Best Practices

Three Secrets to Work Happiness in One Fascinating TED Talk


When it comes to work, why do we have a tendency to think about the negative? That’s the question Organizational Psychologist Theresa Glomb asked in her TED Talk “Let’s make work better”. Dr. Glomb dedicated her life to the study of workers and organizations, going from factories to call centers to hospitals and nursing homes to analyze work behaviors.

Surveying individuals several times a day over a period of several weeks, Glomb discovered that good things do happen at work three to five time more frequently than bad ones. However, employees still tend to focus on the negative outcomes they’ve faced rather than the positive ones. What’s more, the same study also discovered that negative things happening at work can have five to ten times more impact on an employee’s individual than positives experiences.

Truth is workers, in every industry no matter their title, have tremendous power over their work life, and being happy at work comes down to three simple, yet incredibly powerful rules.

Related: 5 Mental Health TED Talks That Will Help You Cope With Stress at Work

Write at least 3 good things that happened to you at work and why

After realizing that there’s a widespread tendency for people to dwell on the negative aspects affecting their happiness at work, Dr. Glomb decided to devote herself to educating and encouraging people on how important it is to also reflect and refocus on positive experiences at work.

As part of her experiment, Glomb asked the surveyed workers to write about three good things that happened at work each day, and explain why it made them feel good. Would this practice increase their wellbeing? As it turned out, it did.

As a result, participants felt less stressed, had fewer physical complaints at the end of the day (less muscle tension or headaches), fewer mental complaints (concentration issues, rumination), and in some cases, it even lowered their blood pressure.

Make meaningful progress on your tasks by being more intentional at work

According to Dr. Glomb, one of the key drivers of our good mood at work is making meaningful progress on our tasks. Admittedly, our work environment doesn’t always support meaningful progress given that some of us may experience several interruptions during our workday. Count how many times a day you’re interrupted or distracted from the task you’re attempting to complete…  Now think of how it made you feel.

Additionally, if you’re attempting to improve your workplace happiness by being more productive, then you should stop multitasking when you can and opt for “single-tasking” as much as possible.

Dr. Glomb believes, given the results of her study, that multi-tasking generally tends to act as a downer. It actually prevents employees from feeling a sense of progress paramount to one’s overall job satisfaction. Going from one task to another without fully completing anything can be void of any sense of fulfillment. This, in turn, leads to unhappiness at work.

So how do we do that and connect to our work? The answer is relatively simple.

We need to be more judicious when deciding what work to focus on at any given moment of our workday. We should stop concentrating too much on task management and spend more time thinking about results management. In regards to what you’re doing in your day, ask yourself: is this the best way for me to spend my time? If you dedicate your attention toward your purposeful intentions and what you actually want to accomplish, you’ll make meaningful progress at work in no time.

Related: Why You Should Care About Your Employees Liking Their Job

Fix a bad mood at work by helping a colleague

People who help others experience a mood boost. It’s important to remember that when feeling a bit down, helping others helps you feel good about yourself. Whether it’s helping to clean the office after the annual holiday party, or trying to solve an issue a particular coworker is facing, your happiness at work is in no small part correlated to your colleagues’ happiness.


Diagnosed with cancer seven years ago, Dr. Glomb was shocked to realize that she was more stressed about her work than fighting her cancer. Work shouldn’t be a drag. Happiness at work can be attained provided that you reflect on all the positive feelings you experience at work. Perhaps repeating Dr. Glomb’s motto, which she affirms every morning with her kids on their way to school, is worth a try: “Work hard. Have fun. Choose kind. Be present.”