We’ve always been told that achieving success in our careers comes from an unyielding work ethic and impressive productivity — those traditional markers of upward mobility and work success. And while the advice to work smarter, not harder, definitely helps, research shows there are actually simple, under-the-radar ways to triumph at what we do, and to enjoy the process throughout.

Studies have found that we work harder and achieve more success when we’re content in our jobs, and that happiness and productivity are clearly linked. Here are three non-traditional, science-backed tips that can help us truly succeed at work, without burning out.

Thanking others, and being thanked

The power of gratitude in the workplace can affect how you feel about your job — but it can also make or break your work performance. In a recent study from Portland State University, a group of business and psychology experts looked at the lifestyle habits of nurses, and concluded that those who were thanked on a regular basis at work were able to sleep better, experienced less stress, and felt more satisfied in their roles. The researchers found that by thanking others for doing what they do (and getting thanked in return!), we’re more likely to feel motivated to do our best work. So, if you’re still thinking about writing that thank you note to a colleague, let this be an extra incentive to do it.

Cultivating relationships with co-workers

Workplace friendships have been shown to boost employee productivity and create a more integrative atmosphere for teams that collaborate. In a 2010 study published in The Journal of Health and Social Behavior, researchers found that those who had strong bonds with co-workers felt more optimistic and productive at work.

And on the flipside, a 2003 study published in John Hopkins University Press found that young adults who were socially isolated found everyday stressors to feel less manageable than those who felt closely connected to their peers. The thread throughout both studies remained the same: The stronger your relationships, the better you’ll feel and work on a daily basis.

Bringing your whole self to work

How much of your authentic self you bring to your job can seriously impact how you feel about the work you’re doing, and according to recent research published in the Journal of Business and Psychology, showing up with your whole self can make you more productive and successful. The researchers, who analyzed 65 workplace studies to find trends in employee engagement, found that having an internal sense of belonging at work motivates us to do our best work, and that starts with bringing your full self with you. They found that there’s an underlying feeling of power in being your authentic self at work, and if you’re leaving a major part of yourself at home, you could be holding yourself back from a successful, happy career.

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  • Rebecca Muller Feintuch

    Senior Editor and Community Manager


    Rebecca Muller Feintuch is the Senior Editor and Community Manager at Thrive. Her previous work experience includes roles in editorial and digital journalism. Rebecca is passionate about storytelling, creating meaningful connections, and prioritizing mental health and self-care. She is a graduate of New York University, where she studied Media, Culture and Communications with a minor in Creative Writing. For her undergraduate thesis, she researched the relationship between women and fitness media consumerism.