Professionals do not simply follow the orders handed down to them by their managers. On the contrary, people need to feel a sense of agency and that they and their roles matter. So, many professionals actively squeeze, change, and yes, craft their jobs. This is a key insight we have gained from researching work happiness for over 12 years and from the over 60,000 responses to our questionnaire.
Two people with identical jobs may tell very different stories about their work. Even if they applied for the same job, were hired in the same week, and started the exact same set of tasks at the same time, two years later, they will tell you different stories. They did different things. Perhaps one languished, the other flourished. For one of them it was possible to adapt their work, to enrich it, the other diminished it. Within the boundaries that a particular job has, people can identify degrees of freedom to adapt their work, and mold it to look more like what they consider good, important, and meaningful.
Successful and happy professionals are serial job crafters
In our new research collaboration—between iOpener Institute and Associate Professor Dr Mark van Vuuren of the University of Twente—we aim to discover the subtle ways in which people craft their jobs and to inspire those who yearn for change without knowing how to go about it. Here we describe both our general approach to creating a better workplace for all, asking lots of questions and being very curious about why and how we do things on automatic pilot. And, if you are willing to be proactive in increasing your happiness at work here are two initial ways of going about it.
1. Make it personal
Because it is not just anybody doing this work—it is you doing it, and your work has an impact on you and your wellbeing. So, who are you at work, what do you bring to the table? How can you gain clarity about the skill and the stress, the craft, and the confusion with which you do your work?
To help you answer that question, we have a present for you: Click here and fill in our free questionnaire to find out more about your levels of happiness at work. You will receive a 9 page report with your scores.
Look at the 5C’s of Contribution, Conviction, Culture, Commitment and Confidence and the self-coaching questions to help you make the most of your report and to guide you towards a clearer idea of what makes you happy (or unhappy) at work. Click here for a full guide to understanding how to read your report and making the most of the self-coaching questions.
Now, let’s turbo charge the information in the report by doing some job crafting. (Amy Wrzesniewski, et al. See below). This will help with all of the 5C’s, most of all Commitment. It is easier to develop deep Commitment when a job feels like a meaningful use of your time.
2. Your job is made up of tasks—rank them
The crucial first step is to identify the tasks within your job. The word 'job' literally means 'lump', the amount of raw material that one worker could move on his own with a shovel. Analyzing your work means digging into this lump and breaking it down into smaller pieces. And breaking things down into smaller chunks makes them more manageable. Just like physicians don’t do surgery on a whole body but focus on one organ, crafters focus on single tasks rather than the whole job at once. Follow this simple procedure:
Make a list of your tasks. What is it that keeps you so busy all day? 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9……
Then: rank your list according to the amount of time you spend on each task. Be realistic and order them around the actual amount of time you spend on the things you have to do (so not what you want, nor how much time you should spend on something).
What do you notice? Are you surprised? Do you spend most time on tasks you like? Or are you spending a disproportionate amount of time on a task that you loathe?
Now come back to you and your wellbeing: What relationship is there between your list of tasks and your happiness at work report? Can you see where higher or lower scores on the C’s are reflected in your tasks?
Identify one task that will make you happier when you craft it. Ask yourself questions like:
- [for a task that makes you happy] How can I increase the amount of time I spend on this task? Also consider what needs to be cut, otherwise you will only become busier…
- [for a task that reduces your happiness] How can I decrease the amount of time spent on this task?
- [if there’s a “C” that inspires you] How can I weave more of this C (Contribution, Conviction, Culture, Commitment or Confidence) into one of my tasks?
- [for an energy depleting aspect of your work] How can I best manage the energy leak here?
With these practical steps and thought process you should now be able to identify which simple work experiment could elevate your fit between your heart and the work that you do. This is where your happiness at work increases.
Watch this space for other ideas on how to look after your own happiness at work by integrating the information in your personal report with proven academic research.
So don’t resign, reassign: beat the trend of quiet quitting, and the great resignation by actively thinking about your happiness at work, and making the small changes that can make a big difference.
Further reading: Wrzesniewski, A., Berg, J. M., & Dutton, J. E. (2007). What is Job Crafting and Why Does It Matter?
About the authors:
Dr Mark van Vuuren is Associate Professor of Organizational Communication at the Department of Communication Science, at the University of Twente. His research examines how professionals make sense of their work through everyday organizing. More specifically, he is interested in how people with similar job descriptions can do different work, how multi-professional teams collaborate, and how new organizational forms emerge, thrive and decline.
Oriana Tickell is the Director of Coaching Programs and Science of Happiness at Work at iOpener Institute. A Professional Certified Coach, with 17 years of experience of training, facilitating and executive coaching, she works with teams and individuals to create the right environment for success.
iOpener Institute is a leadership development consultancy that makes leadership, learning and life better. Their Happiness at Work assessment is now free for individuals, giving each respondent an in-depth report with tips on how to improve their Happiness at Work. They also offer team and organizational reports that give deep, actionable insights into an organization's culture.
For more information contact: Simon Hood, email@example.com