Simple ways to find joy in your job
Anxiety, stress, and burnout are on the rise, but author Bruce Daisley says it doesn’t have to be that way.
Wherever you’re working these days—whether in an office or other workplace or from home by yourself—one thing is likely: You’re stressed out.
Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job cites recent surveys showing that 83% of American employees are anxious and unhappy in their jobs, and 40% have gone so far as to quit a job that made them miserable. “Many of us don’t love what we do,” writes Bruce Daisley, “and we feel exhausted trying.”
That’s too bad, because plenty of solid research shows that any job can be fulfilling and even (dare we say it?) fun, with some minor tweaks in the way we do the work and interact with each other. Daisley, a former senior executive at Google and YouTube, started studying workplace psychology on the weekends during his latest corporate gig as vice president of Twitter for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
“I was fascinated by finding out what it is that makes great companies tick,” Daisley says, “and especially what it is that makes their employees so much happier and more productive than employees elsewhere.” He turned what he learned into a popular podcast, “Eat Sleep Work Repeat.”
His book offers 30 short chapters with specific, practical tips for minimizing stress and boosting energy and enthusiasm, but “you don’t need to read it cover to cover” to benefit from it, he says. “You can take whatever is useful to you at a given moment. In that way, it’s kind of like a cookbook.”
Monster asked Daisley what his research revealed about how to make work more rewarding.
Monster: Many of the insights in the book seem deceptively simple, like what you call a “monk mode morning.” What is that, and why does it help?
Daisley: By that I mean setting aside one morning a week to go into what I call “monk mode,” where you focus all of your attention on one important goal or project. The idea comes from an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence showing that we are far more productive and creative when we tune out distractions. In our world today, we hardly ever give our full attention to anything. But doing so often leads to an epiphany. You can have breakthrough ideas even in short bursts of total concentration.
Monster: You found that simply moving the office coffee machine to a different location makes teams more effective. Why is that?
Daisley: There’s a lot of proof that great ideas often come from chance interactions between co-workers, in spaces like hallways and elevators, where you just happen to run into someone and start chatting. One study from MIT found that a casual conversation with someone actually makes you ten times more likely to have a work-related interaction with that person sometime in the following month.
So, let’s say that you’re part of a team that needs to be more cohesive, or you want two teams to work more closely together. Put the coffee station in a spot where people will naturally bump into each other, and you will notice a big difference.
Monster: Why do you recommend that meetings be held while walking, outdoors if possible, rather than sitting around a conference table?
Daisley: The average American spends 16 hours a week in meetings, and many people spend a lot more time than that. The trouble is, meeting rooms are usually pretty dull. By contrast, walking gives you some variety, especially if you have several meetings back to back, and the research shows that gives rise to more new ideas and fresh thinking. Walking is also a known stress reliever. It’s just plain good for you.
Monster: Which of these 30 hacks do you use most often yourself, if you’re having a bad day?
Daisley: For me, the revelation has been in the importance of laughter. Very early in my career, I had a boss who said, at a stressful moment, “Now is not the time to be seen laughing,” which gave me the idea that laughter at work is a bad thing.
But it turns out that research says just the opposite. Laughing is great for building team spirit, and for resilience when things go wrong. The best kind is not planned, it’s just spontaneous, for instance, someone sharing a funny story. Co-workers generally laugh at moments of connection, at things an outsider wouldn’t “get.” Those moments are essential to innovation, and they’re fun.
Monster: People often think that, if they’re not in charge, they don’t have the power to change anything at work. Why do you believe that’s mistaken?
Daisley: It’s certainly true that there are bad bosses. But the fact is, most managers want to make work better, they just don’t always know how. In my research, I’ve spoken with all kinds of employees — teachers, hospital nurses, people in every kind of job without any real power — but they still managed to improve things by taking a chance and making a suggestion.
Bosses are often scared to make untried changes, so a great approach is to frame your idea as a short-term experiment. You can say something like, “I read that doing [fill in your suggestion] really helps to [fill in the purpose]” and propose that your team or department try it for a limited time, say, one month. This does two things. First, it relieves your boss’s worry. And second, if for some reason the change you want doesn’t work, the time limit gives you an out.
Beat the stress
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Anne Fisher has been writing about career and workplace trends and topics since 1994. She is the author of If My Career’s on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map?