Lifehack: How to be happy at work

Sunday 17 October 2010, 4.05am HKT

EVERYONE knows how bad business conditions are getting all over the world.

Higher joblessness from layoffs and outsourcing. Increasing workloads amid pay freezes or even pay cuts. Minuscule pay increments more symbolic than practically spendable. Job appraisals become tougher hurdles for employees across the board. Business operators worry about not writing in new business or keep existing customers. Everyone is living in fear of losing their jobs at any moment. Life is increasingly stressful and fraught with uncertainties for employers and employees alike.

All these distract you in work. It is harder and harder to concentrate on doing a good job. What to do?

As remarkable as it sounds, the path to happiness at work and at home is open to all. There is no magic to it, only common sense.

1. Share your problems with a close friend or colleague. One simple rule: leave personal worries when you leave the front door. Who hasn’t any personal issues? Personal issues have a disproportionate effect on work performance and general happiness. Learn to share. Bottling up problems inside of you leads to feelings of depression and isolation. It leads to anger and mood swings. Learning to set aside your personal worry, even if it is only for those eight or nine hours a day. It helps you stay focused and productive. It also helps refresh your mind’s eye about your problems. How much to share and how to share is a matter of playing by ear. At the end of the day, literally speaking, there is time enough to return home and mull over problems.

An ideal (via

2. Make yourself physically comfortable at work. You’re spending at least eight hours a day at work. Things are happening around you at high speed. Clients need to be serviced. Suppliers need to be kept on track. Supervisors need to be pleased. Underlings need to be kept on-tasked. Fact is, you spend more time at work than at home. You miss your kids growing up. You miss growing old with your spouse or partner. If a workspace is clean and comfortable, it is more able to stimulate and improve the productivity of good work and easy for you to find inspiration in the things you do. Make your workspace your own. Make it as comfortable and relaxing as possible so that you can get the optimal results from your work. Put up pictures of you and your friends. Decorate your work area as much as your company policy allows.

Proper desk posture

– Sit in a comfortable chair. Your knees should bend no more and no less than a 90-degree angle. Your desktop should be level with your elbows, no higher and no lower.

– Arrange your work equipment so that files or equipment are within reach without bending or reaching.

– Get a desk lamp. Absolutely essential if your job involves detailed work. The fluorescent lighting so common in offices and factory premises today causes a great deal of eye strain. It is for lighting purposes only, but not really for working under. More and more people today are having to wear bifocals younger and younger, and you don’t want to join the ranks.

– Keep cool and get a battery-operated fan if necessary. The 25ºC (77ºF) maximum air-conditioning temperature recommended by the government is much too warm. It is, engineering-wise, inefficient and leads to premature equipment failure. We have to wonder why the government engineering services are recommending this maximum aircon temperature since even first-year engineering students know it is an inefficient one.

3. Have a personal support system. Be good friends with at least one colleague who shares something in common with you. It may be a similar lifestyle or a similar hobby. That makes it possible to share your feelings with that colleague, and in turn takes a great deal of stress off you.

4. Proper, balanced diet makes a huge difference. Your energy level goes up. You stay focused better and for longer. You solve problems faster, cheaper and better. Enhanced energy levels enhance your attitude.


5. Move around. You cannot be glued to your seat all day long. Have a five-minute tea break every 45 minutes, even if it is on your own. Chat with your colleagues even if it is for just one minute. Have lunch with your co-workers. Read something interesting (but work-related). Whatever you do, don’t be a workaholic.

– Sit straight and stand straight. No slouching or slumping. Lift your chest, tighten your stomach muscles, clench your buttocks, tilt your pelvis forward, stretch your legs.

– Slow down. You don’t always have to be running up stairs or hurrying around the workplace.

– Take frequent breaks. Five minutes every hour is plenty enough. Empty your bladder every two hours, even if it’s only a drop. Lie down on your left side during your lunch break.

– Avoid fatigue. Stop working when you are tired. The more strenuous your job, the more you need to cut down on your other activities and rest whenever you can.

– Ask your co-workers to help. Don’t be shy about asking for help when you need it. You will find most will be happy to oblige.

6. You can’t change others. Bring about changes inside yourself. Work out a way to deal with conflicts and uncomfortable situations. You can’t make 180-degree changes in yourself, but you can with gradual change. In the end, you will be a much happier person.

7. Pamper yourself once in a while. As Cleopatra said to Marc Antony, “Forgive yourself, so that others may forgive you.” Have dinner out with friends or family. Watch a movie. Get a manicure. Take time out from home and work. Home stresses interfere with work, and work stresses interfere with home life. Do something different once in a while so that you don’t feel you have nothing else to do besides the same thing day in and day out. Your aim is to break the monotony of home-travel-work-travel-home routine. In time, you will find your moods will stabilise and all the better for it.

8. Be positive and focus on the positive. Look at all the nice things you like at work. It might be chatting online with your friends in your free time. It might be the nice view from your office window. Create your own mindset. Emphasise the positives and your job becomes more enjoyable. Concentrate on the negatives and all you get is feeling overwhelmed and out of control.

Crucial workplace items checklist

For all:

  • Acupressure pressure for nausea
  • Antacids and gum
  • Cardigan or jumper
  • Change of clothes (to see customers or clients)
  • Deodorant/antiperspirant
  • Doctors and/or midwife’s phone number and insurance information
  • Fan (small, battery-operated)
  • Fruits, vegetables, healthful snack foods, dry biscuits/crackers, honey, bottled water, fruit juices
  • Ice pack and heating pack
  • Lotions or creams for itching and dry skin
  • Medications and vitamins (doctor-approved)
  • Squeeze bottle for water or juice
  • Tennis shoes or comfortable flat shoes
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash (important for salespeople!)
  • Wet wipes
  • Box of tissues

For women:

  • A go-with-anything blouse (in case of nausea or excessive perspiration gets the better of your clothes)
  • Breast pads
  • Support hose or spare pantyhose
  • Sanitary napkins or tampons

© 2010 The Naked Listener’s Weblog

2 Responses to “Lifehack: How to be happy at work”

  1. What a wonderful post. You have covered a wide range of topics with practical suggestions. I’d like to reinforce two notions that you pointed out. First, the need to make changes in yourself and not expect other people to change for you. This principle is liberating and empowering. It puts you in charge of the situation by asking, “How can I think differently to create a positive outcome or to experience relief? What can I do differently to get a better outcome for myself?” You are no longer dependent on the other person. Second, be positive and focus on the positive. By intentionally looking for the positive aspects, you can put yourself on an upward spiral.

    Dana Lightman, Ph.D.


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