29 May 2018

Unhappy at work? Here are 10 ways to brighten up your day

When you’re feeling the pressure it can be difficult to stay positive. Here are a few simple ways to enjoy a better day at the office


Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell worked in Ciphr's marketing team from 2012-2020.


Career development Health and wellbeing


When you’re feeling the pressure it can be difficult to stay positive. Here are a few simple ways to enjoy a better day at the office

Most of us spend a great deal of our time at work, often in an office environment. Remaining happy in your job and knowing how to cope with all of the stresses and strains of working life is essential to remaining physically and mentally healthy. There are many techniques and actions you can use to improve your own personal happiness and wellbeing in the workplace – and that of the staff your HR team supports.


1. Plan and prioritise your day

A 2011 academic study by professors at Wake Forest University showed that simply making a to-do list can help to relieve anxiety associated with tasks. Making a list – even if you don’t necessarily complete every task on it – will help you figure out your priorities and where you need to be spending your time. For the ultimate productivity hack, try writing your to-do list at the end of the previous working day, so you can jump straight into clearing those tasks on your arrival the next morning.

Some productivity gurus also recommend writing ‘not to-do’ lists, which help you identify what you shouldn’t be spending your time on. So if your day is increasingly taken up by items which others have decided are a priority for you – meaning you don’t have time to work on key projects – writing a not-to-do list could give you some clarity about what work, or meetings, you should be turning down.


2. Be positive

If you’ve got a hectic schedule, do you really have time to hold grudges, complain about a colleague, or dwell on a fairly minor mistake you make a week ago? Free up your time by focusing on the positives and tackling any challenges head on with a determined mindset.

Being optimistic can also have a positive impact on your health and wellbeing, and on your ability to respond well to stress – so don’t underestimate the power of turning up to work with a smile.


3. Look forward to the future

Having something to look forward to – whether that be a holiday, social event or other occasion – gives you a sense of purpose and motivation to get things done. The sense of anticipation can get you through repetitive daily tasks and out of a rut. Often the event will also require you to prepare certain things, such as buying clothes for a special occasion, or researching places to visit on holidays, helping you to take your mind off work troubles.


4. Take a break outside

Even if the weather is dreary, taking a quick walk outside can do wonders to lift your mood. Breathing in some fresh air and absorbing some vitamin D (if the British weather is favourable) will recharge and reenergise you for the rest of the day. Taking a break outside is reported to have a number of other benefits, including boosting creativity, improving cognitive function, and improving concentration levels.


5. Do the worst tasks first…

Some days you have tasks which you hate doing, whether that is repetitive admin or calling a difficult colleague. Get the things that you don’t like doing out of the way first will make the rest of the day more pleasant in comparison – and rid you of that sense of dread while they are still lingering on your to-do list.


6. Or delegate them to someone else

Are there tasks you just can’t bear to do because they don’t fit your skillset, or should be done by someone more junior, but you always end up doing instead? Where possible, delegate tasks that either don’t fit with your skills, or are taking up valuable time that you’d be better off spending on more strategic activities. You could even turn to an HR systems provider to manage administrative tasks for you such as updating employee records and creating reports.


7. Be friendly and smile more

Start the day off right by smiling and greeting your colleagues, and the rest of the way is sure to follow in a positive way. Even on your grumpy and busy days – perhaps, especially on those days – it’s crucial to be pleasant, polite and friendly. After all, your colleagues might just be able to lighten your load and turn that frown upside down if you ask for their help.


8. Tidy up

For most workers, a tidy and well-organised work space is a pleasanter place to be and will make it easier to get through tasks quickly and efficiently. Cluttered, untidy desks only fuel frustration by making it harder to find the things you need to get the job done. You could also consider adding something personal to your workspace – such as a family photo or plant – that’ll being a smile to your face when things are tough.

However, if you’re the type who prefers to work in a less-organised environment, don’t feel pressured into tidying up; your workspace should reflect your working style, preferences and personality. Theoretical physicist – and messy desk owner – Albert Einstein reportedly said: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?”


9. Don’t take yourself too seriously

Taking yourself too seriously and taking to heart everything that people say to you is not good for your wellbeing. Even when you’re under pressure, there’s still time to enjoy a joke and a light-hearted chat with your team mates. It’ll lighten your mood, and make sure your colleagues know you’re an approachable, friendly person to work with.


10. Discover your sense of purpose

You spend the best part of your week at work, so discovering your sense of purpose can be a real boon to maintain a positive approach when times are tough. Find your motivation, and you’ll derive a greater sense of achievement and pride in what you’re doing – which will be palpable to your peers and managers, too.

This article was first published in June 2013. It was updated in May 2018 for freshness, clarity and accuracy