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5 Science-Backed Ways To Be Happier At Work

Miserable at the office? Try these quick tips from a leading neuroscientist who specialises in studying happiness and what causes all the good feels.

Kim Lachance Shandrow

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Google “How to be happier” and, before you’re even finished typing, “How to be happier at work” is the first suggestion to pop up. Happiness at work is evidently on a lot of people’s minds, considering that search term’s popularity on Google, a company that just so happens to employ a chief happiness officer. (Check out his business card. He’s literally a “Jolly Good Fellow.”)

Why wouldn’t feeling happier at work be at the top of our collective consciousness? After all, most of us spend a third of our days working. Our time on the clock might as well be pleasant and fulfilling.

Related: The Pursuit Of Happiness

If it’s not, if you’re a sad, sullen downer of a worker – and your boss could very well be onto this – studies suggest that you’re significantly more likely to slack off and be less productive. On top of the emotional toll on your own well-being, your blues could also be a costly drain on your company’s bottom line and seriously bum-out those who work around you.

On the upside, a growing body of data-based evidence suggests that being happier at work can make you more engaged, less likely to quit and better at collaborating, among many other benefits. Generally speaking, the happier you are, the better your brain works and the better you feel and perform at work, says Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, a veteran neuroscientist and the science director of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center.

“When workers are happier, they’re healthier and accomplish more,” she says. “They tend to enjoy their relationships at work and elsewhere. They work better on teams. They’re more well-liked by their co-workers and they’re more immune to burnout. So, if I’m an employer, helping them feel happier on my watch isn’t even a hard sell. Putting happiness where the vision and mission are, it’s a given.”

While earning her doctorate in brain cognition and behaviour at the university, she focused on how negative states such as fear and aversion influence thinking and decision-making. Now, she mainly studies happiness and the behaviours that bring the feel-good emotion about.

Simon-Thomas is also the co-creator and co-teacher of an eight-week EdX online course titled “The Science of Happiness.” I should mention, in the interest of full disclosure, that I’m currently enrolled in the free class.

Related: Happiness at Work

I spoke with her recently about her top five tips for being happier at work, for both employers and employees. Here they are:

personal-baggage

1. Bring your personal baggage to work

“The professional culture norm has long been to leave your personal baggage at home. You come in. You do work. We don’t always know if our co-workers are parents. We don’t know if they are caring for others who demand a lot of their time and energy outside of work. We often don’t know much about our co-workers and what they’re personally going through.

“What researchers are realising is that the separation of professional and personal is a poor model. It minimises workers in a way that makes it more difficult for them to be happy, to feel valuable, connected, trusted and cared-for at work. It’s time to promote empathy in the workplace, to ask questions and feature opportunities for employees to share their real-life moments. A good starting place is to have off-site play days for your staff, when they can talk about who they really are, what they’re really about and where they really come from. Knowing that information about your co-workers, like if they’re in the midst of a challenging personal situation, which we all go through, can be helpful to understanding where the person is coming from. It promotes compassion and happiness, and it puts money in your company’s bank in terms of trust and social connections.”

Bottom line: Getting personal at the office increases co-worker trust and compassion.

2. Stop competing with co-workers. Work is a team sport

“Work is often framed as being something you earn. Maybe others think you were the lucky one who got a new position, or a raise, or maybe you’re the most qualified one. It’s very competitive and people get jealous and harbor resentment. Workplace competition is counter to cooperation, as it creates a sense of holding on to what’s yours and making sure nobody else intrudes upon your territory.

“In actuality, and empirically-speaking, that mentality is not as productive. It doesn’t lend itself to happiness, nor to the type of achievement that stems from the cooperation of your teammates.

Instead, break down departmental silos. Don’t act like rivals. Help each other. Create a culture of happiness, cooperation and an open idea – and resource-sharing environment. Make it the norm. People naturally work together much better when they’re not pitted against each other.”

Bottom line: Teamwork makes the dream work.

Related: Work Smarter Says Matsi Modise

hot

3. Take a breather and pause when things get hot

“Taking a deep breath as often as you can at work, or having some kind of extra awareness of what’s going on in your own psychological milieu, is so important. Engaging in mindful habits, like breathing deeply before meetings or on break or whenever you can fit it in, can reduce the toxic rumination and racing thoughts that often lead to stress and anxiety – the things that ultimately take our minds off of work and render us less productive.

“Focus on your breath when you’re in a moment of reactivity, when you’re tempted to perhaps yell at someone about something they did that irritates you. Notice the urge, get curious about it, feel the joy of letting go and repeat.

“Instead of being like, ‘Oh, no, I’m not going to scream at that person!’ and then avoiding that feeling and replacing it with something else, perhaps panic, work on your awareness and breathe through it. You don’t have to in a way that is so heavy-handed that you meditate right then and there. Just take that inhale and breathe it out slowly and notice where your urges are. If you have the urge to lash out, consider the possibilities. You probably won’t feel better after and lashing out won’t work at work. Breathing will.”

