How to stay in love with your work

Kate Russell presents advice on achieving happiness in the workplace as a business owner or an employee.

I am always accused of loving my job. I must do. The life of a small business owner struggling to grow has its challenges. But last week was somewhat gruelling.

On the Wednesday I sat in long and demanding discipline all day, drove straight to Manchester that evening to deliver a day’s employment law training (a wonderful group from Stagecoach Bus who were very appreciative), and on Friday was told at short notice by a longstanding client that our retained service price had between undercut by their solicitor so they are moving. They didn’t even offer us the opportunity to discuss the matter. Given the volume and quality of the work we had done for them and the good relationships we have had with their large HR team, it was irritating to put it mildly. But – that’s life. It sometimes happens and I know that we have been unfailing in both the high level of service we have offered and the excellent technical quality of our advice. This was about fees. We’re more the John Lewis end of HR. They were obviously looking for Poundstretcher and there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what they want.

The workplace today is an odd place. Many people complain of being overworked, yet there are more mechanisms to achieve work-life balance than there have ever been. Most people don’t really love their job. Many like it, some tolerate it, more just do it to pay their living expenses. The more you like your job and are realistic in your expectations (even the best job has its downside and even the most optimistic person will have their grumpy ‘I can’t do this any more!’ days), the more you will enjoy your working life.

I used to have a friend who hated her job. It was an interesting and well-paid role with good conditions, but she hated it for some reason and frequently told us all. It was incredibly boring. After about three years of this, I asked her if she had done anything about changing it and it turned out she hadn’t even updated her CV, never mind gone for interviews. It was so frustrating because she could have found enjoyment in her work, even if it wasn’t the job of her dreams. That or at least trying to make a change (I banned her from talking about it after a while).

Taking a positive attitude and identifying what’s good about your job is helpful in many ways, including increasing your chances of financial success. But you don’t have to love, or even like your job to enjoy it. It is important to distinguish between the job and the way you do it. This is important because every job has aspects that will be unpleasant. You need to be able to get through them and come out smiling.

It ain’t what you do; it’s the way that you do it

Even if you don’t like your specific work, or the work environment you are in, you can love the way you do it. One of my rather Victorian mottos for living and working is ‘do everything to the best of your ability’. If you take this approach to the work you’re in (or the way you do it), it will make every job you do more enjoyable. Taking pride in what you do is important. And you may find, as you focus on doing your job better, that some of the things you find most irritating become more rewarding or at least more tolerable. After 30 years in operations and HR, the last 17 as a business owner, I am lucky to have a job I love doing. And it would have never happened without my previous work experiences, many of which were less than fun.

I’m not suggesting that you stay in a job that makes you unhappy, but while you are searching for your perfect job, enjoy the way you are doing your present one. Here are my tips for loving the job you do.

· Look for and focus on what you do like about your work.

· Make a change, even a small one. Boredom is often the cause of unhappiness at work.

· Declutter your work area. I hate having piles of paper lying around. Equally I hate an untidy or dirty work area. When people feel low on energy, often it’s because they’re not clearing out as they go.

· Find a positive image to inspire you and help you cope with a job.

· Become knowledgeable in your field. If you’re an expert, it creates more opportunities.

· Volunteer for new duties.

· Find interests around “the edges”. For example, if you are musical, put a band together with a group of colleagues to play music or start a choir.

· Be prepared to laugh more.

Kate Russell is an entrepreneur and the managing director of Russell HR Consulting.

Further reading

Kate Russell

Kate Russell

Kate Russell is founder of Russell HR Consulting.

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