Going to work isn’t always full of people doing air-punches and high-fives. For many, work is the means to an end: some days you love it, others you hate it – no matter how good your employee wellbeing programme might be.
But what if there’s something about your job that makes you actively sad? Something you think can’t be improved? Rather than immediately signing up to LinkedIn and drafting your resignation letter, think about how your working life could best be improved.
Jessica Hylands, a confidence coach says to: "Note down things that inspire you in life and conversely things that you don’t like. For example you may hate dealing with the public. You may love aesthetics. You may hate bureaucracy but love admin. When you have compiled this list, it will be a starting point to thinking of the direction that would suit you best."
Problem: You can’t stand open plan offices
Unless you work in sales and need to spend your time rolling your chair backwards to listen in on the landmark deal your colleague’s about to make, most people enjoy the privacy of their own office. Thanks to the rising costs of office space, most businesses try to cram as many desks as they can into a single place and sometimes that can be unpleasant. "I hate how everybody can hear my calls. When I’m interviewing people I feel really self-conscious about asking dumb questions on the phone and I think my interviewees can hear that. When I’m working from home I’ll chat unselfconsciously for ages and get a much better interview," says Anna McLarry.
Having to listen to your colleagues’ mind-numbing conversations, whether about The Dress or about who they’re going to vote for can also sour the feeling of an open-plan office. Investing in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones could be an easy way around the problem.
"If I’m listening to music then my colleagues are less likely to distract me. I take my headphones off if I’m doing some work that doesn’t require so much focus - people know that’s an ok time to come and chat," says Lauren Peters, a copywriter. If it’s the constant movement of an open plan office that makes you miserable, then suggest doing what some Google offices have done - curtains around your desk that turn your workspace into a private cubicle. If that feels a bit anti-social, chat to your manager about how you feel distracted by an open plan office, and ask them to let you when a desk by the window or wall becomes available.
Problem: Your boss is mean
There’s a reason the film Horrible Bosses was made: few people like their bosses. "My boss does no work," says Jennifer, who has asked not to share her surname. "She gets in every morning and sends us a long email of things to do for the day, most of which are small enough that she could have done them by the time she sends us the email. She micromanages, but then is always unavailable whenever you need to ask her something important about the project."
Sound familiar? I know five people who have quit their jobs because of their boss (myself included). But what can you do when you have a boss who is making your life miserable? Sit down and talk to them. Communication is key - explain how you like to work and how working this way would make their life easier.
Frankly, you have nothing to lose if you’re thinking about quitting your job anyway, you may as well see how it goes.
Problem: The commute is too long
Most of us aren’t lucky enough to live within a 10 minute walk of our workplace. Instead, we have to slog through rush-hour traffic in the car or while standing on public transport - what a miserable start to the day. Think of positive ways you can improve your commute: go beyond just plugging into music. By all means have a playlist of "happy place" tunes that will get you through that half hour spent cosying up to stranger’s armpits.
But think of ways your commute could actually enrich you. Sam Diserens cycles to work every day, come rain or shine: "It’s my workout in the morning. I have a 30 minute bike ride before and after work. It peps me up for the day and means I don’t feel guilty about not spending an hour a day in a depressing gym."
Lola Hyndes studied art history at university and works for the NHS. "I enjoy my job but I really miss the creative element. So I’ve downloaded these fabulous podcasts from the Royal Academy about their latest exhibitions. They educate me, and I enjoy listening about the artists on my hour and a half commute into work."
Problem: You’re in the wrong job
Lots of us have creative aspirations and think that rather than doing data entry we should be in the running for the next Pulitzer prize. Or maybe you’re a teacher but have always wanted to be a doctor. It’s never too late to change your career. Hylands says: "However old you are, or however entrenched you are in your current role, it’s never too late to change. A lot of us spend most of our time working and so it’s important that we enjoy it. Would you like to spend the rest of your working life enjoying it or allowing it to drain you of energy and enthusiasm, which seeps into every other area of your life?"
If you can’t afford to take time off from the job you dislike to hone your skills, then enroll in night-classes. If you live in London, then the options are endless: Birkbeck runs part-time evening degrees for those looking to retrain, while colleges like Westminster Kingsway and CityLit provide classes in subjects as varied as stage design to photojournalism.
Of course, nothing beats getting experience to see if changing jobs is right for you. If you’re really dedicated, use your leave to do work experience or shadow a friend at their job to see if it’s right for you. Ask lots of questions and if in doubt, enlist the services of a life coach for a one off session to see how you could make changes and retrain.