Falling back in love with your job

Amy Hamilton Chadwick
Falling back in love with your job

Love your job? Lucky you. Most New Zealanders probably feel at least some ambivalence or dissatisfaction with their work, says Dr Kathryn Owler, worker wellbeing researcher and cofounder of JoyWorkz.

She thinks you can reduce your feelings of dissatisfaction in the workplace, and she has a few ideas:


Express yourself – even in a small way

Bringing your personality into the workplace can make you feel more comfortable, even if you only choose to share one small facet of your character.

“For me clothes are a big thing,” says Owler. “Everyone in my team knows my favourite colour is purple. Sharing that helps me to feel like I can be a bit more myself.

“For other people it’s dressing up your desk, cracking jokes, or bringing books to work and discussing them.”


Be trustworthy and trust others

It’s tempting to blame other people for not creating a more trusting work atmosphere, but you can do your bit to improve the situation.

Making other people feel liked and appreciated will help you build up good relationships – it warms things up and helps reduce dissatisfaction.

“Cultivating an environment of trust is fundamental,” Owler says. “Be someone who can be trusted and it makes you feel you belong, and it goes in reverse, making others feel they belong.”


Aim for a balance

“It’s a cliché, I know,” she says, “but you need a work-life balance. Last year I got out of balance – it can creep up on you.

“I dance, and for one hour a week I’m in a different space and I can’t think of anything else. It’s really precious, and quite strange how it can make all the difference.”


Take on a challenge – or drop one

Flow is a state of mind where you’re ‘in the zone’: totally immersed in a task that is not too easy, but not frustratingly difficult. It’s been described as “the secret to happiness”.

“It might be upskilling, or an opportunity to do new projects, which can help us find a way to be interested when we’re feeling despondent,” says Owler. “Or we’re so overwhelmed with the challenge we can feel quite flat – keeping that balance is interesting.”


Improve your physical comfort

There are workplaces in New Zealand where 12-hour stretches at the computer are normal, but there’s no way to make the human body comfortable in this situation, Owler says.

Think about your long-term health, try to move around more, and don’t buy into the idea that working long hours is noble.

“It impacts our stress levels and our health. Being disciplined about boundaries can contribute to our enjoyment; you can get burnout even if you love your job.”


Manage your expectations

Do we expect both too much from work and not enough? We frame work as always horrible but we also believe there’s a dream job out there. Neither of those extremes is likely.

Deeply fulfilling employment is a very modern obsession, says Owler: “We expect more from work than our grandparents might have in terms of personal meaning and self-growth.”

On the other hand, the people who love their jobs don’t necessarily have fabulous careers – they believe any job can be made more enjoyable, rather than assuming work is always arduous.

“You can learn to relax,” she adds. “Remember, it’s okay to have a bit of fun at work. Don’t feel guilty about it, and look for ways to cultivate it.”


Still hate your job?

“Weigh up all the options, think things about the job you like, and see if you can make changes,” Owler says.

“Who can you talk to? What can you negotiate? It’s a worker’s responsibility to let their manager know if they’re feeling stressed, and a manager’s responsibility to do something about that.

“Sometimes things can be changed, so have a conversation.

“If in the end you’re planning to leave, you’ve got nothing to lose and perhaps something to gain.

“Ultimately if things are not working out, you have the option to look for something else.” 

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