I’ve been on the job since 2004. We’re approaching the end of 2018 now so this makes it a little over 14 years in business. I’ve always been a passionate person. I need a reason to do the things I do. I can’t just do things. If I’m not motivated, and I’m talking about intrinsic motivation, I simply can’t do it. I’m actually not quite proud of this. I’m only describing how it goes with me. Work has been an integral part of me and it has defined me for most of my adulthood. When I’m not fulfilled by what I do, there’s a hole in my soul. Everything else in my life seems to diminish.
I changed courses a few times in my life. Having studied web development right after college, I got into the IT industry through a “technical” door. Shortly afterwards though, I walked through the business door and I got into sales. I stayed there.
The learning curve was not exactly a curve. It was rising steeply. I was super excited about everything I got to learn. I remember getting out of bed in the morning with this feeling of excitement, to go to work. Everything was new to me and fulfilling. The life experience, working with customers, the trainings I took that were nothing like dull work trainings, the diversity of the people I got to meet all the time; it was a roller coaster ride on the way up.
About 5 years into the job, my learning curve started to fall steeply. I was no longer excited by what I was doing. I went to work out of commitment, nothing more. And because work took the better part of my life, I was becoming miserable. I was no longer happy doing what I was doing. It took me many years later to finally decide to go. I changed companies and cities, still in sales but with a slight twist, working with partners instead of customers.
The move did little help. Although I had moved to better paying jobs, not that money was the issue in my previous one, but I was getting less engaged.
Money is not the answer
While of course we work to earn a living and provide for ourselves and our families, money alone is not what makes us feel fulfilled at work.
In The Engaged Workplace Report, Gallup identifies 87% of unengaged employees worldwide. Moreover, according to the same report “companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share”.
I don’t know about you but this is shocking news to me.
I would rank engagement at work as the first element of happiness at work. But how can we feel more engaged at work?
In an article published by the Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley, the author outlines key steps to be more engaged at work:
Autonomy here is the freedom to self-direct. In his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, Daniel Pink puts autonomy on top of the list that feeds intrinsic motivation, this coming from within as opposed to extrinsic motivation which is driven by external factors such as fame, money, and social status. As an employee, I thrived in an environment that allowed me to have control over my time, what to work on, how to do it and who to work with.
Those, in fact, comprise “the four essentials” of Autonomy according to Pink: Time, Task, Technique and Team. I would also add where to work. In Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” report, 51% of employees said they would change jobs to have Flextime while 35% said they would change jobs to have flexible working locations where they can choose to work off-site full time and 37% went for part time flexible working locations.
We were born different. We don’t flourish under the same work conditions. If you as an employer demand your employees to bring their best self to work you have to consider allowing them to work on their own terms as long as they deliver results.
What you can do about it
Schedule your day in a way that helps you make use of your most productive hours. If you’re most focused in the early morning, then try coming to the office early before everyone does and do your most important work during this time. I usually feel sluggish midday. This is when I do my non creative work like admin work, things that don’t require a lot of thinking and focus. A lot of workplaces today are results driven. As long as employees are delivering, it doesn’t matter where or when they work.
“Money motivates neither the best people, nor the best in people. It can move the body and influence the mind, but it cannot touch the heart or move the spirit; that is reserved for belief, principle, and morality.” – Dee Hock, Visa
Purpose is when what we do is in harmony with our core values. When it’s not just about the job. If you’re a people’s person and you enjoy being around people then working in sales might feel fulfilling to you. We want to see beyond what we do on a daily basis, to feel connected to a bigger cause. When I worked in sales, it gave me meaning to know that I was part of my customers’ successes.
What you can do about it
Reinvent the way you look at what you do. It helps to look at the bigger picture. Don’t get stuck in the day to day activities. Working in marketing now, it gives me a sense of purpose to know that I’m helping businesses grow, especially those that don’t have the generous budgets bigger businesses have.
Without a friend, work is a lonely place. A Gallup research reveals that employees who have a best friend at work (estimated at just 30%) are 7 times more productive, engaged at work and better at engaging with customers. Their research showed that even the small and non-work-related doses of social interactions at work have a great impact on employee productivity.
What you can do about it
Take part in engaging more actively with colleagues at work. Getting out of the office can help teams to loosen up. You can plan a movie night or sports activities like a football game. Escape rooms are another way of getting teams to collaborate and innovate outside work.
Why is happiness at work important?
We spend most of our waking hours at work. This is more than the time we spend with our families and friends. Whether you’re an employee or an employer, if you think you can afford to overlook happiness at work, please think again. How you feel about work affects your overall well-being, not just on the job. It’s been linked to better health, social interactions, less stress – needless to say that chronic stress has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Happier workplaces enjoy higher employee retention and higher customer satisfaction. It’s well worth putting in the effort to create and maintain happier work environments.