How to Feel More Joy at Work

Could your office be impacting your sleep? What about how much you laugh? I’m not talking about the unanswered emails sitting in your inbox or the looming deliverables you’re behind on. I’m talking about your physical space – whether at home, in an office building, or some of both.

Consider these findings in Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, “A body of research is emerging that demonstrates a. clear link between our surroundings and our mental health. For example, studies show that people with sunny workplaces sleep better and laugh more than their peers in dimly lit offices.”

I’ve seen this play out countless times. I have clients in the airiest of downtown lofts and others in fluorescent-lit conference rooms. I’ve keynoted in an outdoor venue on the water. I’ve keynoted in a freezing, windowless hotel ballroom. I can feel the difference, and so can they. Our physical environment impacts our engagement, our relationships, and our overall joy. Yet when it comes to investing time or money, our space often falls to the bottom of the list.

This particular passage in Joyful drove it home for me:

“Joy isn’t hard to find at all. In fact, It’s all around us. The liberating awareness of this simple truth changed my life. As I started to share it with others, I found that many people felt the impulse to seek joy in their surroundings but had been made to feel as if their efforts were misguided. One woman told me that buying cut flowers lifted her spirits for days, but she felt like it was a frivolous indulgence, so she only did it on special occasions. It had never occurred to her that for the price of one of her weekly therapy sessions, she could buy a bunch of flowers every other week for a year. Another described how she had walked into her living room after repainting it and felt an ‘ahhh’ feeling – a sense of relief and lightness that made her wonder why she had waited for so long to do it. I realized that we all have an inclination to seek joy in our surroundings, yet we have been taught to ignore it.”

Personally, I don’t view buying yourself flowers and going to therapy as mutually exclusive. Yet, this passage brings stark clarity into just how cheap we can be with our own joy. It happens on an organizational level and an individual level. Organizations will kick the can on new office furniture or pinch pennies on heating an old building in the winter, yet they’ll dump hundreds of thousands into hiring and retention incentives that very same year.

The more we convince ourselves that joy is something we are given, or at best, will eventually find, the more elusive it becomes. Instead, view joy as something you build, through your space, your small actions, and intentional changes. It’s empowering to be in control, to recognize that joy is not only something you deserve, it’s something you create.

If you’re feeling continuously bummed out at work, the problem may not be entirely between your ears. Don’t underestimate the power of fresh flowers on your desk, a soft pair of shoes under your desk, or sitting in the sun for lunch. If you want to feel more joy at work, look for opportunities to make your environment more joyful.