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Posted 07/09/24

What is WorkJoy? (hint: it’s not a destination)

You’re doing ALL THE THINGS to feel better at work but still feeling meh and you’re wondering when your WorkJoy is going to kick in…

Things are so bad you might as well change your email to help@workgloom.me, but you can’t put your finger on why, let alone what to do about it…

All this talk of WorkJoy sounds pretty appealing but you’re still not sure what it actually is or how you get it…

Class, it’s time to go back to basics. What is WorkJoy? Where do you find it? And – grab your pretend highlighter for this one – how do you get more of it? If you’ve been reading along (and liking it) but feel like you missed the introduction, or think you might need a refresher, you’re in the right place. I’ve got definitions, I’ve got diagrams, I’ve got formulae (easy ones, promise) and I’ve got free stuff. Class in session! 🎓

I’m Beth Stallwood – coach, consultant, speaker, podcast host, author and creator of all things WorkJoy. In this guide, I’m sharing my 101 of WorkJoy, including what it actually is (and what it definitely isn’t).

How to use this guide

Some WorkJoy guides are designed so you can pop in and out and hop all about. Because we’re going back to basics, it’s probably wise to start at the start and end at the end. That doesn’t mean you have to do it all in one go though. No way! If you know me, you know I love micro-learning, so feel free to gobble one section at a time.

Contents:

What is WorkJoy?
What is WorkGloom?
Myth bust: WorkJoy isn’t (always) about being happy

Where does WorkJoy come from?
How to: Create more WorkJoy
The WorkJoy Formulae
Next steps: Decide what level of action you’re ready for
Spread the WorkJoy


WHAT IS WORKJOY?

‘Work’ and ‘Joy’. These two words are rarely seen or spoken about in the same sentence, so let’s start with the definitions:

WorkJoy (noun): the positive, warm, or happy feeling you get about your work, when working or at your workplace

A noun is a little too passive. WorkJoy needs to be active and, therefore, it must be a verb!

WorkJoy (verb): to develop the mindset and take action in pursuit of a better working life

WorkJoy is something you feel on the inside that shows on the outside too. That warm feeling translates to a real smile, a positive tone in your voice and a little skip in your step. It stems from a hopeful place where you feel positive and energised. It builds your courage and makes you feel able to take on work-related challenges.

WHAT IS WORKGLOOM?

The opposite of WorkJoy is WorkGloom, which can be defined as:

WorkGloom (noun): the negative, sad, or frustrated feeling you get about your work, when working or at your workplace

You experience the gloominess often (not always) because you’re not taking the appropriate actions to change the situation, or your habits have led you down a gloomy path. WorkGloom isn’t something you can simply pass off as something someone else or an organisation has created for you. Apportioning blame without taking personal responsibility is a passive way of dealing with the gloom. Let’s action this up instead and create a verb definition!

WorkGloom (verb): to adopt and embed the unhelpful habits that lead you into a downward spiral of work-based negativity that spills over into your life beyond work

WorkGloom is a place of passiveness and/or negativity that makes you feel bad on the inside. It stifles your energy and passion for work. In its mild version it could be described as feeling a bit ‘meh’ and in its chronic version as crushing. It shows on the outside too, translating to a resting gloom face, a moany tone in your voice, and perhaps a physical change in your posture.

MYTH BUST: WORKJOY ISN’T ALWAYS ABOUT BEING HAPPY

WorkJoy isn’t about being happy all the time, plastering a fake smile on your face or never feeling frustrated. That’s called toxic positivity and it’s worse than WorkGloom. There will be times when you feel rubbish. Part of creating a better working life for yourself is accepting that fact and working through the emotion – not trying to circumnavigate it. 

Gloom often comes over you when something has got you down, when there’s not been enough counterbalancing joy, or even when your attempts to change have not gone to plan. Allowing yourself a bad day (or two) to feel all the emotions is important. A short wallow is allowed. The bad days are useful insights to help you understand where the edges of your WorkGloom are and can spur you on to put helpful habits in place.

This diagram shows an example of an average working week plotted with WorkJoy and WorkGloom moments. It helps to illustrate that WorkJoy isn’t a destination, but in fact a spectrum. Not everything that happens in a day will fit at the elation or misery ends of the spectrum. For much of the time, you’re likely to be betwixt the two, hovering above (hopefully) or below (not for long 🤞) the neutral zone.

Healthy WorkJoy

Here you can see the ebb and flow of joy and gloom, moving through the neutral in both directions. There is quick recovery from gloom, built through practice of reframing and bolstered by the solid levels of the good stuff. The joy sticks around for longer, built through practice of noticing it and enhanced by reflecting on it.

