Team Productivity

8 Positive Hacks to Maintain Happiness at Work

Bella Woo
June 25, 2015
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It’s a tough time of the year. The sun is shining and vacations are happening all around us, but there is work to be done. We’re starting to stress about upcoming performance reviews, and projects are changing often.

It’s no surprise if you are finding it hard to stay happy at work.

Personally, I’ve felt this way before. I let it go untreated and soon I realized I couldn’t go on like this for much longer. Going to work felt like a chore and once there, it was hard for me to find the motivation to get anything done. Not to mention that I was less pleasant with my colleagues. This was not the theme I wanted for 2015.

We often think of happiness as a general mood. Sometimes, we describe a happy person as possessing a “sunny personality.” We believe that happy people are products of their circumstances rather than a something we can work on and improve. But after a few weeks of consciously practicing positive behaviors, I’m finding it easier to cultivate the happy feeling when I’m at work. Here are some things I changed about my work day.


We spend so much time at work, it can become depressing not feeling comfortable in your surroundings. Offices furnishings can be sterile. Making the space your own by bringing in personal effects is a simple way to make you feel more comfortable. Every office space has its own challenges when it comes to decorating. I’ve sat in spaces with 8 foot high cloth covered cubicles to open concept dining hall tables. In my cubicle, I displayed event tickets collected over the years to remind me of the fun times I’ve had outside of the office and to show others my interests. When I sat in an open space, I purchased a tiny two inch picture frame to set by my computer. Every setup requires a different approach. If you’re struggling with a community space and a tight policy, try bringing in your favorite, but appropriate, mug or cup. Just be sure to check your company’s policies before you hang a poster frame on the wall!

Take a break

used to eat lunch with my colleagues every day. But as my career has progressed, I’ve worked in situations where the collective culture doesn’t support this. I grew accustomed to eating at my desk. Slowly, I learned to each at my desk and work through lunch. A coworker noticed my behavior and pressed me to take a full hour for lunch. Even though our office layout isn’t set up to eat together, he told me that I don’t have to work just because I’m sitting at my desk. Now I try to make the effort to take some time to myself to read current events while I eat my lunch… or better yet, I focus on savoring what’s on my plate.

If you’re feeling the afternoon burn or think you’re nearing full burnout, don’t be shy to take a walk around the block or asking to take personal time. Learn to sense when you need to recharge and let your mind and body give in to it.

Eat well

It’s no surprise that a balanced diet and hydration can make a big difference in your happiness levels. It was so easy for me to down multiple cups of coffee and completely forget to refill my water bottle. And other mornings, I would sleep in an extra 10 minutes and run too far behind schedule to pack a healthier lunch option. At noon, I’d find myself at the local hot bar loading up on greasy something. At 3pm, you would probably catch me at the vending machine getting an extra bag of potato chips.

Recently, I’ve been putting in more effort to pack my lunch before leaving home. If I can’t eat breakfast at home, I’ll pack yogurt and granola to have when I sit down at my desk. Some days, I still find myself needing to hit the hot bar, but I at least try to stuff fruit in my bag to combat my afternoon snack cravings. I also try and assess my hydration levels rather than robotically getting up and making another cup of coffee. Try to make little changes to your diet and, at the least, drink more water! You’ll find that a well-fueled body will stop headaches and fatigue, as well as boost concentration.

Leave it at home

Around the holidays, my cat passed away and the event hit me harder than I could have imagined. I tried to gather up my energy to work, but in the end, I took some personal days to deal with it. I learned that it’s OK to take the time that I need to deal with personal matters if I can’t give 100% at work. When I returned, I was ready to jump back in and give my projects the attention they deserved.

Even small personal tasks can affect how you feel throughout the work day. I used to try to take care of small personal things when I would get a 10 minute break. But then I would find myself being placed on hold or getting into a scheduling war with the dental receptionists. Those types of minor frustrations can easily hijack your workday. I’ve now learned to try my best to take care of personal items before I get to the office.

Support others

As popular as mentorship programs are in many offices, it’s still not the standard. I found it particularly difficult moving from one workplace with a very formalized program to one without any support systems in place. But I found a pretty good replacement to a formal mentorship is to be part of the change by supporting my peers. I cultivated positive vibes by offering praise and recognition when it was due. I made sure that my team celebrated the success of a new launch, no matter how small it was. And I constantly asked, “How can I help you? What can I do?”

We lament about not receiving enough support from our managers, colleagues, clients, etc., but we should focus on how giving support is even better than getting it. Everyone knows that paying it forward quickly multiplies into more goodness. Let’s try to support others before we expect others to support us.

Say thank you

Working in client service all these years has me reciting “Thank You” every time anyone does something for me. Sometimes, I’ll be delivering bad news about a project and sign my email off with “Thank you, Bella.” When we do this, we’re taking away the authenticity in expressing our gratitude to the recipient. I fall victim to this all the time, so I’m attempting to check myself before I say these two works.

Instead, I’m trying to only say it when I really mean it. And when I do, I say it preemptively after a request. I’d like the recipient to understand how grateful I am that they’re helping me. The hope is that they’ll sense my genuine thanks and return the favor. If all parties are honest in supporting one another, we can start a movement towards more helpful behaviors and a decrease in small frustrations that can sap our happiness.

Find a work best friend

Nothing beats the support from friends and colleagues have intimate knowledge of your successes and hurdles in the workplace. When you have a friend in the office to bounce ideas off of, celebrate each others’ efforts or to vent during a trying day, you start to develop a greater sense of loyalty to your colleagues and you feel that your work is more satisfying. Although he or she may not always have a direct contribution to my projects, each “work best friend” I’ve had has impacted my workplace happiness positively. And luckily, I’ve maintained friendships with them long after I’ve left each company for a new opportunity.

Whether the bonds are created from sponsored programs or organically through friendships based on mutual interests, the results are the same. Everyone becomes more engaged in their work and a web of support is woven from these relationships. So go ahead and chat up your colleagues. Accept their offers to take a break to get coffee or an afternoon snack. Which leads me to my last hack...


Something as simple as smiling can make you feel more happy because it tells your brain to be more happy. You can read studies on how the brain reacts to this simple behavior. But even if you don’t initially feel better, you are guaranteed to brighten someone else’s day. Smiling is contagious! Before you know it, the mood in the office will brighten up all because of a domino effect started by you. Try it before you knock it.


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