If you dread going to work, now isn’t a bad time to look for a new job. After all, it’s the start of a new year, and the unemployment rate is low. Another option, however, is to find happiness where you are by changing your mindset about your current role, suggests Tom Rath, author of the forthcoming book Life’s Great Question: Discover How You Contribute to the World.
“All careers have spikes and valleys and are bumpy along the way,” he says. “It’s easier for some of us to become frustrated and look around for another opportunity. But I’ve yet to meet a single person who claims they fell into the perfect job after graduating college and has had an upward linear trajectory with a straight line on a graph.”
Often, the better way to deal with your disengagement is to ask yourself how you can make the job you have into one that’s better for you and your well-being, says Rath.
“Organizations have done a good job over the last quarter century of extracting as much discretionary effort from each person as possible,” he says. “We all need to spend time determining how to put more back into the person. People should be healthier as a product of working for an organization, not have expectations that their psychiatric and physical health could be worse off from the work they’re doing on a daily basis.”
Rath suggests finding a way to restructure your work to have more enjoyment during the day and less stress. “Most of us can do something individually to make this happen without needing permission from a manager,” he says. “Or work with your leader and say, ‘How do we structure things so I can be more productive and energized in process?’ Most managers don’t want to create an environment that burns people out.”
Determine how you can change your current job or look for a different type of work within your current organization, says Rath. Here are four ways to turn the job you have into one you love:
Get to know coworkers
“The most straightforward thing people can do is to build stronger relationships on job with the people around you,” says Rath. “It’s a topic that is often underestimated, but it may be the most important element when it comes to enjoying work.”
If you like the people at work and regularly engage with them, you’re more likely to enjoy your job, studies have found. “Make a point to have conversations over coffee,” says Rath. “If they care about you and you care about them, your job can feel like an entirely different place.”
Another way to transform how you feel about your job is to find meaning. When you connect the work you do with the purpose it serves for another person at least once a day, you’ll find your job more rewarding.
“Dr. King said life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?'” says Rath. “It sounds like a grand question, but it’s worth repeating. It needs to be a question you ask yourself daily.”
Find a task that benefits someone else and makes their lives better, and you’ll start to connect with your current role and find value in it. Employees report higher job satisfaction when they find meaning at work, according to a study from leadership development platform BetterUp.
Consider the structure
Disengagement from work might be more about the structure than the job. Rath suggests thinking about how you do your work and finding ways to change the process.
“In most cases, we’re held accountable for an outcome or expectation, whether it’s answering phone calls or selling a dollar volume over time,” he says. “How we do that can and should vary greatly. There’s often no reason why you need to do the job exactly how you learned during orientation.”
Whether it’s where you sit, the method you use or the hours you work, find a process that best fits your work style. “Think how you can frame your days to get the most work done to optimize your routine,” says Rath. “If necessary, ask your manger for permission to modify things around the edges. If you can show how you manage more and do it in less time, they’ll probably welcome the change.”
Pay attention to stress
Look for times during the day when you start to feel stressed and immediately address the cause. “An underlying commonality that causes your work to erode your health and well-being is stress,” says Rath. “Most of us are good at gauging stress levels. If you feel chronic and regular stress during regular tasks, don’t ignore it. Figure out ways you can manage around it.”
One way is to exchange or shuffle responsibilities with a colleague who feels differently about the task. “In a lot of cases, organizations are not doing enough to accommodate the deep individuality each person has in a job,” says Rath. “A team could contribute so much more if tasks were optimized and balanced. Reorganization can lead to much better dynamics.”
If each person can better understand their strengths and how they want to contribute, an organization could optimize each person’s place at work.
“When you try to whittle down what a work team is about, it’s creating something, building relationships, and getting stuff done,” says Rath. “These are the three most basic elements in every team model. If we start with those basic elements, we can change how employees feel about their jobs.”
Instead of quitting due to dissatisfaction, take some time to reinvent your job or to reframe your attitude. “Exhaust your options before you jump to another job,” says Rath.