Think about the last time you had a “best day” at work. What happened?
For some people, it involves being a problem-solving hero. Others like being a valued contributor of a team working on a particularly challenging project. A really great day at work could even be a time when someone is trusted to get things done within a team.
Whatever the reason, something about your best day just clicked. And having one can be energizing and invigorating. It also makes you want to have more days like that.
If you could have more control over how many best days you have, I bet you’d jump at the chance. In fact, many people would. In 2016, The Conference Board, a global business research association, found that more than 50 percent of American workers were unhappy at work.
Why should you want to have more best days at work?
Back in the 1980s, the concept of work-life balance gained popularity as a way of separating the personal from the professional. Before that, the common term was work-leisure balance.
Both terms are a little misleading. The idea that you must balance work against life or leisure leads many to think that the scale tipping too far in one direction or the other means they’re shortchanging employers and colleagues, or friends and families.
The bigger problem is that 30-plus years of pitting work against life has us forgetting too often that we’re still living life when we’re at work. Our work ambitions are often rooted in personal ambitions. We are personally attached to the work we produce. We take personal pride in our work accomplishments and want to talk to our friends and families about them, and we want to talk about the great things happening in our life with the people we work with.
It makes sense that we want more best days at work because we want more best days in life.
What can you do to have more best days at work?
Let’s say you get a solid eight hours of sleep every night. That leaves you with 112 waking hours per week, more than a third of which you spend working if you’re a full-time employee. Having some control over whether those hours are good is important. Think about it. For you to enjoy life, and for your employer to benefit, it all starts with having someone who enjoys what they do for a living.
Here are some ways to help yourself have more best days:
1. Understand why your work matters.
If you walk into work every day without knowing how your work contributes to achieving team, department and organizational goals, it can feel like you’re spinning your wheels with no real purpose. Even if you feel clear on how you fit into the big picture, take some time to sit down with your manager and discuss it. You might even get some insights about what you bring to the table that you hadn’t realized before. Better yet, you’ll begin to understand your why, something very deep and personal that can really open our eyes to realizations you might not have considered.
2. Ask for opportunities to grow.
Whether it’s taking a course that teaches new skills or assignments that build your knowledge and abilities, seeking out opportunities shows your willingness to meet new challenges. When you have a growth mindset in your approach to life and work, you can learn from everything you do.
3. Work with people you like and trust.
Working with a connected team that is invested in the work they’re doing is a gift. When trust is strong, people are more open to ideas, information and even being challenged. There’s a collective interest in achieving the goals of the team. Building solid relationships on teams can open the door to more opportunities to grow. It’s not about working with your best friends. It’s about working with people who help you be better.
4. Be confident in being yourself at work.
No one should have to put on a work persona when “clocking in.” It’s stressful to hold back parts of yourself or hide them out of fear you won’t be accepted. There’s some evidence it can hurt your career but it can also damage companies that don’t value inclusion.
5. Speak up when there are issues.
Just like certain aspects of our lives, work can be tough. But nothing will change if you don’t stand up to say something. Before you assume the answer to what you want is a no, have a conversation about it, especially if you’re considering looking elsewhere for work. Need more time with your manager? Ask. Not sure how you’re doing? Ask. Having a hard time with a project or another person? Speak up.
You can have more best days by staying authentic, honest and curious. When you take an active role in seeking out the opportunities, feedback and information you need to grow, you’ll feel more connected to the people around you and to your work, and more invested in the goals you’re working to achieve.
Teala Wilson is a talent management consultant at Saba Software. She supports HR professionals on a national and global level in areas such as performance management, recruitment, employee benefit programs, training and talent development, workforce planning and internal communications. In her spare time, she enjoys visual arts and design.