Mind Matters: The secret to job happiness

Happy worker: If this mug belongs to you, your job must be meeting some important characteristics to keep you engaged and happy in your workplace.
Happy worker: If this mug belongs to you, your job must be meeting some important characteristics to keep you engaged and happy in your workplace.

Do you enjoy your job? If so, the job likely has most or all of these characteristics:

Challenge. We want a reasonable amount of challenge in our work. Too much and we get stressed; too little and we get bored.  We usually find new jobs challenging because there is much to learn. Sometimes we need to change jobs or to create new tasks within our job. What kind of tasks? For me, writing a newspaper column was in interesting challenge as part of my work at UNE.

Control/autonomy. We enjoy work when we decide what to do and how to do it and when we depend little on others. Being self-employed often has this characteristic. So does professional work.

Variety. Repetitive work can become tedious. Bring on the robots for that! Some psychologists treat one client after another. In certain settings, all the clients have substance problems. That set-up would not suit me. I like to switch from treating clients to writing to teaching and so on.

Success potential.  Who does not like to succeed? I would not want to coach a professional team that loses most of its games. I want to win! Some jobs give great opportunities to win, for instance, lifesaver, firefighter, detective, and surgeon. They may not win every time, but they know that they often accomplish something. Most teachers see students actually learn; probation officers may see probationers turn their life around. A grocery-store clerk scans 1000 items an hour and makes no mistakes.

Supportive work environment. A work supervisor can help make work pleasurable. Pleasant, helpful supervisors and co-workers are worth their weight in gold. A hypercritical or hostile supervisor can make a job hellish. Backbiting co-workers can drain the joy out of anyone.

Work that suits your values, interests, and abilities. If you look forward to going to work, you probably are doing work that suits your values, interests, and abilities. Many individuals with low self-confidence work in jobs that do not use all their abilities. Many individuals work just for money. If they look hard at their work, they might find that it is more important than they think. People need food and clothes; the economy needs workers to produce valued goods and services.

How does my work writing this column measure up? It is challenging to write something useful. I can write about what I want, but I probably need to avoid offending large groups of individuals.

It might become tedious if I did it 40 hours a week, but it takes only a few hours a fortnight. Many individuals have told me that they read the column – those comments mean success to a writer.

How many of the good characteristics does your job have?