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Build Your Career Office Life

5 Simple Scientific Ways to Love Your Job More

5 Simple Scientific Ways to Love Your Job More
Credit: Gonzalo Aragon/Shutterstock

Hate your job? Studies show that you're not alone.

A 2013 Gallup report found that 70 percent of American workers are "not engaged" or are "actively disengaged" from their workplaces, and as a result, less likely to be productive. This may be a sign that employers need to make some major workplace changes, but in the meantime, there are ways employees can combat this trend, too.

So how can you learn to love (or at least stop dreading) going to work every day again? Small research-backed changes like redecorating your workspace, finding ways to reward yourself and knowing when to stop working excessive late hours can actually be a big help.

Here are five simple, scientific ways to be happier at your job.

Spruce up your workspace

One great way to make yourself happier at work is to enhance your workspace. This can mean redecorating a little to make your office feel more personal and inspiring, or even decluttering if you're feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

A study from the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that workers who were empowered to decorate their own workspaces as they pleased were up to 32 percent more productive than those who were not allowed to do so, as reported by 99U. These employees also reported enhanced feelings of organizational identification and well-being, researchers found.

That means that sprucing up your workspace with things like photos, plants and pin boards can help you feel better about going to work, and even help you perform better. And if you have an office to yourself, try rearranging your furniture and using color psychology and different lighting to improve your mood. 

But if you're in the mood to reorganize and clean up your space, don't clean it up too much; research from the University of Minnesota shows that messier rooms can make people more creative, 99U reported. [Extreme Makeover, Cubicle Edition: 10 Ways to Spruce Things Up ]

Prioritize your projects

Dreading certain responsibilities? Stop putting them off. Procrastinating the tasks you don't want to do in favor of the things on your to-do list that are easier or more enjoyable can actually make work more frustrating.

Research from Penn State University found that, when presented with two tasks of varying difficulties (carrying two buckets of different weights to another place), many participants chose to first complete the more difficult task (moving the heavier bucket), to get it out of the way. Researchers called this "pre-crastination."

Why? Participants told researchers that they "wanted to get the task done as soon as they could," and researchers noted that the participants cared just as much about mental effort as they did the physical effort.

"They wanted to complete one of the subordinate tasks they had to do, picking up the bucket, in order to finish the entire task of getting the bucket to the drop-off site," said researcher and professor David Rosenbaum.

If just thinking about the things on your list of responsibilities makes you cringe, you might want to try just getting them over with in the beginning of the day so that you can focus on the tasks that you enjoy more.

Reward yourself

If you dislike your job, or specific tasks you have to complete at your job, finding simple ways to reward yourself for getting things done (or even making it through a tough day) might help you shift your mindset a little.

Research shows that rewards can help improve performance and increase motivation, so when you've got a difficult or boring task ahead, try incentivizing it with a small reward — for example, "When I finish this assignment, I'll go for a walk and get some fresh air," or, "If I can get this assignment done by 3 p.m., I can have a chocolate bar." It could do more than just get you through a rough day; it can help you do a better job, too.

A study at the University of Chicago found that students took their tests more seriously and performed better when offered a reward beforehand and given one afterward. The study also found that students who were given money or a trophy to look at while they tested actually performed even better.

You don't have to keep a trophy on your desk, but having a little reminder of the reward you've promised yourself on your desk or in your line of vision might help you focus even more on getting through the day or whatever task you're struggling to complete.

Make friends

If you hate the idea going to work every day, one way to be happier at your job is to befriend your co-workers. And having work friends can do more than just make work more fun or give you a lunch-break buddy; it can make you more loyal to your company and even help you produce better work.

According to New York magazine, research shows that "employees with a best friend at work tend to be more focused, more passionate and more loyal to their organizations." They also change jobs less frequently, get sick less often and have more satisfied customers.

A joint study from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Minnesota found that students who worked on assignments with friends outperformed students who worked on assignments with acquaintances. Students who worked with their friends were more committed to the project from the beginning, communicated better in the process, encouraged their teammates more, were more critical when evaluating ideas and gave more feedback, New York magazine reported. Individuals in acquaintance-only groups, however, were less comfortable asking for help and only engaged when necessary, working alone the rest of the time.

So if you find yourself flying solo in the office all the time, try reaching out and forming a deeper connection with some of your co-workers.

Only work during office hours

Working all the time may make you successful at your job and help you get ahead in your career, but it comes at a price — your mental (and physical) health. If you frequently work late hours or find yourself taking your work home with you, it might be time to rethink your priorities.

According to the Telegraph, researchers at the Henley Business School at the University of Reading found that employees who use the Internet for work purposes outside of work hours are more likely to become addicted to the Internet as well as suffer from isolation, depression and anxiety. One of the researchers, professor Nada Kakabadse, said that overachieving employees like this are often the most successful, but they're more likely to experience burnout, lose judgement and make mistakes.

Participants in the study also noted a higher level of life dissatisfaction due to technology-related stress, and that many employees are afraid to ignore their emails over the weekend in case they've missed an important order or command, the Telegraph reported.

And a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that working long hours can lead to poor heart health and increase your chances of heart disease by between 40 and 80 percent. Why? Working long hours often leads to an unhealthy combination of stress, raised blood pressure and a poor diet, Forbes reported.

Working late occasionally is OK, but if you want to stay happy and successful at your job, you may want to cut back on how often you do it. 

Brittney Helmrich
Brittney Helmrich

Brittney M. Helmrich graduated from Drew University in 2012 with a B.A. in History and Creative Writing. She joined the Business News Daily team in 2014 after working as the editor-in-chief of an online college life and advice publication for two years. Follow Brittney on Twitter at @brittneyplz, or contact her by email.

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