Bottom line: Stop, think and breathe in the heat of the moment.

4. Express gratitude for the people you work with

“Gratitude has been proven to present a huge opportunity for increasing happiness. There are lots of opportunities at work to be grateful for the people you work with. It’s up to you to show it, to vocally, explicitly express gratitude to the co-workers and teammates that make your livelihood, progress and daily efforts possible.

“Expressing thanks and showing you’re grateful for them brings about a deep, mutual sense of belonging and cohesion. It also creates empathy and trust in the workplace, which is essential to accomplishing collective work goals together. The giver and the receiver will feel a sense of purpose, a sense of camaraderie and like they matter in the bigger scheme of the enterprise.

“This one especially applies to bosses, who often feel, ‘I don’t have to thank my employees because I’m paying them.’ Thank each other, no matter where you are on the organisational chart. It goes a long way, starting at the top, where leaders can model gratitude, and not with employee-of-the-month programs that can cause animosity. It could be as simple as taking a few seconds to pop your head into someone’s office and saying thank you to them for expending their life-energy to make your business successful.”

Related: Cultivate These 11 Habits to Achieve Meaningful Success

5. Play nice with your co-workers and show mutual respect

“Just be nice, as simple it sounds. It’s one of the most measurably effective things you can do to easily and immediately increase happiness at work. Researchers saw this in a recent nursing industry organisational trust study and intervention. The nurses who took part were burning out and unhappy.

“To the surprise of the researchers, the nurses weren’t burning out because of the long hours and pay and compensation issues. What was really heard loud and clear: There was a culture of incivility that everyone was grappling with – a habit and culture of being unkind, competitive, snarky and hostile to each other. In working through those systemic causes of unhappiness, and learning to be simply nice to each other, the nurses were eventually able to come to a place of well-being.”

Bottom line: Be kind, don’t be cutthroat and lay off the snark.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Kim Lachance Shandrow is a Los Angeles-based tech journalist who specializes in writing about iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android phones, as well as social media marketing, startups, streaming TV, apps and green technology. Her work has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, MSNBC.com, NBC.com, and in The Los Angeles Times and The International Business Times. She also consults for Ameba, a Canadian multiplatform children’s streaming TV startup.

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Self Development

20 Quotes On Coping With Change From Successful Entrepreneurs And Leaders

Change is up to you.

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Change is a hard concept to grasp – and can be even harder to cope with it. Whether you’re switching careers, leaving a company or ending a relationship, change comes in all sizes – big and small. And while some change can be exciting, other times it can be difficult.

Having your own approach to change, whether it’s in how you view it or how you handle it, is important in moving forward and being successful.

To learn how others do it, here are 20 quotes about change from today’s most successful leaders and entrepreneurs.

1. Elon Musk

“Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.” – Elon Musk 

2. Oprah Winfrey

“You don’t have to hold yourself hostage to who you used to be.” – Oprah Winfrey

Related: 5 Mindset Changes You Must Make When Going From Employee To Entrepreneur

3. Barack Obama

barack-obama

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” – Barack Obama

4. Larry Page

“If you’re not doing some things that are crazy, then you’re doing the wrong things.” – Larry Page

5. Steve Jobs

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs 

6. Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol

7. Steve Case

“Revolutions happen in evolutionary ways.” – Steve Case

Related: Osteostrong: An Exploding Global Movement Of Positive Change

8. Coco Chanel

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” – Coco Chanel

9. Warren Buffett

“The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.” – Warren Buffett

10. Steven Spielberg

steven-spielberg

“All of us, every single year, we’re a different person. I don’t think we’re the same person all our lives.” – Steven Spielberg

11. Mark Zuckerberg

“Entrepreneurship is about creating change, not just companies.” – Mark Zuckerberg

12. Richard Branson

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over.” – Richard Branson

13. Joan Rivers

“Life is very tough. If you don’t laugh, it’s tough.” – Joan Rivers

Related: 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Change

14. Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

“In order to build strength, you have to usually come from a lot of weakness.” – Lady Gaga

15. Thomas Jefferson

“Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.” – Thomas Jefferson

16. Thomas Edison

“Good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” – Thomas Edison

17. Sheryl Sandberg

“I learned that, in the face of a void or in the face of any challenge, you can choose joy and meaning.” – Sheryl Sandberg

18. Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” – Tony Robbins

Related: Managing Resistance To Change: An Essential Management And Leadership Skill

19. Martha Stewart

“The more you adapt, the more interesting you are.” – Martha Stewart

20. Albert Einstein

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

You’re Probably Biased At Work. Here’s How To Stop It

New research looked at hard data to find solutions.

Nina Zipkin

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Everyone suffers from bias, despite their best intentions. And that bias can manifest itself in ways we don’t always intend – including how opportunities are and aren’t doled out in the workplace.

Recently, a trio of researchers used sensors to see if they could distinguish any differences in day-to-day behavior between male and female employees. Their goal was to eliminate the type of bias that can occur in self-reported polls about behaviour.

