Dreaming about a more satisfying job? Create it

I vividly remember a conversation I had with my dad the summer of my junior year in high school, which I spent working the counter of the local cream shop to sock away money for college. As I complained about the more unpleasant tasks that were a part of my work day (indecisive customers, hot fudge goop up to my elbows, countless dropped cones) my dad dropped this wisdom-bomb on me: “Kara, that’s why they call it work. If it was supposed to be fun, they’d call it play.”

His message has stuck with me all these years later, although I’ll assert that I’ve never quite believed it. Perhaps I’m an incorrigible optimist, but I do think that “work” and “fun” can co-exist. In fact, I think they should. (Sorry, Dad.)

If you’re looking to inject a little more joy into your everyday work life, I offer these suggestions for boosting your spirits at the office.

create an environmentCreate a Comfort Zone

Your physical surroundings can play a big role in your mood. Transform your work-space into an environment that boosts your spirits. Add or update photos of your loved ones in frames or on a tasteful bulletin board. Consider comfort items, like an upgraded office chair, seat cushion, or an ergonomic mat for standing on. Other inexpensive touches that may please your senses: a real or faux potted plant, a scent diffuser, and music that inspires you. Be sure to stay within your company policies, of course, and be sensitive to the impact any of these additions will have on your coworkers and residents.

Clean up your officeStraighten Up

Is your desk or work space overflowing with paperwork, folders, and assorted piles? The very presence of clutter can be enough to drag you down. Roll up your sleeves and get organized, beginning with the stuff that is visible on your work surfaces. A good purge can be good for the soul and elevate your mood. Once your space is clean and organized, prevent future clutter infestations by taking 10 minutes at the end of each work day to do a ‘surface-sweep.’

find your friendliesFind Your Friendlies

In public speaking class, I learned to conquer the butterflies in my stomach by “finding my friendlies” – that is, locking eyes with the people in the room who are supportive. This technique helps me keep my cool when I’m nervous. The same approach can work to sooth my soul on any stressful work day. When I feel my mood souring, I find my friendlies: a quick phone call or visit to the coworker who makes me laugh can turn my day around. Who are the friendlies you can lean on? They could be in the next cubicle, across town, or in the corporate office. No matter. What’s important is having the network of supportive coworkers who can help you through a stressful time and get your outlook back on the sunny side.

take movement breaks while workingMove It (So You Don’t Lose It)

It’s easy to become a slave to your desk, phone, or computer. But, sitting in one spot all day is bad for your physical and mental health. Make a conscious effort to get up and move as much as you can during the work day. If you work on-site at an apartment community, lucky you: there are plenty of opportunities to get out on the property as a part of your work day. Embrace the chance to walk move-ins and move-outs, inspect a capital project in progress, or meet with one of your residents at their home. Breaking from the sedentary routine of work-as-usual can improve your health, and the change of scenery can boost your energy, mood and focus.

use your time off from workUse Your Time Off

You’ve probably heard the old adage about relationships: “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Guess what? It’s true of work, too! One of the best steps you can take to create a satisfying work experience is to allow yourself time away from work. That may sound counter-intuitive but working too many hours leads to burnout. There is abundant research that shows we are actually more productive, more creative, and less stressed out when we allow ourselves time for rest and recuperation. So, go ahead; mark your calendar for your next personal day. I bet you’re happier already!

Follow a few of these tips to spark more joy in your work life. The benefits will be numerous, including better relationships with your colleagues, lower stress, and an improved sense of job satisfaction. There’s no reason work should feel like drudgery. Small changes can make a big impact and dramatically increase your level of happiness.