Most of us spend 40 or more hours at the office each week and see more of our co-workers than we do of our own families. With all this time spent on the job, making sure it’s fulfilling is a big priority.
Sharon Salzberg is an author, meditation instructor and founder of the Insight Meditation Society. Her latest book is Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace. Recently, she answered questions about how administrative professionals can find more happiness in their work.
APT: What makes people unhappy at work?
Salzberg: The two biggest sources of unhappiness at work that people describe are, first, a lack of meaning in their work, and second, poor communication between colleagues.
Meaning can be found in what we bring to the job, even if not in the job description. If we bring more presence, focus and compassion, we can infuse even a tedious job with meaning.
And communication can sometimes be improved if we ourselves practice developing certain skills, like specificity in feedback—“You turned in the memo three days late”—rather than global condemnation—“You’re an idiot.”
APT: What toll does workplace unhappiness take on other aspects of an employee’s life?
Salzberg: The influence of workplace unhappiness is known to spread through one’s relationships with family and friends. One study of social networks observed clusters of happy and unhappy people and found the relationship between people’s happiness extends up to three degrees of separation (for example, to the friends of one’s friends’ friends).
APT: What happiness-crushing work problems do administrative employees most frequently face?
Salzberg: Administrative employees are tasked with many details, often responsible for making someone else’s grand vision workable and real. They make it happen, yet often don’t share in the credit.
APT: What can administrative assistants do to make themselves happier on the job?
Salzberg: Any person can determine to establish a “culture of wellness” at her work. That might extend no further than her own desk (try uni-tasking instead of multitasking, do small things like drinking a cup of tea mindfully) or even her body (take breaks, including one for lunch) or it might extend further into the workplace.
Don’t leave your deepest values at home. … Do your best to bring them with you to work.