Three ways to be happier...even in the middle of a pandemic


Happiness isn't all about feeling positive. It's an aggregate of nuanced, discrete emotions. In "normal times", these emotions can be feelings such as passion, excitement, joy. During this time, they may simply be calmness and a lack of anxiety. Learning how to be happier at work can be a challenge at the best of times. Here are three simple ideas to increase your well being now.


1. Rethink your notion of progress

Making progress on our meaningful goals makes us feel happy – and when we’re not making progress, our happiness can be reduced. The disruption the pandemic has wrought is a major inhibitor of our work-goal progress for most of us. It can be easy to feel bad, upset and anxious, especially when we compare our progress now to how we were doing before.

Being mindful of this is helpful: instead of comparing your productivity to pre-Covid-19, compare your productivity since Covid-19. As you adapt to your new work life, are you making incremental improvements along the way? And consider what new goals you have created on which you’re making progress. For many of us, this is fulfilling intentions to be better spouses, parents, family members and friends, as we spend a lot more time with loved ones and checking in more often with those for whom we didn’t always have time in our pre-Covid-19 lives.

Allow fulfilment of these personal goals to fill your happiness in new ways that could even compensate for your reduced work productivity. Side note: improving your daily planning can also help improve your progress and productivity.


2. Allow yourself recovery time

A huge part of happiness in your work is allowing yourself time, space and activities for recovery. This is true more than ever right now. When you’re feeling too anxious and can’t concentrate on your work, your initial reaction might be to just try and power through and ignore the anxiety. But doing so will likely make you very inefficient – and could bottle up strong negative feelings that will affect your wellbeing and productivity over the long term.

Give yourself space and time to process how the pandemic is affecting you emotionally; whether that is discussing it with close friends or colleagues or reflecting on it by yourself. While such conversations are not always enjoyable, take heart from the fact that working through negative emotions can also lead to greater productivity and creativity. Also, acknowledge that, even if you are one of the fortunate ones who still has a paying job and can do your work remotely, you are still likely facing loss and uncertainty in multiple ways. Outside of work, you can also take recovery time and enjoy boosts of happiness by spending time outside in nature and enjoying time with friends or family. You’ll be more efficient and productive when you’re back on the job.


3. Regain human connection

As social creatures, a huge part of our meaning and purpose comes through our personal relationships at work and at home. Covid-19 has forced us to shut down a huge component part of our happiness. It would be easy to lose touch and become self-isolated in our caves, but it’s important now more than ever to reach out and connect with colleagues, friends and family, especially when there are ample technologies to enable this.

This is particularly important for work reasons because, when we work remotely, we tend only to reach out to people for instrumental reasons (such as when we need them to do something for us, or vice versa). And, when we do get on that conference call, connecting virtually rather than face-to-face, we are more likely to stick only to tasks and not allow time to catch up personally.

It’s essential that we allow time and space for those informal, watercooler chats to connect with people on a human and personal level.


Michael Parke is Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School