WHEN we imagine a desirable workplace culture, it often resembles a college dormitory: Ping-Pong tables, kegs and beanbag chairs. But in reality, it means something different: a place where people actually want to work, because they have a sense of purpose, diverse perspectives are welcomed and people have the flexibility to live their lives outside work.
These cultural things are more challenging to achieve, in part because even as people’s approach to life and work has evolved, the way workplaces function has largely remained the same. But there are concrete, evidence-based things every worker can do to help workplaces be places we want to work in.
1. Sense of purpose
Help create an environment where people like what they do. People like their jobs more when they find meaning in them – a clear sense of the organisation’s mission and how their individual work contributes to it.
Yet less than a third of people say they feel engaged at work. One reason is that finding purpose and meaning is complex. You can’t just put it on a to-do list. But there are concrete things workers can do.
2. Meet people whose lives you affect
Although everyone’s work ultimately helps other people, we don’t always see it. But making that human connection improves productivity and happiness, Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology, found.
Similar effects have happened when customer service agents meet a customer or radiologists see a photo of a patient.
3. Do what you love
Most of us assume we’re stuck doing our jobs the way we always have. But there’s a way to redesign our jobs so they make us happier.
A Yale professor, Amy Wrzesniewski, came up with an idea called job crafting, inspired by what freelancers and entrepreneurs do.
Put simply, job crafting means breaking down your job into individual tasks and then asking which you want to do less of and more of. It can be taking on new projects or dropping certain responsibilities, working with new people or even just shifting your perspective about what you do.
An overstretched office worker could turn some of her tasks into group projects, so she could get both help and companionship. An internet service salesman might think of his job not as sales but as connecting the world.
You might think your boss would never let you change your job, but often it is because people don’t ask. Good managers are likely to respond positively if you want to, say, do more public speaking, start a new project or work with a new group of people.
This article first appeared in The New York Times.