How to be happy at work – BACP members share their top tips

by | Sep 26, 2023

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Maintaining good relationships with your colleagues and removing the stigma around mental health issues are two of the ways we can feel happier at work, says our member Jenny Warwick.

To celebrate International Happiness at Work Week, which runs from 25 to 29 September, we took the opportunity to speak to therapists about different ways to make work a happier place.


Jenny says that most of us spend a significant part of our daily lives at work, so it stands to reason that being happy at work is important factor in a happy life. 

 
 

“Happy employees are more productive, creative and more engaged in their work. They are also less likely to take sick days and more likely to be loyal to their employer. Finding a job that you are passionate about will help you to feel happier at work. Still, while we’re waiting for that dream job, what can you do to help feel more optimistic at work?”

Jenny believes that building good relationships with your colleagues and being able to speak openly about your mental health at work helps a lot. 

“It’s great if managers are open about their mental health and encourage people to speak openly. This makes it much easier for staff to speak out and feel heard. But beware of wellbeing washing and bosses who focus on providing free snacks or yoga classes, while the underlying causes of stress at work, such as long hours, unrealistic deadlines, and lack of control over their work, are not addressed.”

 
 

Our 2023 Public Perceptions Survey revealed that 60% of people believe a job is a key factor in maintaining their wellbeing and more than half feel their manager cares about their mental health. However, nearly one in five employers is not doing anything to improve their employee’s wellbeing and only half take a strategic approach to employee wellbeing[1]

With management style contributing significantly to stress at work and with less than a third of managers saying they don’t feel confident and competent enough to spot the early warning signs of mental ill health[i][2], what can be done to support workers and bosses?

Lucy Myers, Chair of our Coaching Division, says most businesses want to take mental health at work seriously, but the message isn’t getting through to workers.

 
 

“As a therapeutic coach working both in private practice and in organisations, it’s important that I understand what’s going on from both employer and employee perspectives. 

“Unfortunately, many people tend to suffer in silence and try to find ways to keep going. This leads to less productive employees who might be at their desks but not engaged.  This creates additional pressure for the wider team and combined with absenteeism caused by sick leave and resulting staff turnover, the originally problems are exacerbated and lead to more widespread ‘burnout’ in organisations.  

“I think this is why a desire to find more of a ‘work-life balance’ is one of the most common goals clients are coming to me with in recent times.”

 
 


Here are their recommendations on maintaining a healthy and happy workplace for all:


How to be happy at work

  • A healthy work-life balance. Employees need to have time for their personal lives outside of work. 
  • Positive relationships: this includes encouraging a culture of respect, inclusion, and collaboration.
  • Clear expectations and regular feedback. Employees need to know what is expected of them and how they perform. 
  • Being valued. Good work needs recognising and rewarding. 

How managers improve wellbeing in teams

 
 
  • Regularly meet with employees one-on-one to discuss their goals, workload, and any challenges they are facing.
  • Provide employees with opportunities to participate in decision-making and to have their voices heard.
  • Encourage employees to take breaks throughout the day, get up, and move around.
  • Offer employees opportunities to socialise and get to know their colleagues better.
  1. Promote a mental health-friendly workplace by offering resources and support to employees who are struggling. 

However, there may come a point when an employee needs the support of a professional counsellor. We believe employers have a duty of care to their staff and should help them to seek professional support when necessary. 

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