Simple Tips to Improve Your Experience at Work
Updated: Jul 15
Most of us spend a significant amount of time working but often with a longstanding negative attitude towards work. We often can't wait for the workday to end, watching the clock tick as it approaches 5 pm and fantasize about our next vacation. In reality, we can all make small changes to make our daily work experience significantly better.
According to the theory of work design (Hackman & Oldham, 1976; Humphrey et al., 2007), there are certain characteristics that make work intrinsically motivating and satisfying.
I summarize some of the key ingredients of work and provide practical suggestions on what you can do to enhance your experience of work.
Autonomy - The extent to which you have the freedom to decide when & how you work.
💡 Take control of your daily work schedule. For example, if you have the most brainpower in the mornings, try to schedule more challenging and heads-down work in the mornings and schedule less important meetings or do less challenging work in the afternoons.
💡 Embed small actions in your daily work to create a sense of control. For example, you can take a 5 minute break to stretch every hour. Remember, the key is to create a mindset of autonomy!
Task/Skill variety - The extent to which your job involves doing different types of work that makes use of different skills.
💡 Look for new opportunities to use your skills. For example, if a great portion of your work involves computer programming, ask your supervisor for opportunities to present to other teams to make use of your communication skills.
💡 Try something new! For example, why don't you volunteer to organize the team's next social event?
💡 Improve your current skills. Learn from your coworkers. Take an online class to learn to do your work in a more efficient way.
Task significance - The extent to which your work has impact within or outside the organization.
💡Reflect on your greater impacts. For example, as an office window cleaner, your work maximizes the amount of sunlight in the office, saves energy needed for indoor lighting, and is beneficial for the environment; sunlight also makes office workers more energetic and improves their productivity and happiness.
💡Create a Top-3 list of positive impacts of your work. Stick it somewhere visible. Take a peek at it when feeling unmotivated and remind yourself how important your work is.
Feedback from the job and others - The extent to which you receive direct and clear information about your performance either from the work itself or from others.
💡Ask for feedback. If you are wondering about how well your last presentation went, ask the audience right after it. Don't wait till the annual performance review to seek feedback. People's memories of your work 8 months ago will be distorted so you are unlikely to get useful feedback.
💡Welcoming constructive feedback is the only way you will grow and become better at your work.
💡Set up an anonymous survey link at the end of your email to create a safe space for instant feedback.
Social support - The extent to which your job has opportunities for getting help from others when you need it.
💡Seek help from others. If you run into a problem that you cannot solve by yourself, don't hesitate to ask your colleagues. You will likely solve the problem faster and the social connection created will in itself be rewarding!
💡Seek advice from the more experienced so you learn something new (which also improves your Skill Variety!), even if you think you know the answer.
Ergonomics - The extent to which your work permits appropriate posture and movement.
💡Ergonomics matters! Have you ever wondered why your neck/back/eyes/wrist hurts after a long day of work at a desk? Check out Mayo Clinic's Office ergonomics guide for advice. Often, a simple tweak (e.g. moving your monitor an inch closer, lowering your chair an inch higher, or getting a sit-stand desk) will significantly improve your physical well-being at work!
1. Pick one of the work characteristics described above to work on.
2. Make one change to improve your experience of work tomorrow.
3. Leave your comment and share your new experience!
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Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1976). Motivation through the design of work: Test of a theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 16(2), 250–279.
Humphrey, S. E., Nahrgang, J. D., & Morgeson, F. P. (2007). Integrating Motivational, Social, and Contextual Work Design Features: A Meta-Analytic Summary and Theoretical Extension of the Work Design Literature. 92(5), 1332–1356.