Chronic WorkGloom

In this example the effects of a gloomy mindset, environment, or situation are evident. The neutral has a hint of gloom and tends to be below the line. Where there are moments of joy, they are low-level and short-lived. They give way to longer, deeper periods of gloom. 

Toxic positivity

Here you can see what on the surface looks fantastic – a full week of extreme joy. Of course, these weeks can happen in theory, yet all lives have gloomy parts and denying that can send you into the zone of faking it – outwardly and, even more dangerously, convincing yourself that everything is wonderful!

FREE DOWNLOAD

Use my Mapping the Shape of Your WorkJoy template to track your WorkJoy experience over time.
Get it here.
WHERE DOES WORKJOY COME FROM?

The sources of WorkJoy are varied and depend on individual preferences, ranging from micro to massive and from minor to major in terms of their impact. It might be helpful to consider them in three buckets:

Micro-moments

These are the little moments that really add up. Ticking off an item on a to-do list, a colleague saying hello, or starting a fresh notepad. These fleeting moments of joy are just as important as the big things. They are also a great place to start when building your approach; they are easy to introduce and build great momentum.

Personal preferences

These are dependent on your style in any situation. You might feel joy from presenting to your team, or that might fill you with utter dread. Perhaps you attend some meetings that are inspiring, yet others leave you wanting to sit in a darkened room. There are likely some people at work that light you up and others that suck the positivity out of you. It is not the situation but the combination of factors that define whether it’s a joyful experience for you.

Fundamental factors

These are the unwieldy things like purpose, leadership, and organisational culture. These factors are more complex, yet, when boiled down to their component parts, they are simply the accumulation of small actions and behaviours. Things that happen regularly, and are adopted by the majority, becoming part of how things are spoken about and the ‘way things are done around here’. If, for example, there is a mismatch between your organisation’s culture and your preferences, you may be facing an uphill battle to find joy.

Luckily, sources of WorkJoy are plentiful and they have the habit of multiplying. The combination of factors, sources, and actions that bring you WorkJoy on a consistent basis will be unique to you. Copying someone else’s approach may give you inspiration, yet not quite hit the mark for your circumstances, style, and approach. The things that bring you WorkJoy may also change over time. Different roles bring different opportunities, changing life stages may require you to re-prioritise, and organisations will present you with a variety of challenges. Being prepared to flex and adapt is how you build a sustainable approach.

Reflection Question

What’s bringing you WorkJoy right now?

HOW TO: CREATE MORE WORKJOY

Let’s explore the three Es of Engagement, Energy, and Experimentation as approaches to creating and cultivating a more joyful working world for yourself. 

Engagement
It’s easy to get lost in the world of work and become a passive participant. Maybe you’ve found yourself stepping back, or checking out at work? Have you stopped putting your hand up for new projects, asking for feedback, or speaking in meetings? Perhaps you’ve heard yourself moaning yet not taking action to fix the issues you are facing? 

Sometimes the gradual descent into chronic WorkGloom happens so slowly that you may not notice it until you’re stuck in the choppy sea, gasping for some joy, and wondering how it got this bad! Other times a single act has such a big impact that the gloom is acute and painful in an instant.

Did you know that during their career the average person:

  • Spends 35% of their total waking hours working
  • Which average out at just over 13 years in total
  • Or the equivalent of 90,000 hours on the job

These are sobering numbers, especially if those hours are filled with gloom. It’s time to stop expecting others to ‘fix it’ for you and start to take control of your working life. Step into a more joyful mindset by paying attention to what’s going on, engaging with your attitude and emotions about work.

Energy

It’s not just about noticing what’s going on. Being able to write an essay about everything that’s not quite right, or defining every moment of WorkGloom to the nth degree, isn’t likely to make things better. It is essential that you understand where you get your joy and gloom from. It is also critical to dedicate yourself to action.

It’s going to take effort and energy to improve your working life – that’s a fact. You’re busy – you’ve got more things on your to-do list than hours in the day to get them done. The idea of adding more items may make you want to go and hide under the duvet! This is where choice comes into the frame.

You can carry on as you are, or you can choose to put some energy into making it better. You can choose to see this as more things on the to-do list, or you can see it as an investment into a brighter future. You can choose to embark on your quest for more joy or you can choose not to take that step. Energy is the biggest catalyst for change. Choice is a powerful thing. Choose wisely!

Experimentation

Experimentation is the key that unlocks the door to more WorkJoy. As the factors that create WorkJoy and WorkGloom are unique to you, so are the solutions to the conundrums you face. There is no single pathway to follow, with items to tick off. There are almost unlimited ways to explore what works for you.

To get into experimenting, be prepared to try new and different things, to break out of old habits and create new ones. Perhaps you may return to some things you’ve done before that have fallen off your agenda? Maybe you’ll head down some avenues that aren’t right for you, helping you discover the correct boulevard over time.

