10 to 12 hours a day.

That’s how much time you probably sacrifice every work day for the sake of your job.

On top of your actual shift, you have to wake up early & get ready, make your way there and back, and then spend more time decompressing after you get home because work is THAT exhausting.

That’s a LOT of time to give up, 5 days a week.

And if work makes you miserable, that’s a lousy way to spend so much of your precious time. But hating work doesn’t have to be a given. Today, we’re gonna teach you how to be happier at work.

In this post, you will:

  • The four main factors that affect your work happiness
  • How to rate your job satisfaction, using those four categories
  • Tips on how to improve your happiness at work

This post may contain affiliate links. See disclosure for more details.

factors that contribute to work happiness and tips to keep positive

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TAKE ACTION:

  • Download our work happiness worksheet
  • Ask your boss what you can work on, or self-study to improve your work skills
  • Create a vision board and start thinking about how to best use the money you earn

Prefer video? Check this post out on Youtube:

Why do I hate my job?

There are four key factors that affect how happy you feel about your job. Knowing these four things will help you figure out why you don’t like your workplace and where to go about making improvements:

ENJOYMENT

Do you like doing what you do?

how to be happy at work factor - enjoyment

Ever heard the saying “if you find a job doing what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”? That’s what we mean when we refer to enjoyment.

If you find your job to be genuinely fun or interesting, that definitely contributes to your sense of work happiness.

On the other hand, if you hate doing what you do, work can easily become something you dread facing every single day.

SUCCESS LEVEL

Are you good at your job?

how to be happy at work factor - success level

At the very least, no one wants to be terrible at their job. It’s not fun to struggle like that, plus it can add a lot of pressure and stress to your work life.

People thrive when they excel at their job. Being recognized for your good work and crushing your goals can all bring a sense of satisfaction that contributes to your overall happiness.

So whether you rock at your job or find it frustratingly difficult, how successful you are at work can play a big part in how happy you feel about work.

SOCIAL CONNECTION

Do you connect socially with your coworkers?

how to be happy at work factor - social connection

Being liked and feeling like you connect with your coworkers has a BIG effect on your experience of work.

Imagine going through an entire work day without being able to interact with ANY coworkers. Not being able to joke around with them, socialize, or even just vent. It’s actually kind of depressing, right?

If you don’t click well with your coworkers and feel isolated or alone, this could be a big reason why you might feel negatively about your job.

MONEY

Is the money you make a fair trade-off for your time?

how to be happy at work factor - money

Work is NOT just us giving up all of our time and energy for nothing. It’s a trade-off, and the money we get is the positive side to offset the other half of the equation. But if it doesn’t feel like a fair and balanced exchange, it probably has a lot to do with how you’re using your money.

If you mindlessly spend it on things that ultimately don’t matter that much to you, you won’t feel happy or feel like you’re making any progress towards getting what you really want out of life. All you feel is the sacrifice you make for work, without receiving anything truly meaningful in exchange – the perfect recipe for feeling bitter about work.

But if you handle your money differently, now you ARE making progress in building the life you dream of. You ARE getting the things you want, and you’re aligning your spending and your values, which can completely change how you feel about money and your job.

How to rate your work happiness

Once you understand the four categories, the next step is to rate your job satisfaction in each of them so you can see what areas to work on improving.

1. Evaluate your current position

Rate your job in each of the separate categories on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning this element of your work makes you really miserable and 10 meaning it brings you a lot of happiness.

For example, for the enjoyment factor, think about how much you like doing what you do AND whether that makes you feel happy or not happy about your job. I find it most helpful to start at 5, in the neutral mark, and then think of which way you lean.

If your level of enjoyment (or lack thereof) does cause you unhappiness, mark it as a 1-4 depending on how strongly it influences your feeling. If you enjoy your work to the point that it brings you at least some happiness, mark it anywhere from a 6-10 accordingly.

Initially, your goal isn’t necessarily to be 10 in every category because that’s an extremely ambitious goal. Instead, your main objective is to just stay out of the bottom half of the spectrum because you don’t want to be at a job that’s really dragging you down more than it’s improving your life.

Once you achieve all 5s or above, if you decide work is where you want to focus on finding happiness, you can then work on increasing your scores towards a perfect 10 if you so choose.

