For the average person in the United States, time spent at work eclipses every other activity, totaling more than even sleeping and eating combined, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This isn’t a phenomenon unique to the U.S.—research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows U.S. workers ranking 14th in the number of hours worked on average. Assuming we can’t easily change the amount of time we spend at work, perhaps we can change our relationship with it, and in doing so, improve the quality of time we spend there. So let’s talk about a few simple things you might be able to do right now to make the hours you do spend at work as rewarding as possible, whether you’re an intern that started last week, or you’re running the company.
Regardless of the amount of time we spend at work, the interpersonal relationships we build there play a significant part in how rewarding and meaningful that time is. A recent global survey by TINYpulse of over 200,000 employees in 500 companies revealed that the camaraderie we share with our colleagues is one of the strongest forces that make work rewarding and motivate us to do our best. So how do you build stronger relationships at work?
Gratitude has a unique ability to make a positive impact on both its giver and its recipients. According to the same global study, 79 percent of workers feel undervalued, and that’s due largely to a lack of appreciation. Not every workplace has an effective program to help with that; in fact, most don’t.
Whether or not your workplace has a formal program in place, you can still help foster a culture of appreciation and gratitude on your team. It can be something as simple as taking a moment to consciously consider the value your colleagues bring to your workday, and thanking them for it. When you take a moment to show gratitude for someone’s willingness to help out, or publicly recognize one of their recent contributions, you’re not simply providing them with the knowledge that their effort is recognized. You’re also giving yourself an opportunity to appreciate the value they bring to your own day-to-day experience at work. Gratitude is infectious, too. You may find that the more you show gratitude for the contributions your colleagues make, the more gratitude you’ll receive from others, and the better you may feel about the time you spend at work.
Everyone has their own battles to fight, and many of those battles are invisible to the outside world. Remember that the coworker who missed a deadline and put everyone else behind schedule, or the normally friendly coworker who was unexpectedly short with you were likely facing challenges and obstacles you’re unaware of. In the heat of those highly frustrating moments, taking a few minutes to mindfully consider their situation, and extending genuine empathy can be of extraordinary benefit to both you, your colleague, and your team as a whole. Taking that moment to pause and note where your frustrations stem from before reacting will help you cope with that frustration, and will also help you to understand your colleague’s position.
Because you’ve made the effort to see the situation from their perspective in that crucial moment, they will be more likely to empathize the next time you’re facing unexpected challenges that interfere with your work.
As behavioral economist Dan Ariely explains, working for a purpose is one of the strongest factors that motivates us as individuals, and as a team. While that purpose may seem elusive at times, it’s always there. You can find purpose in any type of work, whether you’re caring for your loved ones, saving lives every day as a first-responder, making guests feel at home, or shaping the minds of tomorrow as a teacher. They key lies in your willingness to find it. Helping someone see the purpose in their own work can be immensely helpful. This doesn’t need to be a grand gesture or a soul-searching session nobody asked for. Taking a moment to let someone know how important their work is to you, your team, and the outside world can make all the difference.
There is one recurring theme throughout each of these activities, and that is to take time. Take time to build stronger relationships, to show gratitude, to practice empathy, and to illuminate the purpose behind the work you and your colleagues do on a daily basis. It can seem difficult to take that time, especially if you work in a fast-paced environment, but that’s when it becomes most important of all. Meditation is one of the best possible uses of those moments you take. It can positively influence you and those around you in myriad ways, and that positive influence is the foundation of great and mutually fulfilling relationships. Take time out of each day for each of these activities, and you’ll be amazed at how much more rewarding the time you spend at work becomes. [Editor’s Note: We here at Headspace use Bonusly, the company this writer works for. We’re happy to feature this work because using Bonusly has actually been kind of wonderful. It’s made expressing gratitude part of our day, and that has made our days better.]