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How to Thrive at Work (Even If You Don’t Love Your Job)

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” ~Jim Rohn

We spend so much of our days at work, it makes sense that we should enjoy it, but many of us are not that lucky.

Too many people work in jobs they dislike or for people who make them unhappy.

Perhaps we don’t get the meaning of our jobs or are caught up in the corporate rat race. So quit, our friends say, but it’s not that easy. I have bills to pay, kids to feed, or things I need the money for. So how do we strike the balance? What’s the secret to thriving at work?

I learned the hard way. Working long hours, if I wasn’t in meetings I was in the car driving. I’d grab fast food because it was quick and I could eat in on the run. After getting in late I was so exhausted that exercise was the last thing I felt like doing, so I’d crash on the sofa and then get my laptop to catch up on emails.

I spent my weekends sleeping in and catching up on all the housework I’d let slide during the week, and I was usually sick during my vacations, as my body struggled to cope with the constant demands.

I knew it wasn’t healthy, but wasn’t sure how to change it, how to find balance. When I looked around, I realized everyone else seemed to be doing the same. Eventually, I hit a wall and burned out. This ultimately led to a fork in the road where everything changed.

I quit the corporate world to follow my dreams and became a writer and yoga teacher. It’s something I love, but it doesn’t pay well, so I found myself having to pick up contract work to put food on my table and a roof above my head.

I still write and do what I love, but I also have to have a day job back in the office to pay the bills. The difference now is that I’ve learned the art of balance. Here’s how I thrive at work, and how you can too.

 1. Adopt a healthy routine.

I found that adopting a healthy routine made things easier. I get up early so I can meditate and do a bit of yoga. This sets me up for the day and makes me feel good before I even get to work.

Getting up early means I have time for breakfast and to walk to my office. It’s a challenge at first, and the snooze button is always tempting, but once we feel the benefits, it’s a no brainer. And after a few weeks of doing this, it becomes a habit.

2. Take care of your body.

Work can be stressful, which is why paying attention to the basics of good health and prioritizing this makes our workdays better.

What we eat, how much water we drink, how much we move, the lighting, ventilation, how we sit—it all adds up. It may seem simple, but it’s also important.

The meals we chose fuel us throughout the day; we know we can feel lethargic and short of energy if we’re not eating right. We are what we eat, so it’s critical we’re putting the right things in to help us thrive both at work and at home. It has a direct impact on our mood and how we concentrate, and therefore, how much better we’re likely to deal with stress and colleagues.

Exercise is also key, especially for those of us who are deskbound. I ensure I get up and move around regularly, either to get water, talk to a colleague, or when I’m on the phone. I also make sure I get outside every lunchtime for a walk and some fresh air, and head to the gym some evenings to counteract all the sitting my job requires.

3. Make it a priority to have fun with your coworkers.

Human beings are social animals, and our colleagues can be the source of great company (or sometimes irritation!) Taking time out to ask people how they’re doing over the water cooler, chatting about your plans for the weekend, or asking about their latest trip is a pleasant addition to the workday.

There are many ways to bond with your colleagues—Friday night drinks after closing, lunchtime walking groups, social sports teams, quiz nights, and office morning teas (where everyone brings something in). It’s a great way of getting to know your colleagues better, without the pressure of work.

 4. Treat yourself.

Every week I treat myself to dinner at my favorite restaurant, or a takeout if I’m tired. It’s usually on a Friday, and I often spend the week looking forward to this.

I also have a massage once a month, partly to offset the sitting at a computer, but also to treat myself and show my body some love. It’s the little things that I look forward to, that my wages allow me to buy, that makes working more worth while.

5. Spend time in nature.

This one makes a big difference, particularly if we live and work in cities, as many of us do, and may be confined to the indoors for most of the day, without natural light or ventilation.

Get out during lunchtime for a walk in the park, or spend the weekend camping at the beach or in a cabin in the woods. Whatever it is, make sure you get some time in nature. It helps us unwind, relax, and reconnect, not just to the natural world around us but also to ourselves.

Science is proving that nature really does have healing powers, and I know it’s a vital part of helping me thrive at work.

6. Strive for balance.

I learned the hard way, and now work/life balance is one of my top priorities.

