Finding joy at work

Joy and Work – two words we do not often see in the same sentence! With increasingly isolated workforces and more stress than ever, it is not difficult to see why this would be the case. However, people intrinsically seek joy, and joy connects people more powerfully than almost any other human experience. Here are some evidence-backed ways to support a happiness revolution in your organization. 

Joyful evidence 🙂 

Many research-backed studies have been conducted on joy in the workplace, and almost all of them, perhaps unsurprisingly, come to the same conclusion – happy people work better!

A 2015 study from the U.K.’s University of Warwick found that particularly happy people are 12% more productive than the average employee. 

In The Happiness Advantage, a book authored by Shawn Achor, he makes a case that the single most significant advantage in today’s economy is a happy workforce. Ten years of his research proves that happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: increasing sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as immense health and quality of life improvements. 

One of Achor’s main tests was carried out on KPMG’s tax employees during the busy season, whereby he delivered an elective 3-hour happiness habit training session to them. The employees were evaluated three times; before the happiness training, a week after the happiness training, and four months after the happiness training. All happiness metrics, most significantly the life satisfaction scores, were higher at the second assessment than the first and sustained themselves until the third assessment. 

These findings indicate that a company can influence its employees’ short, medium, and long-term happiness with only minimal effort. To put it simply, investing in happiness really does pay off.

Threats to joy 🙁

Happiness at work can be derailed in many ways. Some of the most common reasons why joy is lost in the workplace include;

  • Fear of demotion or being fired – the anxiety surrounding this can make joy a rare emotion.
  • Loss of productivity – when people feel ineffective and valueless, their motivation decreases.
  • Managing other people’s issues – employees who are forced to carry the weight of other colleagues are likely to become disenamoured with their role.
  • Isolation – whether at home or in the office, loneliness can be one of the main contributors to unhappiness.
  • No progression – when people feel there is no scope to grow, their drive and excitement can lessen.

While at least some of these threats may be out of an employee’s control, there are specific tips and tricks you can implement to combat and reduce their negative impact. Read on to find out more.

How to cultivate joy 😀

Every day methods

Having positive everyday habits helps us set the tone for the day, better allowing us to control our schedules rather than our schedule controlling us. As we start each day fresh, we can better focus on what is in front of us, where to prioritize our time, and, ultimately, increase our productivity and happiness.

The below ideas are just some examples but are excellent places to start;

  • Meditate for 5 minutes, focus on deep breathing and keeping still;
  • Write down three things you are grateful for each day, and try not to re-use them each day!;
  • Try to exercise for at least 10 minutes a day; that could be as simple as a lunchtime walk;
  • Journal for at least 3 minutes a day about one positive experience you had during the workday;
  • Write one quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a team member.

Short term methods

It can, however, take time to undo habits or unravel negative emotions, but you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in a matter of weeks if you’re committed and take consistent action. A period of one to eight weeks is enough time to make good progress without being overwhelmed by some vast goal.

  • Understand the impact of your work. Without understanding why you are doing tasks, it is easy to become demotivated. Talk with your manager if you need clarification;
  • Be vocal about the joy you experience. If something makes you happy at work, call it out! By highlighting the little things that make you satisfied, you may realize work is not so bad after all;
  • Learn something new. Sometimes a fresh challenge can re-energize and inspire you;
  • Acknowledge your hard work and the hard work of your teammates. Take a moment to take stock of all the things you have accomplished over the last few months; you will likely surprise yourself. Also reminding your colleagues of their achievements helps to lift everyone up along with you;
  • Feeling appreciated and supported is a crucial foundation for a happy workforce. Step up for your colleagues, so they step up for you. For instance, if one of your colleagues needs a small favor, try to oblige. Not only will you feel good for helping, but perhaps when you next need a little extra help, they will go the extra mile for you too.

Medium to Long term methods

While the above shorter-term tips and tricks are helpful, you may need to commit to some longer-term changes to truly revolutionize your working life. Playing the long game means taking the necessary steps now to set yourself up for long-term happiness in the future. Remember, both happiness and your career are marathons, not sprints.

  • Let go of perfection. While perfectionism can push you to achieve great things and produce superb quality work, it can also lead to feelings of failure and self-doubt. In other words, if not channeled correctly, the maladaptive elements of being a perfectionist can prove problematic to your overall well-being and happiness. We explored this topic in detail in a previous blog so check it out for further information;
  • Find meaning in your work. We already discussed understanding the impact of your work above, however, understanding the impact and finding the meaning of your work are not necessarily the same thing. Understanding why you are doing something does not automatically mean that you derive any sense of reward or satisfaction from it. Start with knowing the core values you wish to apply to your life. Articulating these values requires exploration deep down into our identities, beliefs, and perspectives on the world, not just surface-level feelings or opinions. When you know your core values, you can begin to look for the areas in which to also apply them at work;
  • Create teams that are more fun. Recruitment cycles can take time and effort; however, creating a positive team and culture is imperative to a happy workplace. You could discuss with management the need to focus on this, or, if you are management yourself, begin to make hiring people with positive energies a strategic priority! Creating a harmonious team is a fail-safe way to boost workplace serotonin.

With that said, happiness truly is an attainable goal. Happiness is realizable when people make efforts to be grateful for what they have, and when they continue to interact with it in varied, surprising, and imaginative ways. 

Sometimes the single biggest motivator to commit to taking those deliberate steps towards happiness is recognizing that happiness is a massive advantage at work. The fact of the matter is that happy people are more productive at work and therefore, to begin to focus on growing (or rebuilding) joy in the workplace is a win-win for everyone, both the employees and their employers. 

However, it is worth noting that if you have exhausted all options and are still not happy at your job, it may be time to consider finding a new one. Your work should add to your happiness, not detract from it.


Life is too short to experience no joy in your work. It doesn’t have to be there every day, and it shouldn’t be something that you expect to be provided, but joy is something you can feel more if you only choose to make it a priority. The secrets to happiness at work go beyond the points above, but they are an excellent place to start. Get in touch with us for even more ideas, but in the meantime, have a happy day!


This article is written by:

Holly Thompson

Holly is a Chartered Accountant (CA) from Scotland with a background in external audit and prospects in forensic accounting. She also has experience in editorial and creative writing which she is putting to use during her time in Sweden. Look out for new blog posts, perfect for open and curiously minded individuals.

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