As you’re rating your job, giving any category a 1 means that aspect of your job makes you absolutely miserable, which should be a very rare occurrence, but can happen. Having any 1s is a strong indicator that your job might actually be toxic to your well-being, and you should really put some major effort into making improvements in that area or maybe even consider quitting your job.

AVOID:

Don’t put in your two-weeks notice just because you did this exercise and got a 1. Whether such a drastic move is the right thing to do is based on a lot of factors and requires careful consideration. Doing this exercise will at least help you identify WHY your job is making you so unhappy and give you some important food for thought.

2. Check out other job listings

After you finish the ratings, I also recommend that you hop online and spend 15-30 minutes doing a quick job search, regardless of how you rank.

If you ranked your job pretty low in any of the four categories, I want you to really pay attention to your feelings as you look at what’s out there. If you find yourself having strong feelings of excitement or relief, that’s a good indicator that your low rankings were probably accurate.

Even if your job did rank well in each of the four areas, it’s still good to remind yourself that you always have options. The job you’re at is not something that you’re bound to for eternity. Who knows? You might even discover that you can get more pay or have a better commute doing the same job with someone else.

3. Repeat every 6-12 months

Both you and your job position will naturally change over time, so it’s good to just double check every so often and keep tabs on your work happiness.

TIP:

Add a reminder to your phone or calendar to check out this post again a year from now and reevaluate how you feel about your job them.

how happy are you at work assessment happiness at work pdf

 

WANT A FREE WORK HAPPINESS WORKSHEET?

Get your assessment:

  • Evaluate the four factors contributing to your overall work happiness
  • Rank your level of satisfaction among these four areas
  • Find ways to improve your happiness at work

 

How to be happy at work

Let’s say you’ve done the rating exercise and see that there are areas for improvement. Let’s go over some ideas for bumping up your rating in each of the four categories.

how to be happy at work factor - enjoyment

Ways to improve Enjoyment

Of all four factors, this is by far the toughest one to improve on because for the most part, you either like what you do or you don’t. There usually isn’t a lot you can do to make yourself enjoy your current work tasks more.

Finding something you’ll truly love doing every single day is a tough challenge, mainly because enjoyment is a pretty fickle emotion. Most people don’t realize that they enjoy the things they enjoy only because they get to do it on their terms, when they feel like it.

Take baking, for example. Just because you like baking, doesn’t mean you’d enjoy doing it at 4 am every day. When you’re on a time crunch, with the pressure of hitting quotas. When you’re making massive quantities and have to lug 50 pound bags of flour. When customers and your boss are harshly judging what you put out. Not so fun anymore, right?

Things are just simply different as a job versus how they are as a hobby.

For that reason, as long as your day-to-day tasks aren’t the cause for your unhappiness at work, you might actually want to consider working on the enjoyment factor last. Focus on the other factors first because improving enjoyment tends to require a lot of effort for little return. When you’re ready, though, here are some things to try:

Add things you enjoy to your work day, even if they aren’t part of your official job duties
Let’s say, for example, you really like planning parties. In that case, you can offer to plan the company Christmas party or head up the birthday committee. Or if you enjoy reading, maybe you can start up a book club at lunch or agree to manage a little library in the break room.

Look for jobs that have similar ELEMENTS to the activities you enjoy
Let’s go back to the party planner example. You don’t have to limit yourself only to jobs that literally let you plan a party. Maybe the thing that brings you satisfaction is coordinating a lot of components under one bigger theme or guideline.

If that’s the case, you might enjoy working as a corporate event planner, spearheading the big annual fundraiser for a non-profit, or even working as a travel planner. All of those jobs require a lot of the same skills as a good party planner, even though they don’t necessarily involve planning a party.

how to be happy at work factor - success level

Ways to improve Success Level

Compared to enjoyment, this is a much better place to invest your attention and efforts because it’s usually easier to learn how to get better at something than it is to successfully hunt down a job you’ll enjoy every single day.

Finding a job that you’re good at or working on getting better at your existing job has so many benefits that come with it:

  • Less stress
    When work gets easier for you, a reduction in stress usually follows.
  • Can lead to more promotions & raises
    Improving your work performance and skill level increases your shot at getting promoted or earning more money.
  • More likely to receive support from your employer
    Your employer also benefits if you’re successful, so they totally have a reason to help you with your efforts to improve.
  • Benefits can carry far into the future
    This is definitely true if you develop a skill that’s used by numerous companies. But even if you work on a skill that is unique to your current employer’s needs, you can still highlight this example of how you took initiative in your resume or during a job interview, which makes you a much more attractive job candidate.