I see many people who seem defined by their jobs; this is their life and who they are, and this mantra often takes over their life.

If we spend all hours at work, there are areas of our life we’re neglecting—perhaps time with loved ones, time to ourselves, or social events or hobbies. Work/life balance is so important. After all, one of the reasons we go to work is so we can afford to have a life!

7. Do what you love.

They say that if you love what you do you’ll be successful. While not all of us have the jobs we’ve dreamed of since we were young, we can often find things within our jobs that we enjoy—dealing with people perhaps, training others, designing posters, solving problems, or organizing events.

If there is that long-time ambition you’ve had that involves a change of career, then think about how that may happen. It’s all about small steps, as I’ve found out, and can often mean we’re doing two jobs simultaneously for a while as we transition or retrain. But the important thing is that we start taking those small steps toward our dreams.

When the hard days at work come, I put them into perspective and ensure I find a positive. I also make sure I find time to do something I love, whether it’s writing, walking outside in nature, or having lunch with friends.

8. Never forget the why.

Probably the most important thing is to not lose sight of our reasons for going to work. Yes, we need to earn money, and preferably we could do this doing something we love. But sometimes we have to do X in order to get to Y.

Remember your “why.” This could be your kids’ education, that trip of a lifetime, your first home, or a medical treatment for a family member.

Put a photo up on your desk that’ll remind you every day what you’re working for. It’s not that boss that shouts at you or the company that cares more about its bottom line than its workers; it’s for your hopes and dreams and all the things we do each month with the wages we’re lucky to earn.

We spend so much time at work, it makes sense that we make it as happy as it can be. It doesn’t have to be detrimental to our health. By mastering the art of balance, we can thrive at work.

Profile photo of Jess Stuart

About Jess Stuart

After a successful career in the corporate HR world Jess decided to follow her passion in Health and Wellness as a coach, speaker, and author. A qualified yoga instructor who has trained in Buddhist meditation and mindfulness, living and working in many countries Jess draws her life experience into her work to share the principles of health and happiness.

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  • These are such great tips, but for those of us who are overachievers this list is definitely easier said than done!

    For me the struggle has always been how do I bring work/life balance into the workplace. How do I give myself permission to leave and go for a walk during lunch when no one else in my office does? How do I give myself permission to care for my needs at work when that means not “working”?

    It wasn’t so much a matter of not knowing what I needed to do to make my job more enjoyable, it was about giving myself permission to do those things despite my fear that my bosses and coworkers would think I wasn’t working as hard as everyone else if I did.

    These days I’m much better at doing many of the things you suggest, I get up early for breakfast and meditation, I take care of my needs throughout the day at the office, I try to create opportunities to take on the kind of work that I really love instead of just doing whatever tasks are assigned to me. And it definitely helps.

    But getting to the point where I felt brave enough to do these things in the first place was the real challenge.

  • Tim MagicYou

    This is a great article – thank you very much. Its true that sometimes we can take work too seriously and let it consume our thinking and our lives. I recommend highly meditation / yoga, nature time and fun whilst your at work. And it is true that if we don’t look at our jobs as ‘work’ and look it at is as social / giving back or whatever makes us feel like its something we enjoy – it becomes a joy and part of our life. Its how we think about things that makes them…

  • Angela

    Food for thought, thank you! Angela

  • Hi Jessica, well done for getting this far, it’s not easy if you’re in an office where the opposite is expected. I’ve always looked at it as a key part of making me more effective and that without doing this stuff my work suffers and I’m not as productive as I can be. So with this in mind it is work and it’s my most important work as it sets the tone for everything else I do and the quality of that. When I’m in the office I’d rather have 8 hours of productive work than 10 hours that is not so that includes taking my breaks and prioritising self care because without our health we can achieve very little else. Congratulations on making some great strides in this space. Jess 🙂

  • Very true Tim, thanks for sharing. Working in the city I love to get out at lunchtime for a walk in the park and find connecting with nature clears my mind and helps for a more productive day 🙂

  • Chanchal Mishra

    Great Article Jess !! 🙂

  • kraftkris

    Great article with good tips for balance! Thanks!

  • Miles

    Wonderful