The Toro Company-David M. Lilly Chair in Human Resources Theresa Glomb has been studying work, workers, and their experiences at work for decades. At TEDxUMN, she shared three tricks that anyone can implement to make work better.
Read on for the top takeaways, or watch her talk below.
Gripe less, celebrate more
Glomb has surveyed workers in manufacturing facilities, offices, customer call centers, hydropower plants, nursing homes, and beyond, and she finds one commonality: workers tend to be more influenced by the bad things that happen and are quick to forget about the good things. In surveying workers several times a day over the course of a few weeks, she finds negative events have an outsized influence on workers’ mood. While good things happen 3-5 times more frequently than bad things at work, negative events have 5-10 times the impact on workers' moods.
To combat the harmful psychological effects of obstacles at work, Glomb and her colleagues deployed a method for workers to focus on the rewarding aspects of their jobs. This simple exercise had a big impact on their wellbeing. When she asked workers to reflect on three good things that happened at the end of each day, they were less stressed, had fewer physical and mental complaints, and were more able to detach themselves from their work. It even lowered their blood pressure.
“At the end of the day, take some time to pause and reflect on the good things that happened. You can write them down, or share them with friends and family,” she says.
Glomb has also discovered that one of the key drivers of being in a good mood at work is making meaningful progress on work tasks. But often, distractions prevent workers from focusing fully on top-priority projects. She advises them to create an environment that helps them become engrossed in important tasks and get things done.
For example, “park downhill’ by getting ready for the next work day the day prior so you can quickly enter your work and try to make your workday less fractured. Additionally, limit or group daily meetings, silence notifications on email, and schedule blocks of time when your colleagues should avoid popping into your workspace.
"Multitasking is not as productive as we’d like to think. We’re not doing two things at once, we’re switching our attention back and forth. Give focused attention to a key task for 60 minutes, and you’ll feel that pleasure that comes from making meaningful progress on your work. This requires us to move away from multitasking and toward unitasking. Putting little bursts of unitasking into our day can improve our work lives,” says Glomb.
When all else fails and a bad mood strikes at work, Glomb encourages workers to redirect their energy toward helping others. Lending a hand to a colleague, client, or customer in need has been shown to produce happiness-boosting benefits for workers.
“In our research, we’ve found that people can repair a bad mood at work by helping another person. Take time to help others, reflect on how we’re helping others, and connect with that. When we’re helping others at work, we’re helping ourselves as well,” she says.
Watch her presentation below: