Careers

3 things to give up if you want to be happier at work

Pam Beasley, fictional character on NBC Universal's "The Office" played by Jenna Fischer, spends many days at work unhappy.
NBC Universal
Pam Beasley, fictional character on NBC Universal's "The Office" played by Jenna Fischer, spends many days at work unhappy.

If you don't find work enjoyable, you're not alone.

According to a national Gallup poll, only 30 percent of professionals feel engaged at work, one of the biggest factors tied to workplace happiness. Some 70 percent feel apathetic or disinterested.

Feeling overwhelmed or down at work might be a sign of burnout, which could end up hurting your career. The good news is that a few small personal steps can help you get back on track.

Here are 3 things experts encourage you to give up if you want to be happier at work:

1. A hermit-like work ethic 

The biggest reason employees report feeling disengaged at work is lackluster or nonexistent relationships with their managers, according to Gallup.

While you can't control your team's culture or who your boss is, making an effort to be more social in the office could really pay off. Experts agree that the relationships you have at work, specifically the one you have with your boss, are crucial to a happy and fulfilling career.

In fact, when billionaire Bill Gates was asked "What is your idea of success?" he responded, "Warren Buffett has always said the measure is whether the people close to you are happy and love you."

You don't have to be an extrovert to make valuable work relationships, either. Career expert and founder of Google's mentorship program Jenny Blake says simple strategies like making time for one-on-one conversations, following up on work that's assigned to you and sharing small personal anecdotes can go a long way.

2. Harmful comparisons 

Being defeatist or focusing on what others have that you don't isn't just distracting, it can stop you from moving forward. According to 26-year-old CEO Brian Wong, taking steps to avoid this type of thinking is one of the best investments a person can make in his or her career.

"It's a waste of time to compare yourself to the upper echelon of the whole world," he says. "You'll always lose and when you do, you'll feel like a loser."

The CEO recommends instead that professionals focus on improving themselves.

"If you can be a better you every day, you can win the race."

Scientific research shows that grateful people are more likely to be happy and successful. Keeping a journal of things you're grateful for (even if it's in a small notebook that you store inside your desk) could help.

A widely-cited study by UCLA and the University of Miami found that people who wrote down what they were grateful for on a weekly basis were more cheerful and optimistic about the upcoming week than those who didn't. They also had fewer doctor visits and missed fewer days of work.

3. The tempting eat-sleep-work routine 

According to Blake, who co-founded Google's mentorship program, one of the best ways to deal with a job you hate is by investing more time in your hobbies. Joining a local art or sports group, for example, will encourage you to form positive relationships, the biggest contributing factor to happiness, she says. You'll also get to relax and unwind.

Research supports this. A study of 400 employees published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology says that those who engage in creative hobbies are more likely to have a better attitude on the job. Other research shows that employees with hobbies are more satisfied with their jobs and have a lower likelihood of burning out.

Another great way to start feeling better at work is to schedule time for a jog or swim before or after you get to the office. Squeezing in just minutes of intense physical activity is proven to reduce anxiety and release endorphins, which make you feel happier.

Check out the simple strategy a Harvard-trained psychologist recommends when you're stressed at work