People engaged in full-time work spend more than 20% of their lives on the job. Indications are that more and more people are working harder and enjoying it less. So what can individuals do to reverse this trend and to bring more enjoyment into work?
While there can be a variety of reasons for dissatisfaction with work, a primary issue is lack of opportunity for self-expression, i.e. expression of one’s own personality through thoughts, feelings, or behavior. When one feels that the work environment requires a personality that is either unnatural or uncomfortable, work no longer provides satisfaction and motivation. The workplace is a dynamic environment in which there are changes almost daily. Thus, today’s environment is not necessarily a predictor of tomorrow. In many cases change is possible, and in a recent program of the Monk and the CEO, my son Bill Epperly and I discussed five strategies for improving the job experience and bringing more self-expression into the workplace.
First, test the workplace for flexibility to express yourself in meaningful ways. When I was employed full-time, I was sometimes able to incorporate into my business trips a point of interest having nothing to do with my job and for example was able to visit Hiroshima after business in Tokyo. I was also able as part of my continuing professional development to write many articles having to do with technology or management issues of interest to me. One’s relationship with his/her supervisor is important in testing for flexibility since the supervisor is the gateway to one’s relationship with the company. Better relationships lead to more flexibility.
Second, increase your value as an employee by increasing your understanding of how your organization remains viable, i.e. how it satisfies its client or customer base, and consequently doing more yourself to satisfy those customers. Employees who are considered more valuable generally have more flexibility for self-expression.
Third, make certain that you are doing your best to take available opportunities for self-expression. It is not unusual for employees to fail to recognize opportunities. When uncertain, coaching from a supervisor can be helpful.
Fourth, when flexibility isn’t possible, compartmentalize work from the rest of life. It may be possible during a work break to meditate as an example. In one case, I used visualization tapes that reduce stress during my lunch break.
Finally, if the work environment is toxic and not susceptible to improvement, consider a job change. This may be a more difficult option given the disruption it can require. However, it can be worth the effort opening opportunities for greater compatibility and self-expression.
Never give up on bringing who you are to the workplace. The time spent on the job is just too important.