So what are some ways to be better at your job?

Talk to your boss
It’s kinda their job to know how you are performing, so they’re probably well aware of what areas you should improve on. They also should have the most insight on what your company is looking for, so they can guide you in the right direction.

Plus, involving your boss puts your efforts on their radar. If your company knows you are trying, they’re more likely to pay attention and actually take notice when your performance improves.

Find a mentor or role model to work with
Let’s say you struggle with using a particular computer program at work but you have a co-worker who is known for their proficiency with it. Talk to them about what struggles you have or find out if they have tips they can provide.

You could even talk to a manager or supervisor in a department you’d like to eventually get promoted to to find out what they want to see in a potential candidate and get their ideas for how you can improve in ways that will shape you up to become what they’re looking for.

Although It can feel a little scary to approach people, most will be really flattered that you admire them enough to ask for advice and be happy to help you out.

Expand your knowledge
There are a tons of ways to learn new skills or improve on your old ones. You can turn to books, podcasts, YouTube videos, blogs, free online classes, and even your library for advice on how to get better. You can up your game in nearly any area you can think of:

TIP:

Keep a list of the books you read and notes on the key points. You can refer to them when writing up your self-performance reviews or preparing for job interviews.

how to be happy at work factor - social connection

Ways to improve Social Connection

Connecting with people is mainly a matter of putting yourself out there and also taking a genuine interest in other people and what matters to them. Here are some ideas to help you do just that:

Read How to Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
In the book, Carnegie talks about the speech patterns and mannerisms you can adapt to demonstrate to others that you are friendly and open to making a social connection with them.

Sometimes, people inadvertently do things that make themselves come across as stand-offish, and this book can help you identify those habits so you can adjustments to set yourself up for more success, socially.

Win people over with dessert
Dessert is an awesome way to win people over.

First, choose a dessert item, preferably one that’s unique, representative of you, and not super easy to get.

For example, we like to bring a Chinese pastry called Hong Kong buns that we get from Chinatown because, you guessed it, we’re Chinese.

Then, get to work a little early but don’t just leave your dessert out in the communal snack area. Walk around and personally offer some to each of your co-workers. This gives you the perfect excuse to introduce yourself to the newer employees and catch up with old ones. Make an effort to linger a bit and talk because the whole point is to build connections.

Desserts make people really happy and let their guard down, so we absolutely recommend it as a technique for connecting with others.

how to be happy at work factor - money

Ways to improve Money

The whole point of working is to earn money so you can create a better life for yourself than you otherwise would have had if you didn’t have that income, right?

To feel good about your money and your job, you need to a point where you ARE happy with your money and what it’s doing for you.

Here are some things you can do to get working on that:

Create a vision board

example vision board for life happiness

It’s really hard to make money choices that you’re happy with if you don’t even know what it is that you want to achieve in the first. You want a better life, but what does that mean to you?

The thing is, everyone’s definition of a good life and happiness is different, so it’s something you have to figure out for yourself. A great way to explore that question is by creating a vision board.

IDEAS TO GET YOU STARTED:

A vision board is basically a collage of pictures, words, and quotes that represent the feeling you are trying to achieve. Choose things that strike you as representative of the happiness you’re seeking.

  • What is the life I’m looking for?
  • What values do want to I live by?
  • What things do I want to be doing?
  • What lifestyle would I enjoy?

You can easily create a vision board by using Canva.com or Pinterest, or you can create a physical one if you’re feeling really ambitious.

The most important thing is that you start one, because you can only achieve what you can envision. Letting your mind visualize what you want is essentially giving yourself permission to believe you can actually make it happen.

Read The Passion Test, by Janet & Chris Attwood
Vision boards are most helpful if you have an idea of what you are missing in your life, but if you’ve never given this topic any thought and have no idea how you what your ideal life would be, we’d recommend reading this book.

It has a lot of useful, exploratory exercises you can do to help you think about, discover, and prioritize your passions.

See if you can predict your spending
There is a huge disconnect between where people think their money goes and what it does actually get spent on, and this simple exercise will help you realize that. It’ll also show you that you probably have a lot more to put towards your goals than you think.

calendar to predict monthly spending

Print out a blank calendar and try to predict when you will spend money on anything for the next four weeks. Start with your bills, then walk yourself through your days and write down any spending you think you’ll do, even if it’s for something as small as a soda from the vending machine.