To study this, the researchers looked at a company where women made up just under 40 percent of entry-level employees and 20 percent of employees at the second-highest level of seniority. For four months, 500 male and female employees at this company wore badges with sensors in them that recorded their movement, speech patterns and proximity to one another.

Related: 12 Reasons Entrepreneurs With Type-A Personalities Are Unstoppable

The researchers then monitored who the subjects communicated with and who led conversations. Though the data was anonymous, the research team collected information about a given person’s gender, role and how long they had worked for the company.

Although they approached the investigation with the hypotheses that perhaps the female employees had less access to mentors or did not advocate for themselves with management as much as their male counterparts, the researchers found that this was not the case.

“We found almost no perceptible differences in the behavior of men and women. Women had the same number of contacts as men, they spent as much time with senior leadership and they allocated their time similarly to men in the same role,” the researchers wrote in a summary of their findings in Harvard Business Review.

“We found that men and women had indistinguishable work patterns in the amount of time they spent online, in concentrated work, and in face-to-face conversation. And in performance evaluations men and women received statistically identical scores. This held true for women at each level of seniority. Yet women weren’t advancing and men were.”

They concluded that differences in men and women’s behaviour aren’t what leads to gender inequality in the workplace – entrenched bias is the culprit.

So what can you do in your own company to make sure that bias doesn’t impact your hiring and promoting decisions? The researchers recommend instituting training programmes to reduce bias among management and people in the position to bring on new team members. You also might want to consider making a policy that, for all new open jobs, you interview and recruit people from a variety of backgrounds.

Related: Blend These 7 Personality Types When Building Your Executive Team

Also, look at the responsibilities your employees have outside the office. Think about ways to make it easier for both women and men to have flexible schedules, especially given that women often have social pressures to take on more family and household obligations.

Finally, determine where the pipeline to managerial and executive positions begins to trend more towards men. Collect data on exactly when these shifts happen in order to identify their specific causes (e.g. higher-ranking positions and their responsibilities require more late nights), then come up with pointed solutions (e.g. flexible morning schedules to accommodate childcare).

From there, measure the effectiveness any solution you implement. (“Since we implemented this policy, have those who have taken advantage of it advanced?”) This way, mitigating inequality is a science, not a guessing game.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com

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Self Development

Better Thinking For A Better World

How to think more critically and strategically in a world filled with complexity and rapid change.

Erik Kruger

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positive-thoughts

We take the act of thinking for granted. It is often seen as a skill one is born with and not one that should be cultivated over time.

As the world becomes more complex and more busy, strategic and critical thinking becomes more valuable. Strategic thinking points to the ability to decide how and when to deploy resources to achieve a certain end state.

Below are four areas of focus that will improve your strategic thinking:

1. Making Time For Reflection

Life is busy. Juggling work, friends and family, and the recurring notifications from your phone has become quite a feat. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to create space for reflection.

Related: One-Year Milestone: Smart Thinking That Will Ensure Your Start-Up Makes It Past The First Year

Time spent in solitude allows you to reflect and connect the dots. It temporarily takes you out of a world in which you must be reactive to survive and keep up.

My suggestion is to create a SOS (space of solitude) for at least 30 minutes every day. In this time, reflect on what has been working and what has not been working. Meditate on your goals for the future and plan for the actions that will help you get there.

2. Asking Better Questions

Many of us fall into the trap of sequential problem solving. This happens when leaders or organisations simply move from one challenge to the next and the only question they ask is “how do we overcome this challenge?”.

What about the questions like “how did we arrive here?” or “what assumptions are we making here?” or “what does better look like?”

I am not trying to give you a template of questions to ask. Merely prodding you to go beyond challenging the problem but to also challenge the thinking about the problem.

As we deepen our questions, we elevate our thinking.

Do not simply ask more questions. Ask better questions.

3. Seek More Input

Teams are great and often underutilized. How can you use your team’s knowledge, experience, and opinions in a more constructive way?

Well, how about allowing them sufficient time for reflection in solitude but also as a group. How about prompting them to look for the patterns in their environment? How about, as a leader, asking them questions that allow them to really stretch their cognitive abilities?

Even better, empower them to ask those questions themselves.

Related: Disruptive Thinking: A Winning Edge

4. Thinking rules

We often make the same mistakes over and over. Not because we have not learned the lesson but because the context changes. Or excitement gets the better of us.

During your reflection time (hopefully you have noticed the importance of this by now) you can reflect on your past decisions and figure out how you could have made better decision.

Once you have done this start jotting down a few personal rules that will help guide your decision making in the future. A personal guideline I established was that I will wait 24 hours before making any big purchase. Gadgets and golf gear often get the best of me. But simple rules like these help to guide my decision making and prevents me from making mistakes irrespective of context or emotional state.

What is next?

Starting today schedule a daily SOS. Yes, schedule it. Do not leave it to chance.

Think of it as training for your brain. A space where you get to think. Free of distraction and noise. You will be amazed at the clarity that comes from these sessions and how your productivity and effectiveness soars.

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