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Can you really be happy at work?

Maybe there’s been some belt-tightening in your workplace. Or you’re surrounded by empty desks, the ghosts of former colleagues. Or perhaps you’ve got so much work to tackle that you feel like your to-do list is going in the wrong direction — growing with additional items, instead of shrinking because tasks are being ticked off.

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Maybe there’s been some belt-tightening in your workplace. Or you’re surrounded by empty desks, the ghosts of former colleagues. Or perhaps you’ve got so much work to tackle that you feel like your to-do list is going in the wrong direction — growing with additional items, instead of shrinking because tasks are being ticked off.

Any of these scenarios, or even a combination of them, is enough to leave you lacking the mojo to get up and head into work in the morning. And you may even wonder…can you be happy at work? We asked Alexander Kjerulf, the Denmark-based author of Happy Hour is 9 to 5 and the self-titled Chief Happiness Officer at positivesharing.com, to enlighten us on the subject.

Q: What’s the relationship between happiness and work?

A: Studies from psychology, sociology and neurology show that happiness does a lot of good things for us, and that happy people are more productive, have more and better ideas, are more open towards others, sell more, make customers happy and are sick less often.  

Q: Given all of the pressures people face in today’s workplace the budget cuts, the time pressures, etc. is it realistic to expect people to be happy?

A: Absolutely. If not, we’d all have to give up the idea of happiness at work because business, time pressures and constant change are here to stay. However, many workplaces face all of these challenges and are still happy, so it’s not the time pressures in themselves that make us unhappy, it’s how we react to them. In many workplaces, there is constant pressure, because the focus is always on the work we haven’t completed. So we tell people to focus more on what they have done and to celebrate their successes. Praise and recognition for a job well done are also vital.

Q: How else then can we improve our happiness at work?

A: It’s got to start with a choice. Each of us has to choose to be happy at work to make that the most important priority in your work life. It’s not that that choice will make you happy, but that’s where you have to start. And then it’s about the little things we can do every day, to make it a good day at work. Praise your co-workers. Do random acts of workplace kindness for other people. Take time for coffee breaks and lunch breaks where you don’t talk about work. Say a warm, cheerful good morning to your co-workers when you come in. All of this may sound banal, and it is, but it works.

Finally, if you are in a job or a workplace where you just can’t be happy, there’s always the option to quit and find something better. This is not easy, but sometimes it’s the only way to find happiness at work.

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