5 Ways To Take Charge Of Your Happiness At Work


Sometimes, you just hit a plateau at work. Maybe you’ve been “checked out” for a while because of bad management. Or perhaps it’s because you no longer derive the same kind of thrill that you used to from your work when you first came on board. It could also be that you’re overworked and burnt out.

You’re not alone. In 2017, JobStreet’s Job Happiness Index indicated that almost one in two Singaporeans are unhappy at work. In 2018, Mercer’s Singapore Employee Engagement Index ranked Singapore in the bottom two countries in the Asia Pacific Region. A 2014 Randstad Workmonitor survey also found that almost 75% of Singaporeans don’t derive any meaning from work; it’s a source of income, that’s it.


When you’re this unhappy, you tend to want to enumerate all the reasons for your unhappiness. Most of them are probably things that you feel you can’t control. According to New York Times bestselling author Shawn Achor, though, 90% of your long-term happiness is determined by how you see the world around you. In other words, to be happy, you have to take control of yourself and how you interact with the world around you.

That’s not to say that management doesn’t have a part to play in cultivating employee happiness; it does, after all, have a direct impact on the bottom line. (as reported by Forbes.) Waiting around for change to hit you instead of creating it yourself, though, is a losing battle. So here are 6 ways you can take charge of your happiness at work.


P.S. Be the architect of your own happiness; learn effective emotional self-management with SSA Academy’s WSQ course on applying emotional competence to manage yourself at work!


1. Revisit your why

Even though most Singaporeans don’t seem to see any meaning in their work, psychological research has found that purpose is one of the key elements of employee happiness.

It is, essentially, the source of your energy, motivation, drive, and contentment. As Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote, “he who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”


What most people misunderstand, though, is that this meaningfulness isn’t dependent on where you work or who your boss is. Studies have shown that everyone from janitors to nurses to surgeons can find meaning in the work they do.

Revisiting your why reminds you of why you get out of bed in the morning. It could be something as simple and as powerful as wanting to create a comfortable life for your children and spouse.


2. Practice gratitude at work

Another vital component of workplace happiness, according to psychologist and founder of positive psychology Martin Seligman, is positive emotion.

Some days, you wake up in a good mood; others, not so much. Taking it upon yourself to create positive emotions for yourself by facilitating good spirits, though, is essential.


In this regard, practicing gratitude at work can make a huge difference. We often think that receiving compliments and praise from others is what makes you happy. The fact is that being the “giver” also puts you in a good mood.

In Achor’s research, people who spent 2 minutes at the start of each day writing a thank-you email to someone they knew reported feeling much happier than before.


3. Stop looking for the perfect job

“Strives for perfection” might look good on your resume, but attempting to attain it in real life can often leave you with unrealistic, sky-high expectations. Most of the time, wanting the perfect job comes down to following your passion, but this isn’t necessarily sound career advice.

More: Why “Follow Your Passion” Is Bad Career Advice


Not only has research has shown that people who follow their passion tend to be less successful than those who don’t; it’s also shown that it leaves people feeling unhappier.

When you cling onto an idealistic image of what you want your job to be like, you end up continually comparing your current position to this dream one. Since your expectations are so high, you find yourself always disappointed.


4. Engage in job crafting

Instead of searching for the perfect job, it’s probably a better idea to redesign your current job. This is where “job-crafting” comes in. According to Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski, job-crafting refers to the process of “redesigning their own jobs in ways that foster engagement, resilience, satisfaction, and thriving.”


You can do this by changing:

  • How you interact with your tasks: for example, focusing on tasks that build on your strengths.
  • Your relationships at work: for example, writing personal thank-you notes to your co-workers (as aforementioned) and strengthening your relationships with people from other departments
  • How you see your work: for example, describing what you do not through your job title but from your perspective.

The reason why job-crafting is such a powerful tool is that it puts control back your hands. Instead of focusing on why everyone and everything else is ruining your happiness, take control of it by redesigning your work (within boundaries) to reflect you and your identity better.


5. Stimulate “flow” experiences

“Flow” is essentially that state of mind you’re in when you’re completely absorbed in a particular task. You lose track of time, and you don’t know what’s going on outside your bubble of ultra-concentration. You’re fully absorbed into completing and mastering whatever it is you’re working on.


Research has found that “flow” experiences play an integral role in determining happiness. The more you “flow”, the happier you’ll be. Again, it comes down to being in control–in this case, controlling your consciousness and how you’re applying yourself.

Get into “flow” by choosing tasks that have:

  • high challenge
  • require high skill levels

This is what helps you enter your “stretch zone” at work; you’re neither underwhelmed and bored, or overwhelmed and too stressed.



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