When you wake up in the morning, are you refreshed and ready to seize the day? Or are you one of the many Americans who dread your working hours, and see them as something to endure or drudge through?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’re not alone. Statistics about workplace unhappiness are trending upward. Gallup, who produced the State of the American Workplace Report, found that only one in three employees are positively engaged at work. That leaves 66% of US workers dragging through their jobs on a daily basis.

But prevailing research suggests several promising points. Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to regain work productivity and workplace happiness.

Workplace happiness yields results. And I’m not talking about just laughter, smiles, and cheerful engagement, although they are undeniably important. Happiness at work, and in your work, can lead to career advancements, improved job satisfaction, personal fulfillment, and significant increase in your mental and physical health.

Sounds good, right? But how can we put research into action, leading to happiness and productivity at work? Keep reading.

3 Ways to Find Happiness at Work

In order to understand how to find happiness at work, it’s important to understand how happiness actually works itself.

Happiness is full range of emotions, which includes anger, stress, disappointment, and even sadness. Rather than being a stream of positive experiences, it is an emotional framework.

In fact, it doesn’t even matter what your job is. From manual labor to C-Suite Executives, backroom chefs to front-line essential workers, the research shows the same thing across the board: You can experience happiness at work. Say it with me aloud: “I can experience happiness at work.” Consider the following evidence-based tips:

1.   Find Meaning

One of the driving motivations for happiness at work comes from understanding the meaning and true purpose behind your work.

Take time to find meaning in your job. To figure out your “why,” or purposeful passion for what you do. This doesn’t happen automatically or overnight. It takes time, critical reflection, and focused thought about how “work” aligns with “why.” Take stock of your own personal beliefs, commitments, and goals. By reframing work as something that helps you achieve your personal (or professional) goals, you will experience greater joy and personal satisfaction.

2.   Reward Yourself

Research evidence is consistently clear: rewards affect job satisfaction and performance. Intrinsic and extrinsic workplace rewards range from salary and bonuses, to benefits, autonomy, promotion, and recognition, to name a few. But some studies have shown that extrinsic rewards and factors like “love of money” are negatively associated with positive workplace behaviors and happiness, pointing to the power of internally-derived reward systems.

And there is nothing stopping you from creating your own incentives. Go for it. Met your goal for the week? Reward yourself. Take a walk. Buy a cup of coffee. Enjoy a favorite meal or treat for a job well done. Take your lunch break as a chance for some all-too-important “me time.” Whatever you do, make time to reward yourself as a way of celebrating achievement of a goal or task. Not only will you feel better, but you might also experience a surge to accomplish more. After all, we reward the behaviors we want repeated.

3.   Ask for Feedback

It may run counter to popular thought, but feedback is a predictor of job satisfaction and workplace happiness. If you’re feeling stuck, reach out to a supervisor, mentor, or colleague to ask for constructive feedback. Getting decisive and immediate feedback on a regular basis, using the feedback to improve performance/productivity, and earning recognition for making progress contributes to happiness. One point for employers and supervisors: Create moments and practices to offer constructive feedback on a regular basis. Don’t forget to monitor progress, improvement, and acknowledge efforts to rise to high expectations.

Remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”


  • Terrell L. Strayhorn, PhD

    Consultant, DEI Expert, Professor

    Virginia Union University

    Terrell Strayhorn is a professor, public speaker, writer, entrepreneur, and influencer in the fields of education, psychology, corporate training, and community engagement. He contributes to Entrepreneur, AllBusiness, Huffington Post, Diverse Issues, Thrive Global, The Tennessean, Charlotte Observer, and more. Dr. Strayhorn is a leading DEI expert, consultant, and life coach who specializes in helping corporations and institutions build cultures of belonging that truly unleash human potential. He is Professor of Education and Psychology at Virginia Union University, where he also serves as Director of the Center for the Study of HBCUs and Principal Investigator of The Belonging Lab.