How to apply ‘the smarts’ and be happier at work

We spend the majority of our lives at work – the average person will spend over 82,000 hours at work during their lifetime – and yet two-thirds of Britons would choose a new career if they could. So why are we so unhappy at work, and how can we change this? The Smarts author Saj Jetha shares how his top tips to improving your approach to work.


Hacking work can be a science – here’s how

According to research, we are overworked, mismanaged and undervalued – a workforce of demotivated, unhappy and unproductive people. But maybe two-thirds of Britons are unhappy because they don’t know how to ‘hack’ work?

Over 50 per cent of young people believe a lack of self-confidence is holding them back. This often manifests itself in the workplace where many young people believe a lack of necessary skills and experience is preventing them from progressing in the workplace.

I can empathise with this. Starting out in The City here in London as the son of two immigrants to the UK, I saw so many people already possess the talent and creativity needed to master the world of work. What they had was a knowledge of the ‘little things’ that aided productivity and performance, something I would later refer to as ‘hacks’. Over the years, I have found that a small yet meaningful amount of change will boost both productivity and performance at work.  Take some of these examples.

Employ the ‘3Ps’

Employ the ‘3Ps’ – progress, plans and problems when giving and receiving feedback. When someone asks you for an update on something, detailing what you achieved last week, what you plan to do this week, and any specific issues and problems focuses a conversation and allows clear next steps to be confirmed.

If you want to get a clear result from a conversation or meeting or want the other person to leave with a concrete understanding of your argument then brevity is best. Making sharp, quick points will be appreciated by all – and will cut through any time-wasting. This goes for both written and verbal communication. 

Improving relationships with colleagues

Another simple way to hack work and boost happiness is by improving relationships with colleagues. It is important to show empathy and try to put yourself in their shoes. It’s surprising how little this is done, so try this simple test: draw an E on your forehead. If you, like most people, draw it so you can read it, your empathy needs work.

Mastering the communication hacks sets you on the right path to working well with others. Our workforce is human – and as humans we are irrational, illogical and differ in our levels of emotional intelligence. There is huge variety in our capabilities and reactions. Teams who understand and embrace this will reap the rewards.

For example, consider something I call the context jigsaw. Next time you begin a conversation with a colleague, or open a meeting, take a moment to remember no interaction ever exists within a vacuum. Understanding what goes on, at the edges of a conversation will help you have a better one. 

Give yourself time to reflect

Finally – happiness at work isn’t only affected by those around you. It’s all very well and good working well with others, but have you ever considered the importance of working well with yourself? Make the time to have a date with yourself at the end of every day. Reflective questions will enable you to arrive at constructive conclusions about your day and refocus on where to be tomorrow.

Ask yourself, what is one thing you have learnt today? You will grow from this reflection. Ask yourself another question – what shall I do differently tomorrow? You then commit yourself to this change.

Implementing small hacks consistently will see disproportionally larger returns in terms of unlocking your talent and productivity. Productive, empathetic individuals create a productive, empathetic workforce. 

Sign up to the Penguin Connect newsletter

For more books and insights from our authors to inspire personal and professional growth

By signing up, I confirm that I'm over 16. To find out what personal data we collect and how we use it, please visit our Privacy Policy

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more