Recently, we were scrolling through Harvard Business Review and we came across an interesting article titled “Rediscover Joy at Work”, written by Rebecca Newton in early September 2021. It was an eye opener as it revealed why some of us feel like we have lost our spark at work.
An organisational and social psychologist, Newton has observed four root causes of the current joyless relationship we have with our jobs. This isn’t to say people hate their jobs or workplace, and it’s certainly not to say we all feel like this. It’s more a loss of purpose within their role. It’s going through the motions, the daily monotony, the Groundhog Day existence with little to no greater ambition, creativity or innovation.
Joy isn’t just a fleeting emotion that one experiences in a moment of happiness.
“Research has shown that joy is an emotional response and outlook that’s vital to our well-being, cognitive functioning and our performance at work.“Rebecca Newton
Where has the joy gone?
Our first thought? Easy, the pandemic. But if you dig a little deeper there are a few reasons sitting just under the surface.
- We are burnt out from almost 18 months of stress, grief and complex emotions.
- We have been facing continual uncertainty, living in a high stress, survival mode response.
- There has been a sustained disconnect between our emotions and the behaviours we exhibit, diminishing our psychological well-being.
- There has been limited opportunity for growth, playing to our strengths, creativity or innovation. We’ve been just ‘getting the work done’.
- Our extended social isolation decreases our cognitive performance and function, meaning we experience increased negativity about our performance and abilities, robbing us of the joy we once felt executing the same tasks.
- Joy isn’t possible when we’re being challenged or are experiencing pain.
So, why start trying to get your joy back now?
While we are suffering through what feels like an endless cycle of pandemic effects, it doesn’t even feel possible or remotely likely that we will experience joy in our work like we once did. However, psychologists note that joy doesn’t require the absence of suffering. Some might say that suffering is the route through which fulfilment arrives as we reflect on what is meaningful in challenging times.
Getting your joy back
Newton states it’s not about striving for perfection.
Through her work with clients as a coach and psychologist, she shares that feeling joy again comes from:
- Taking advantage of our strengths
- Being courageous
- Staying authentic
- Practicing gratitude
- Remaining connected
The four methods
These are the four ways Newton recommends getting your joy back at work. The best part? You can start right now!
- Build your strengths back into your day
- Focus on your professional development and growth
- Share with a trusted colleague
- Rebuild relationships through work
Focus on your strengths
“Your strengths are your natural energizers“Rebecca Newton
Taking advantage of your strengths at work can be the catalyst for cultivating joy and by building these into your day can give you a big confidence and energy boost!
Knowing what your strengths are is the first step. Ask yourself a simple question: When have you recently felt energised at work? What were you doing during these situations?
Now that you figured it out, brainstorm ways that you can begin building or rebuilding these into your day. How can you create more opportunities for yourself that will play on your strengths?
Even including half an hour of your day to work on something that you’re great at will not only give you the boost you needed, but will help empower and reenergise you, all feeding back into the feeling of joy.
Professional development and growth
The last 12-18 months has been a time of empathy and understanding, of giving so much of yourself to others that the priority for your development has decreased. However, we have learnt time and time again that to be a great leader, an individual must be constantly learning, developing and evolving.
Learning is an experience that creates joy.
Working hard towards important goals and courageously overcoming impediments can fulfil a need to learn in the context of your profession and refresh your passion on the job.[source]
Your professional development and growth can look like:
- Short online courses
- Technical skills workshops
- Management/leadership development workshops/courses
It can also look like completing a learning experience where the subject matter is not directly related to your work. Finding joy in other areas of your life, will also work to reignite your happiness and passion in your job.
Chat to your colleagues!
Psychological safety is a model that we talk about often. It’s about understanding your needs, your opinions and others, and being in an environment where you feel safe and comfortable to speak up and share, without fear of judgement.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been socially isolated from our trusted colleagues and with that comes a feeling of space where we can’t share or be openly vulnerable. As individuals, we’ve had to seek empathy and understanding from within, being consistently resilient.
To restore these open forums, identify a few key colleagues that you trust and feel you can be vulnerable with. Reflect on your experience, your challenges and most importantly, what you’re grateful for. Share your goals for the future and ask them to do the same. Vulnerability leads to trust and will allow you both to work towards more meaningful goals in all aspects of your life.
Also, by allowing the space to share and be open, you will release yourself from any burdens that were weighing you down and stopping you from feeling joy.
Note: Although you are chatting with a trusted colleague, always be conscious of their mindset as well.
Rebuild work relationships
The experience of joy is what psychologists call “affiliative”. It isn’t an isolated phenomenon. An affiliative experience is:
“the experience of strengthening our bonds with others through positive behaviours“Rebecca Newton
These behaviours include being
- Actively peace making
Especially in lockdown, combatting isolation is no easy feat, and as we return to the office, we need to find ways to engage in meaningful collaboration and connection. Here’s a few things you can try:
- Walk and talk with colleagues to gauge what they hold most important, their values and challenges
- Coaching results in a positive psycho-physiological changes when it’s done with compassion and empathy. These changes have the potential to lower the risk of effects associated with chronic stress commonly experienced by leaders
- Weekly coffee catch-ups with a different colleague to discuss anything but work
The trust built through such connection fosters a collaborative culture which in turn enhances team creativity. [source]
We have all felt the effects of the last 18 months, both professionally and personally. Reinstating simple practices like these to ease the transition and rediscover your joy at work are critical to the overall success of workplaces returning to some sense of normalcy.