There’s your job and then there’s how you do your job. While the position itself certainly plays a role in how well you succeed in your work life. Your office routines and rituals can also affect your happiness and productivity. That includes what you do before and after work, as well as during your workdays.
Sometimes, in an effort to be perfect, we channel valuable time and energy into trying to get good at things that aren’t part of our natural aptitude. Charlotte Crivelli, co-founder of Klick Communications, believes this is a mistake. “At my company, we instill a culture that people should work on tasks that use their core strengths,” she says. “We don’t believe in wasting people’s time getting them to improve their weaknesses. Someone else will be strong where they are weak, and it’s my job to ensure everyone is working on what energizes them and not what depletes them.” To take this advice to heart, make a habit of prioritizing as many of your truest skill sets as possible on a daily basis.
The truth is, not everyone works equally well in similar settings. While you may not have had the option to work in private, there are things you can do to develop your strengths and improve your focus at work. A recent survey conducted by the office furniture company, Turnstone, found that 32 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds prefer working alone in secluded area instead of a traditional work environment.
If your company doesn’t provide your ideal space, try to come up with simple things you can do to your workspace. “Not everyone works the same way, so don’t feel restricted by the space that you’re in,” says Brian Shapland, general manager at Turnstone. “If you need to do head-down work, use headphones, or find a secluded area in the office to set up shop. If you need to be inspired, seek out a collaborative space so you can bounce ideas off of co-workers.”
The mood you bring to work can certainly affect your morale, performance and mind. There’s an old saying that goes: ‘The city of happiness is in the state of mind,'” says Karla Brandau, CEO of Workplace Power Institute. “To enjoy more satisfaction at work, it is important to constantly check your viewpoint, because negativity can dominate your life, which depresses not only your mind, spirit and body but your productivity level.”
An additional strategy for attitude adjustment is to focus your attention on your work rather than outside relationships and personal challenges. “If you are physically at work and are focusing on other life issues, then you aren’t mentally at work,” says Mike Rodriguez, professional speaker, training expert and author. “This means you cannot perform in an effective manner.”
How you take care of your body can have significant repercussions on your ability to perform.
Kristen Smith, a registered dietitian based in Atlanta, recommends that employees should start by establishing a meal schedule about what to eat at work. “You may need to pack a meal or snack to ensure you do not go a substantial time without eating,” she says.
Here are some of the things she recommends for optimal workplace nutrition. Eating a meal within one hour of waking up and continuing to eat snacks/meals every three to four hours is important. It’s essential to eat low-calorie, protein-rich foods like eggs or greek yogurt in your first meal of the day. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking four to six cups of water at least. Avoid caffeine several hours before your workday ends so you can get a good night sleep.
While taking care of your physical and mental health at work, keep in mind that the habit of doing something nice for someone can make you feel better. Studies have shown that a bit of altruism goes a long way. A 2012 study done by Wall Street Journal (Europe) and iOpener Institute for People and Performance revealed that happier workers help their colleagues 33 percent more than their least happy colleagues.
“We’ve all experienced the boost that happens when we lend a helping hand to someone else, and this pay-it-forward principle holds true in the workplace,” says Melody Wilding, a licensed therapist and workplace psychology expert. “Whether it’s taking on some simple tasks for an overwhelmed colleague or grabbing an extra coffee to give away in the morning, giving back to your team is a surefire happiness hack.”
Your after-work habits help set the tone for your next day at the office. It’s important to get it right. When you have a bad day at work, you may find yourself replaying the events of the day in your mind on your commute home.
Paula Thompson, founder of Foresight Coaching & Consulting, points out that mentally imagining conversations that did not go well activates the same biochemical and hormonal processes in your body as when the event originally occurred. “You are literally physically recreating the event in your body, keeping your stress hormones high,” she says. “If you find yourself dwelling, allow yourself 10 minutes to purposefully replay the event in your mind, identify what you can learn from the experience, and then close the flashback and move on.”
A related habit that can help you kick the tendency to dwell on things that did not go well is to establish an evening reflection ritual. Before you pack up to leave the office every evening, Wilding recommends taking the time to review three things that went well during the day or that you feel grateful about. “This little ritual – no matter how tough the day was – can become something to look forward to and help you end each day on a positive note,” Wilding says. “Even better, this steers your brain toward habitual, positive, growth-oriented thinking. As you work to identify three things you’re grateful for – don’t cheat and settle for two! – you’re training your brain to see opportunity in challenging circumstances, rather than allowing it to get stuck in a pattern of negativity.”