About one in five Americans over 65 is working—twice as many in the early 1980s and the most since the creation of Medicare. Many factors come into play as to why this is, but one of the most significant reasons, according to a report from the National Center for Family & Marriage Research, is the rise in the number of dissolved relationships. Unlike dissolutions that occur earlier in life, later breakups have a huge impact on individual finances, often forcing people to delay retirement. New research suggests this increased monetary stress also plays an outsize role in pushing older women back into the workforce, often into work that is neither satisfying or fulfilling.
CNN.com reports the factors that can tip the scales one way or the other for job happiness can boil down to our innate desire for three things: control over our lives, positive daily connections, and joy and meaning in how we spend our waking time.
The way to integrate our need for control, connection, and meaning — while on the clock — is by “job crafting.” That’s the term used by Yale University psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski and University of Michigan professor of business administration and psychology Jane E. Dutton.
CNN lists three ways to achieve happiness in the workplace:
1. Hack your job: Start by making three lists. One list is all the things you currently like about your job, big and small. The second lists all the hassles and headaches of your job, from the petty to the systemic. The third lists things you’d like to be able to do in your job that you currently don’t. Over time, your lists will grow and, as you cross off items, shrink. But make sure that when you remove an item from the second list (things you don’t like) and third list (what you want to add), you record the change on the first list (things you like about your job). Every new item on that first list is another rung in the ladder of work happiness, and it’s good to look down every so often and see how high you’ve reached.
2. Get to know your colleagues: Learn more about what others want and help them achieve it, even if you aren’t their boss. Make meetings more fun or engaging. Instigate off-site gatherings, even in the middle of the day. Get lunches, coffees, and drinks, and don’t talk about work unless you really want to. Try inserting humor throughout the day. The more you’re connected, the more you’re going to look forward to seeing them every day.
3. Create a new job title in your head: By shifting the paradigm around a job and adding meaning and purpose, you can make the tougher parts of a job tolerable, even important, and change your behavior to support that purpose.
All these steps will not only add meaning to your job, but your life.