The Big Happiness Interview: Sarah Aviram on how to be happy at work

Latest statistics show that half of full-time employed people are currently looking for a new job with better pay. Figures also show that happy staff will stay with their employers seven times longer than unhappy employees – but only 17% of British workers claim to love their job.

‘That is such a shame, but the good news is we can all learn to love our jobs,’ says Sarah Aviram, author of bestseller Remotivation: The Remote Worker’s Ultimate Guide to Life-Changing Fulfilment and TEDx speaker.

After working remotely from 12 countries in 12 months in 2019, Sarah is now a workshop facilitator for global organisations on the topic of motivation at work. Here, Metro.co.uk talks to Sarah about how to be happy while you work.

Why do we need to love our jobs – don’t we just work to earn money?

There’s no shame in saying that money is your main motivator. Financial freedom is an important value and for some people, the purpose of their work is to pay the bills so that they can enjoy their time after work.

But considering how much time you spend working, isn’t it worth a shot to make work as fulfilling as possible?

Why do we become unmotivated at work?

There are several factors to feeling unmotivated. If you feel that there’s a lack of opportunities for growth and development and for learning new skills, you are going to lose your drive and motivation. If you have no sense of purpose or no sense of the impact your role is having, that can be very demotivating. People want to feel like their job is meaningful, that they’re making a difference.

Then one of the other top reasons people quit their job is poor management – feeling a lack of support from their manager with no feedback or recognition.

Considering how much time you spend working, isn’t it worth a shot to make work as fulfilling as possible?

When you’re struggling with your boss, what do you do?

Start with some positive intentions. First try to understand your manager’s communication style and look at how you are communicating. We all communicate in different ways. Some of us are super data driven, some of us are brainstorming creative thinkers, some of us want to get to the point. It’s good to have an  open conversation with your boss about different communication styles.

A lot of organisations have access to personalities tests, and it’s great when we can give communication styles a name, because then there becomes a language that we can all use.

So have an open discussion with your boss: ask for feedback on your performance and what you could be doing better, and how you can add more value to the team.

Boundaries are key (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

What if your boss overworks you and you feel resentful?

You can work on setting boundaries and saying no. If you feel like your boss is asking you to work all hours of the night, or setting unreasonable deadlines, it’s finding the language to say: ‘Sure, I’m happy to take on that project but these are the other three things I’m working on, so which of these should I deprioritise in order to work on the new project?’

If that doesn’t work, then seek support, whether that’s from a trusted colleague or mentor. Then, you can bring in someone from human resources to help you learn more about how you can better work with your boss.

If you’ve tried all these methods, and it just doesn’t seem to be working, then you might want to consider moving teams within the organisation as a first step. But if it’s really bad, and that’s seeping into how you feel about life in general, then you might want to leave.

What do you do when you hate your job, but you need to stay for a while at least until you get another job?

No matter where you go, whether it’s a new company or a new country, or even when you enter into new relationship, you are still the same person and you bring the same issues, the same problems. Wherever you go, there you are. You can’t escape yourself and your problems. So, before you start looking for a new job, work on yourself and your current role and see if you can improve things.

Start by looking for opportunities for joy: ways of making an impact and ways to grow. Ask yourself: ‘What kind of work energises me? What work would I love to do more of?’

Sometimes what you’re good at and what you enjoy aren’t the same. You may be great at number crunching, but you might hate your job as an accountant. Consider what gives you the feeling of contentment. Then think about the impact you want to make, in terms of how can you bring more value to your company or clients by doing the work you love?

We sometimes lose enthusiasm for our jobs when we don’t understand the value our work is providing to others. Ask your manager, your peers, and your clients about the impact you’re making. Look at how you can grow your skills. If you know that what you’re learning is going to lead to something that you value, or believe is important, then you will feel much more motivated.

We lose enthusiasm for our jobs when we don’t understand the value our work is providing to others.

What if you want to make a big post pandemic leap and do something completely different?

I was working in the corporate world before I started my own business. In 2018, I convinced my organisation that future work was going to be remote, and I should be a guinea pig. They let me work remotely for a year and I worked in 12 countries in 12 months. I was so excited. I was going to get to work from anywhere around the world. I had been feeling a little flat in my job so I thought this was the answer but actually it was just a band aid solution for the real problem – I needed to change the nature of my work, not just my environment.

So, I asked myself these questions: what kind of work do I enjoy doing? What do I want to do more? What skills do I want to develop and what impact do I want to have? I was able to have those conversations with my manager and tweak what I worked on and it made feel more engaged and excited. My journey inspired me to write the book and create a new career path.  

How do you know you are in a toxic work environment and need to leave?

You know you’re in a toxic environment when organisations are willing to put up with bad behaviour from people who are high performers. So watch out for managers who are stepping all over everyone, being unethical and not supportive, and taking credit for other people’s work – all while not having their behaviour challenged because they get results.

That’s a very toxic work environment. If you see this in an organisation, it’s a clear sign that the company doesn’t have integrity, but they will pay for that mistake in the end. The research shows it costs almost four times someone’s salary to replace them, so if one employee’s bad behaviour is making others leave, it will cost the company dearly in the end.



How to discover the job you’ll love

  1. Think back to the jobs, projects or managers you have had in the past and ask yourself – what have you loved the most and why?
  2. What were those times where you came home from work and told your partner or a friend: ‘today was fantastic’? What happened? Where were you working? What was the environment? What were you working on? What skills were using and developing? How are you being recognised or rewarded?
  3. What job were you doing when at the end of the day, you had energy and you weren’t completely depleted?
  4. Who have been the best managers you’ve had, what were their qualities, and how did they make you feel and why?

What gets in the way of job fulfilment?

Three things: money, your identity and your routines. We make many career decisions motivated by money. That’s why it’s important to reduce our expenses or increase our income so you can build a safety net and a financial cushion. Without that, you are ruled by fear and pressure, and you cannot make decisions about what you really want to do, because you have that external financial pressure that you can’t pay the mortgage or the rent or bills.

Work towards saving a six months cushion at minimum. Look at your monthly expenses and times that by six. That’s how much you should aim to save. The second obstacle to career fulfilment is identity.

People think they should have a certain kind of car or live in a big house or have a fancy job title. We get trapped into thinking our external trappings will give us happiness. We need to separate other people’s expectations or our own outdated expectations of ourselves and think about what we really want.

And then the third obstacle to feeling happy at work is the routines and habits we get stuck in. ‘I’m doing my job today, because I did it yesterday, and the day before. And even though I don’t like it, I know what to expect. I’m afraid of change. But at least this feels at least consistent.’

People are afraid of change – mostly because they are afraid of failure. Yes, it’s difficult sometimes to take action if you want to move forward and don’t know what the outcomes may be. But it’s about taking baby steps to align with your values and what you want to do so you can to start to get comfortable with change.  

Watch Sarah’s TEDX talk: Does more freedom at work mean more fulfilment?

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing [email protected]


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