For many years before the global COVID-19 pandemic we have been grappling with a different kind of epidemic in the form of workplace stress and burnout.
In the 2018 Wellness in the Workplace report, it was suggested that about NZ$1.5 billion dollars are lost each year due to workplace absence and stress, and around 27% of the population reports that their work makes them unhappy.
On top of this, during the country-wide Lockdown, many of us found ourselves struggling with the additional pressures of supporting home schooling requirements, new demands on our skills (learning how to Zoom and work from home) and navigating Big Emotions.
Luckily, I happen to believe that these circumstances present us with a rather golden opportunity to notice and transform our experiences, and our wellbeing at work.
We know from neuroscience that our brain is hard wired to focus on the negative things in our life.
For example, take a moment to reflect on your day today.
What are some of the things that come to mind?
Chances are, your remembering will focus on the chores you didn’t get done, dwell on a throwaway comment from your manager that irritated you, or on that nagging feeling that somebody on your team isn’t quite pulling their weight.
We quite literally find it easier to think about negative things more frequently than positive things, simply because we are human.
However, now that we know our brain is likely to play tricks on us like this, we can learn how to hack our way to a slightly better day by deliberately finding and creating more positive moments in our reflections.
Trivial as this might sound, it’s been scientifically researched and can have an enormous effect on our ability to navigate through challenging times and come out the other side stronger, and with a job that’s more satisfying.
Studies have also found that when you make time to notice and craft your job like this, you are more likely to perform better at work, feel better about what you’re doing and get noticed for all the right reasons. (Hint: it’s even been linked to pay rises and promotions).
Crafting can be as easy as doing three simple things.
Notice what you enjoy about your job.
Talk to another person about what you’ve noticed.
Find a way to do more things that you enjoy every day.
Let’s unpack each of those things one by one.
Step One: Notice what you enjoy about your job.
“Katie was on the verge of resigning. She’d had enough of long hours and never-ending to do lists. Yet when invited to talk about why she loved her job, Katie became lost in emotion as she shared the sense of pride in supporting her customers. Working with the elderly was a calling for her, and she never tired of seeing their eyes light up when she spent time with them. She had been focussing on the wrong bits of her job”
When was the last time you had a good day at work, lost yourself in a task or felt as though you were doing something rewarding at work?
What is one thing that you achieved today which gave you a sense of satisfaction, peace, or joy?
What do people tell you about the positive difference that you make in the workplace?
Reflecting on these questions will start to activate a very different focus on your workday instead of the spotlight on doom and gloom that comes more naturally.
Of course, if you realise that you have never had a good day at work, nor felt a sense of achievement and you have no idea about the positive difference you make, then you might want to consider talking with a career professional at Ignite Aotearoa to explore whether you’re following a rewarding career path.
For the rest of us, we will start likely start to notice in full technicolour splendour all the things that already bring positivity to our career or place of work.
Step Two: Talk to another person about what you’ve noticed.
Ideally, you would talk to your manager at work about what you’re noticing as you consider the questions from Step One.
Perhaps they can help you to redistribute some of your tasks to make a bit of time (no matter how small) to do more of what you enjoy. Perhaps they have had no idea about these unique gifts or aspirations that you would like to use more at work.
This sort of conversation is perfectly suited to your regular performance or career discussions at work and can put you into the driving seat for your career direction, rather than the passenger seat – where most of us tend to sit.
If you prefer not to share with your manager, then find a trusted friend – either at work or in your personal life – and explore what you’re noticing about the things that you enjoy in your job.
Consider asking your trusted friend to help you come up with ideas to enhance your work.
Perhaps you miss that sense of contribution in what you do? Maybe you could design a few questions to ask about the impact your work has on another person’s life.
Perhaps you would like more experience in another part of your company? Maybe you could start having a regular catch up with a member of their team to grow your understanding of what they do.
Perhaps you’d like to use technology more in your job? Maybe you could access some free online training or join a training event at your local library.
Step Three: Find a way to do more things that you enjoy every day.
“Dan wanted to be known as a social media expert, but his role didn’t require him to post online. Over the course of several months, he designed a short training event to share with colleagues at lunchtime and soon he was being invited to provide advice to the communications team”
Now that you’ve taken a moment to notice what you enjoy about work, and shared this observation with another person, it’s time to make small everyday changes to craft your way to better wellbeing at work.
Start by setting aside just 10 minutes each day to put towards making your job more enjoyable by using the new ideas you’ve generated.
Notice what you’ve done at the end of your day, perhaps on your journey home.
Write, or say out loud what you’ve managed to achieve and celebrate that you’ve taken control of directing your career in such a positive way.
By choosing to craft your reflections and your job you’re setting yourself up to handle everyday stressors more effectively, you’re likely to feel more like “you” at work and who knows; you might even find that a job you found dull and unfulfilling might actually turn into something rather special.
Kathryn Jackson is an author and strengths-focused coach who has been working with employees who want to grow confidence, success, and resilience since 2006.
If you want expert advice on how to navigate the challenges of COVID-19 and beyond, explore Ignite's individual support subscription options or ask your employer to consider employee subscriptions for your workplace. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.