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Workplace trends, January 2022: How to be happier at work

There is evidence that happiness at work declined in 2021. So how can we make 2022 more joyful?

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This story was published on our The Memo from Quartz at Work newsletter, Practical advice for modern workers everywhere.
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Both the Great Resignation and the Great Reshuffle suggest that people are looking for much more from their jobs than they did pre-pandemic. Perhaps it’s better pay or a more accommodating workplace. Or perhaps, it’s looking for something that sounds simple, but is surprisingly elusive: Happiness at work.

Surveys from Gallup suggest that Americans have grown more content at work over the past two decades. But contentment faltered in 2021, compared with 2020 when the pandemic struck.

In 2020, the proportion of adults who said they were “completely satisfied” with their work was the highest ever recorded, at 56%. But in 2021, that figure dropped eight percentage points to 48%, and the numbers saying they were “somewhat satisfied” or “completely dissatisfied” rose. In a recent Gallagher survey, almost 40% of employers said their employees’ emotional wellbeing had declined in recent months, a marked increase on the last measurement in early 2021.

To achieve happiness at work, research suggests there are a few critical must-haves including autonomy and safety.

But other factors that go into work happiness are many and various. For some, a good relationship with colleagues is the key; for others, the ability to feel truly creative. Increasingly, employees need to feel their work has meaning.

If joining the resigning masses isn’t for you, and you’re planning to stay put, here are some of the best tips we’ve come across for a more joyful working life.

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Start with some goals

Last week, my colleague Sarah Todd wrote about her approach to goal setting for the new year.

Before you get to that, you might want to take stock of your life. Once you have goals in place, here’s some advice on how to follow through on them from a motivation expert. To do that, you’ll probably need to set boundaries at work (without being a jerk, of course).

If you need a new system for organizing your work, maybe (finally?) this is the year to try a bullet journal.

And if goal-setting isn’t right for you, try a ta-dah list: A frequent reminder of all your day’s achievements, work and personal, to help you keep track of things you’ve actually done and to relieve anxiety.

Avoid burnout

To be truly happy at work, Gianpiero Petriglieri, a professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, says you need to take a close look at your suffering and your sacrifice. They’re not the same thing!

Suffering at work is unbearable: A constant sapping of one’s energy and resilience which will inevitably lead to burnout. But sacrifice is different. When we sacrifice, be it freedom, or rest, or time with our children, we know what we do it for. It’s another take on finding meaning at work, and worth revisiting at the start of a new year.

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Contemplate your relationships

It may not be easy in a remote-work world, but there are ways to deepen work relationships, says the psychotherapist Esther Perel. She suggests carving out time for group activities and game play among colleagues. Games can be straightforward, like question prompts during a video call.

For radical vulnerability, you could also try these prompts to help have better conversations with little-known colleagues. (Or, even strangers.)

Brush up on your skills

Managers, learn to better motivate your reports! Shrinking violets, get better at public speaking on Zoom!  Everyone, learn to say no!

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Video conferencing alone isn’t working. Knowledge workers say 50% of meetings are ineffective and 52% feel workplace loneliness. Enter Loom – the leading async video platform. Replace long emails, presentations, and endless meetings with concise, human communication. Accelerate your business with Loom.
Get Loom For Free

Pay attention to your work environment

Ergonomics in the age of the home office is baffling many of us right now. We can’t tell you which is the best office chair, as Anne Quito explains in this episode of our Obsession podcast, but there are certainly ways to make most home office spaces better. You might want to design your home office for joy, explore the controversial world of office music, or try dressing differently for work. Always remember to have more fun, even if it is online. And maybe, just maybe, fall in love.

Take a vacation (or a staycation)

Take time off, and enjoy it. You don’t need us to explain why, but here’s how.

Know when to move on

Thinking about making a move anyway? Look out for one or more of these five signs that it’s time to quit your job. If you’re unsure whether the time is right, we have advice from five experts (and a chatbot.) If you truly want to invert the work paradigm, maybe it’s time to join the antiwork community on Reddit. And remember, you can always resign from a job, even one you just started—and then ask for your old job back. Cassie Werber

Drop us a line!

Last week we asked about your goal-setting plans for 2022. Ariana Gomez, who runs a consulting company focused on sustainability, wrote to tell us from Mexico City about her own goal-setting process, which includes a simple reference from the natural world: “I always remind myself that in nature nothing is hurried…yet everything is accomplished,” she writes. A good way to recall that, if in doubt, it’s usually a good idea to go for a walk.

You got the Memo!

Our best wishes for a happy day. Today’s email was written by Cassie Werber with contributions from Anne Quito, Sarah Todd and Lila MacLellan. It was edited by Francesca Donner.

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