our work defines us

Whenever we meet someone new, one of the first things we want to find out about them is what they do. This is often the second question we ask after “What’s your name”. When we talk about other people, we often say “He’s a lawyer.” or “She’s a doctor”.

The work we do does more than dictate how we spend our days, it also defines us. That is because we assume that the work someone does often can give us clues about the type of person they are. Our work can often tell us what they studied, what skills they have, what values they have and so on.

While our work usually does not define us entirely, it is still a big part of what we do and who we are.

All these reasons show that our work is important – whether we enjoy it or not. We spend a lot of time working and this affects us even after we come home from work. Plus, our work also defines us and our lives. And this is why we need to take our happiness at work very seriously. Do you agree? Are you happy with your work or do you need to learn how to enjoy it more?

To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.

- Pearl S. Buck

Over the next weeks, I will focus mainly on happiness and work. I will share ideas about how to become happier at work in future articles and Instagram posts. But for now, I only want to leave you with this idea: you can be happier at work. You deserve this and you can make it happen!

 

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