Doing this part of the exercise alone might be really eye-opening, especially if you didn’t realize before that you are one to spend money every single day, multiple times a day.

After you make your predictions, see the exercise through and write down what you actually do spend to see whether you do actually have an accurate sense of where your money is being spent.

TIP:

To make sure you don’t forget to mark anything, keep the worksheet in your wallet where you can see it every time you reach for some cash or your debit card.

Chances are, you spend a lot more than you think you do on a lot of other stuff besides your bills, and realizing this is the first step to making different choices.

Set small goals that increase over time
When you’re ready to take charge of your life, start setting achievable, increasing goals that align better with the life you’d rather live.

The key word here is achievable. If you try to do a lifestyle overhaul and make radical changes all at once, you’re really likely to burn out and give up, which is NOT what we want.

Start with something doable. Let’s say you eat out everyday but after going through these exercises, you now realize there are other things you’d rather put that money towards so you want to cut down. You don’t have to go cold turkey.

Start with a small goal, like making home lunch every Wednesday. That’s way more doable than figuring out what to pack five days a week when you’ve never done that before.

Then, next month you can increase it to Mondays and Wednesdays so it’s two days a week. You’re really only adding more day, since you already get Wednesdays down pat, and you already know you can successfully make that change, because you already did it once before.

Setting small goals and consistently increasing them is a far easier way to make changes that stick. Just remember to set a little reminder for yourself in your phone or calendar so you don’t forget to bump up your goal.

how happy are you at work assessment happiness at work pdf

 

WANT A FREE WORK HAPPINESS WORKSHEET?

Get your assessment:

  • Evaluate the four factors contributing to your overall work happiness
  • Rank your level of satisfaction among these four areas
  • Find ways to improve your happiness at work

 

Work happiness quotes

If you’re looking for some inspiration to get your happiness at work on, here are some motivation quotes:

DAWN BARCLAY:

What does being happy mean to you? What about work satisfaction? Is it flourishing? Is it belonging and feeling valued? Is it achieving? Is it seeing a task to completion? Seeing a customer or client smile, is that a priority? Everyone has a different definition of the word happiness. Start with these questions as a baseline. Is there any way you can bring them into your current role? Even if the boss and management couldn’t care, do you care enough to take full accountability for your happiness?

This quote about enjoyment has lots of questions to help you pinpoint what it is that will bring you work satisfaction. Learn what motivates you and incorporate more opportunities to achieve this at your job.

JIM ROHN:

Don’t wish it were easier. Wish you were better.

This quote about success at the workplace simply shifts your mindset from seeking for external factors to looking at how you can improve your own output at work.

JILL GEILSER:

Life’s too short to work with jerks.

This quote about social connection is a bit harsher than how we’d say it, but basically if you don’t get to know any of your coworkers in a more friendly way, it’ll make it pretty hard to get through your workday.

JOHN LOCKTE:

All wealth is the product of labor.

This straightforward money quote is a great reminder that what we put in is what we get. To make your efforts more worthwhile is to make sure you’re putting your funds towards things that make your life more fulfilling.

Conclusion

Whether you’re happy or unhappy at work boils down to a few key factors. Knowing which ones are actually making you unhappy can help you figure out what you need to change to make work life a little more pleasant. Our article teaches you how to be happy at work, by breaking down the four factors that affect your work happiness and giving you actionable tips on how to make things at your job better.

TAKE ACTION:

  • Download our work happiness worksheet
  • Ask your boss what you can work on, or self-study to improve your work skills
  • Create a vision board and start thinking about how to best use the money you earn

SPREAD THE WEALTH! SHARE THIS POST!

KEEP LEARNING & EARNING:

stacy trinh aka aunty chang headshot

AUTHOR BIO

STACY, aka AUNTY CHANG, is a personal finance blogger set on a mission to show people that there's more to money than just the numbers. With two rental properties and a six-figure 401k by her 30's, she's on track to retire early without sacrificing work-life balance to get there. She wants to teach others how to identify their goals and use money to make them happen. Dual income, no kids, based in Hawaii.

Hangs out on Keeping Up with the Changs: Facebook | Twitter