Real talk: It’s okay to not love your job. Not all of us were blessed by the work gods and wake up excited to go in to the office. And even if we are part of the lucky few, it’s not always smooth sailing. Problems arise and some days are just not as good as others. The constant flow of emails commanding your attention, the nosy coworker who won’t stop asking questions about your personal life, and the horrible overhead strip lighting can all be triggers that can make you feel more than a little grumpy.
It’s normal to not LOVE every minute of your job, but if stress and negative situations at work are affecting your quality of life, it’s time to start making small changes that can improve your work day a little at a time. Here are some ways you may be able to improve your day in the office and return home feeling less drained, and have more energy to do the things you really enjoy outside of work.
Spruce up your space.
- It may not be possible to do very much about your work space if you work in a shared office, but there are small changes you can implement (solo, or with your colleagues) to make your working environment a little less lousy. Try putting up some pictures you like to add some colour to your space and keep you motivated. These can be photos of loved ones (although these may trigger the aforementioned nosy coworker), postcards from places you or a friend have visited, prints of art that you like, or motivational cat posters. Whatever tickles your fancy and makes you feel like the space is your own.
- Get some plants. Green things are good for the soul. Succulents are more than happy to chill on your desk, and not only are they cute, but they’re also very hard to kill.
- Remove the clutter. You can do this in your own space, or get the whole office involved. Tidying up for a few minutes every day is a great way to clear your head as well as your physical space, and it can considerably improve your mood and lessen stress. Is your desk littered with papers, files and old coffee cups? Sort that out and make your space an organized, stress-free zone.
- Fix your storage problems. Do you have the right kind of storage for your needs or are you using one metal filing cabinet for EVERYTHING you own? plan the most efficient way to store your things, and make sure that you’re not storing things that you don’t need. Also make sure that your storage system doesn’t depress you. Decorate that sad filing cabinet with some of the aforementioned plants and pictures.
- Make your space smell good. A simple reed diffuser can go a long way to combat the smell of your coworker’s packed lunch which, depending in the contents, may be a stress trigger all on its own.
Make your commute more enjoyable
- Whether you drive, walk, or use public transport, there’s always a productive or enjoyable way to use your commute time. Try learning a new language, listening to informative podcasts, or just listening to music that lifts your mood and ups your energy. There are apps for all of these, and they may make you feel a little less terrible about being stuck in traffic for an hour on the way to the office.
- Get some exercise. If you feel like you’re low on energy when you arrive at work, why not try getting in a little exercise before you arrive. Getting off one stop earlier and walking a little more may add ten minutes to your commute, but it might improve your mood and energy levels for the rest of the day. Plus, that’s ten more minutes of podcast time! You could also cycle instead of taking the bus or driving if you don’t live too far away. Being out in the sun and the fresh air in the morning could give you a much-needed boost, too!
- Carpool, or travel in with a friend. Having a little company to complain to about how much you hate being awake at 7:30 in the morning can be therapeutic too.
- Don’t check your emails on your way in to work! If you’re sitting on your phone in the train, avoid any work-related tasks. You’re not getting paid for that time, and should be using it for yourself.
Use your lunch break well
- Get outside in the sun and the fresh air. This will definitely do a lot more to wake you up than staying inside, or worse, just sitting at your desk will. If possible, take a walk and get stretch your legs. Is there somewhere near your office that you can explore? If your work has a gym or exercise classes, get a workout in! You’ll go back to your desk feeling fresh!
- Eat well. Make sure you’re putting healthy foods and drinks into your body throughout the work day and not just downing coffee after coffee and eating another toasted sandwich from the deli. Make sure your snacks are healthy ones, and that you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. Staying hydrated will boost your energy levels and your mood too. Try keeping a big bottle of water next to your computer (where the coffee cups used to be) and refilling it every time you take a walk somewhere. If you’re the kind of person who isn’t great at drinking water, try getting a water bottle you really like to motivate you to keep it close by.
- Get to know your coworkers and find some you actually like to keep you company during your lunch break. Make sure to avoid (as much as possible) those that bring you down or influence your mood in other ways.
- Read something over lunch, or try a short meditation. Taking your mind off of your work tasks will help you hate everything and everyone less and add value to your lunch break.
Improve relationships with the people around you
- Finally, try to get to know the people you’re sharing a space with. You’re never going to get along with everybody, but it’s good to figure out who to spend more time with to improve your day, and who to avoid like the plague.
- Solve work-place conflicts as far as possible. Send that colleague who butts into your business a (POLITE) email, informing him or her of the way their questions make you feel, and ask if they could cool it on the interrogations, or tell your neighbor at the desk next to you that you really don’t enjoy the smell of their boiled eggs in the work space. Perhaps they’d consider having their lunch somewhere a little further away from you, or invest in a little reed diffuser too. Remember that you have to see these people every day, and it’s better for everyone if you all get along.
While these tips are targeted at people who work in office environments, a lot of them can apply to freelancers too! If you’re working from home it can be easy to lie in bed, pajama-clad, with your laptop on your lap. Having a tidy, comfortable, designated work space can be just as helpful to those working from home. Designate an area in your home that’s just for work, and add all the touches mentioned above to make it a place that motivates you and gets your creative juices flowing. Eat mindfully, don’t just dig out of whatever’s at the back of the fridge, and hydrate well. Get out of the house from time to time, or make time to fit in a good workout, either at home or at the gym.
Work is always going to be a big part of our lives (at least until the sweet freedom of retirement), but it doesn’t have to be a negative influence or something that brings you down on a daily basis. Assess your emotional and physical needs and make the small changes necessary to hate your job just a little less or, ideally, not at all.