One person strides into the office smiling and greeting colleagues, ready to cross items off her to-do list. Her coworker arrives and makes a beeline for the coffee machine, dreading the first look at her calendar and inbox.
The difference? One of these coworkers is happy to be there and, hence, more likely to be healthier, more productive and more successful—some of the many benefits of being optimistic at work.
Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., the founder of positive psychology, conducted hundreds of studies on optimism and found that optimists make more money, sell more than pessimists and live longer. Research also shows that glass-full types are more likely to be successful, healthier and happier.
Being an optimist at work doesn’t mean you have to be sunshine and roses from 9 to 5. But it does mean that when problems appear, you immediately seek potential solutions.
How Optimism Helps at the Office
When employees are optimistic at work, they generally are happy, consider the big picture and strive for success. What’s more, optimism in the workplace promotes a high energy level, creativity, inspiration, leadership and a hopeful approach to both problem-solving and daily tasks.
Though leading by example can definitely encourage a positive workplace culture, you can also help employees be more optimistic at the office in these five ways.
1. Encourage Employees to Eat a Nutritious Breakfast
Breakfast is a big deal. It kick-starts our metabolism and can greatly affect productivity. How much work do you complete when you’re hangry? Chances are, not a ton.
What you eat can also improve your outlook, help you make decisions, and prepare you to react more positively when things go wrong, according to one research study. A balanced breakfast with carbs, protein and fat—whole-wheat toast, avocado and eggs, for instance—is key.
Instead of doughnuts and pastries, provide fruit and yogurt at the office, or take employees out occasionally for a healthy breakfast.
2. Practice Gratitude
Employees who practice gratitude daily tend to stay more optimistic. Additionally, general acts of gratitude can increase one’s happiness by 25%. So make gratitude an office goal.
Get employees in the habit of acknowledging three things, every single day, that they’re grateful for. You can go one step further by passing around a gratitude journal for everyone to contribute to, or have employees thumbtack their appreciation posts to a prominent workplace board.
3. Nurture ‘Workships’
Let’s face it: We spend most of our waking hours at work. Having someone at the office whom you can laugh and chat with—someone who genuinely cares about what’s going on in your world—can help the time fly by and do wonders for your outlook.
That’s why it’s crucial to nurture these “workships.” A mentorship program could facilitate coworker bonding. You could also try pairing up employees on projects or task forces. In general, if you create an office culture that encourages workships—using teams to collaborate, asking for volunteers and holding after-hour social events—the bonds will typically form on their own.
4. Prompt Employees to Choose Intrinsic Goals
Intrinsic goals satisfy employees’ basic core needs for relationships, health and autonomy. And employees who pursue intrinsic goals tend to be happier, more fulfilled and more optimistic than their counterparts who are solely focused on raises, promotions and status boosts.
Some intrinsic goals suited to the workplace include mastering a skill, gaining knowledge on a topic, contributing ideas to an important project and feeling proud of your work. Lunch and learns are a great setting for an exchange of knowledge. You could also send employees to conferences, or have them attend a webinar and then share what they learned with colleagues.
Encourage them to take on more responsibility, leadership roles or ambitious learning goals. The more they develop professionally, the more optimistic they’ll feel—and that can only improve your workplace.
5. Help Employees Find Confidence
Helping your employees feel good about themselves can raise productivity, engagement and satisfaction at work. Let them know their contributions matter; provide feedback, both casual and formal; and learn what they care most about. When you align their assignments with their strengths and values, you can, in turn, foster a more optimistic office.
Every single employee can benefit from being optimistic at work. And, as with most things, the more people who are optimistic, the more likely it is to catch on. So practice optimism and preach its benefits. It’s highly unlikely your coworkers will turn their nose up at something that can enhance their health and wellness, as well as boost their career growth.
Need advice on developing a more positive workplace? Check out these tips for managing workplace wellness on United Concordia Benefits Bridge.