Be ready for it to feel awkward and sticky. When that feeling comes, don’t step back, or try to circumnavigate it. Walk directly into it, embrace it. That feeling happens just before growth, in the moments before you learn what you really need. Learn to embrace it and one day you may even love it!

Here’s a little extract from my conversation with Olympic Performance Psychologist Dr Kate Goodger – a great listen! Click here to listen to the full episode.

“So that concept of acceptance, I think, is equally powerful alongside choice to enable people to have that joy. So there are simple concepts that we can rely on and practice every day, and the emphasis really is on the idea of practice. So identify the choices and practice making those choices and considering the consequences, but then also practicing that skill of acceptance, of being in the moment right now, what is happening for me? What can I change? What can’t I. Where should I put my energy? Where am I just losing energy or wasting it? I’m going to stick it in the bucket right now.

THE WORKJOY FORMULAE

There is no prescribed set of steps or ‘you must do this’ in the WorkJoy toolkit. It’s an approach that you can apply to your thinking and your actions. Essentially, there are two formulae you can use: a passive WorkJoy formula and a more active one. Let’s look at each in turn.

Passive WorkJoy formula

WorkJoy = WorkJoy moments – WorkGloom moments

The passive WorkJoy formula is the balance of the joyful moments in your life versus the gloomy moments in any given period, taking note of both the volume and the vigour of each moment:

  • Volume is the number of times something happens and the regularity.
  • Vigour is the size and impact of the moment.

When something tiny happens very regularly, it can bring you brilliant amounts of WorkJoy or land you in the pit of WorkGloom. This formula can also mean that one big thing, even if it only happens once, can have the same captivating or crushing impact.

In this passive formula, if you can reduce the gloom and build the joy moments, you will likely feel more WorkJoy. It is a good place to begin to better understand your sources of WorkJoy and WorkGloom – a solid foundation of understanding for you to build upon.

FREE DOWNLOAD

To understand your WorkJoy and WorkGloom better, you can take the free ‘WorkJoy – Where Do You Get Yours?’ experiment right here.

Active WorkJoy formula

Once you understand where you get your WorkJoy and WorkGloom from, try this active formula to create greater impact through the choices you make and the actions you take. It focuses on utilising the Engagement, Energy, and Experimentation approach and applying it with intent in two different directions:

WorkJoy = (EEE x cultivating WorkJoy) + (EEE x reframing WorkGloom)

If you work with this formula, you’re likely to experience transformation in the way you think, feel, and act when working (watch out for the massive impact it will have on your life beyond work too!). 

Although you do need to pay attention to both ends of the formula, it does not need to be in equal balance. Your brain is naturally drawn to the dark side due to negativity bias. There’s good reason for this – it helps protect you and keep you safe from harm. It can also lead to getting lost in your own head, making mountains where molehills once stood, focusing on the worst-case scenario and catastrophizing about the smallest things.

There will always be some gloom that you cannot solve. It takes investment to cultivate WorkJoy, so intentionally place a greater percentage of your Engagement, Energy, and Experimentation on the joyful side. You’ll likely find that the gloom seems to reduce in impact as you align to a joyful mindset.

NEXT STEPS: DECIDE WHAT LEVEL OF ACTION YOU’RE READY FOR

Now you know that WorkJoy isn’t a destination: it’s a spectrum, a mindset, a series of choices, a way of living, if you will. But (as we learned from the verb definition) it does take doing. My question to you is, what level of doing do you feel ready and capable of, right now?  

Just a little bit:
Why not grab yourself a copy of my book WorkJoy: a toolkit for a better working life. It’s like a WorkJoy curriculum you can work through entirely at your own pace. 

Or, just follow me on Instagram. Easy peasy.

Maybe a little bit more:
My WorkJoy Jam podcast archive is full of guests chatting about goals, motivation, limiting beliefs, habits and more. Think of it like absorbing WorkJoy by osmosis.

My WorkJoy Jam podcast archive is full of guests chatting about goals, motivation, limiting beliefs, habits and more. A great way to stay motivated. 

Alternatively, if you need to banish chronic WorkGloom before you can even think about bringing WorkJoy into your life, try my 21-day GloomBusters audio guide. A five-minute audio pops into your WhatsApp every day for three weeks. Highly do-able. pops a five-minute audio into your WhatsApp every day for three weeks. Highly do-able. 

Or simply book a 1-1 coaching call with me.

SPREAD THE WORKJOY

Know someone who’s struggling to find their WorkJoy sweet spot right now? Pop this guide into their inbox…and maybe buy them a coffee to go with ☕

Cover Photo by  Toni Pomar on Unsplash

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