The latest news reports say that the recession is over. While that may be true on paper and in theory, it’s another story in our everyday reality. Lately, I’ve had a number of clients and friends who are extremely disappointed in their current employment situation. Some are lay-off survivors who have endured pay cuts or pay freezes, the loss of work friends and a marked increase in workload. A few have found work but due to the lack of available positions took jobs making significantly less than what they were accustomed to or doing work that pays the bills but doesn’t really appeal to them.
The average worker works over 8 hours a day and commutes about 50 minutes a day. Add to that the time spent getting ready for work, decompressing from work and preparing for the next day of work, you see that the majority of the work week is spent at work or in work-related activities. We see our coworkers more than we see our children, significant others and friends.
Basically, we spent too much time at work to be miserable. And workplace misery rarely stays at the office. It makes the commute home with us and we end up snapping at the kids, arguing with the spouse and pushing away from the friends. It’s a vicious cycle. But how do we stop it?
Lay-off survivors and underemployed professionals hear the recession mantra all the time, “Be lucky that you have a job.” “At least you are working.” There is some truth to that but in and of itself it is rarely enough to get us through the day.
So what can we do take those lemons and make a satisfying lemonade?
Scavenger Hunt: As a kid, scavenger hunts were fun. We looked everywhere for hidden goodies and secret treasures. Do the same at work. Looking at your work tasks, look for a few tasks in your workday that you enjoy and can look forward to. Focus on those and not on the things you dread.
Don’t Dwell in Hell: Speaking of things you dread, try not to focus on those. Keep work in perspective. It’s something you do, it’s not who you are. This isn’t the 1950’s, you won’t be working in one place for 50 years and then retiring to a pension and a gold watch. The job you are in now is a bridge to something better. Success at your current job will pave the way for success at the next one.
Break on your Breaks: Working though your breaks on a regular basis is a recipe for burnout. Get away from your desk, office or cubicle for those 10 to 15 minutes. Use at least have of your lunch break to do something crazy like … eat lunch. Mentally, you need that time away. By taking just that 10 minutes to take a short walk, get a cup of coffee or a glass of water or just to talk to your work buddy about Hell’s Kitchen, you will return to your work with a stronger focus and a more relaxed demeanor.
Use Your Rearview: As you pull out of the parking lot at the end of the day, glance a couple times in your rearview mirror. Watch as your workplace fades into the background. The background is exactly where your workplace belongs at the end of the day. Don’t take your work woes home with you. Use your commute time to refocus on home. Even if you will have to take work home with you, put some space and time between the end of work and doing your work at home.
Change Your Attitude: Obviously an attitude of gratitude, being grateful to have a job, will only get you so far. Have an attitude of excellence with a clear focus on the future. If you want out of your current job, then master it. Do the absolute best you can. Concentrate on giving the best service to your customers, your coworkers and your boss. Focus on doing the best you can has clear benefits for them but there are also clear benefits for you. Taking your focus off the negative and on what you can do puts you in control and improves your attitude. It’s the definition of a win-win.
Finally, keep your chin up. This too shall pass … and when it does you will find yourself in a much better place.