10 Practical Ways to Be Happier at Work

Advertising Is a Tough Job, but You Can Make It Easier.

Stress can be avoided
Stress can be avoided. Getty Images

If you work in advertising, marketing, public relations, design, or any other related field, you are in for a tough ride. Sure, these industries are not exactly the same as digging ditches in the rain, or working on a production line, but the downs can be just as stressful. You will experience:

  • Long hours, nights, and weekends, with no overtime pay.
  • Short deadlines that require clever solutions RIGHT NOW.
  • Conflicting direction from multiple peers and clients.
  • Backstabbing co-workers who take credit for your ideas.
  • Rumors and gossip that can be destructive and soul-destroying.
  • Being left in the office while others are off on photo and video shoots.
  • The constant worry of layoffs, especially if you lose an account.

It’s often said that advertising, in particular, is a young person’s game, for all of those reasons outlined above, and more. But whatever your age, you don’t have to be miserable…even when office life is conspiring to bring you down. Here are 10 things you can do, right now, to be happier at work.

1: Make Your Space More Relaxing or Comfortable

You may have your own office. You may have a cubicle, or even share a table with a few other people. Whatever your surroundings, you have the ability to make them more fun than they are right now (or, when you first moved in). From toys and puzzles, to posters, picture frames, and keepsakes from vacations, surround yourself with things that make you smile, or remember some great times.

2: Play Whenever You Can

You’ll notice many of the veteran writers and art directors in the agency keep toys and games nearby. From Lego and Play-Doh, to action figures, wooden puzzles, tennis balls, and even origami, they give themselves as many chances as possible to switch off and give their brains a rest.

This is not just for a simple break. In advertising, and any creative profession, you need to let your subconscious work on the problem. You will be way happier if you accept this, and give yourself permission to play from time to time. It’s not slacking off, it’s actually beneficial to the company. You may also want to ask about getting in a pool table, pinball machine, and a video game system.

3: Stop Worrying About Things Out of Your Control

In life, and at work, there are things that stress us out daily. Some things we can deal with. Others, we cannot. If you find yourself chewing your nails over the possibility of a layoff, a merger, an account loss, or a creative team winning all the awards, take a step back. Which of these problems can you do something about, and which are beyond your control? For instance, layoffs will happen. They are increasingly a part of corporate America. Be prepared, have your resume ready, and keep in contact with people who could be future employers. But don’t lose sleep over something that may or may not happen.

4: Concentrate on the Positives

Even the worst jobs have good things going for them. And let’s face it, if you’re sitting in a warm office, surrounded by intelligent people, working on TV spots and online buys, you don’t exactly have it rough.

But saying that, some days can get overwhelming. You can be on the receiving end of some soul-crushing feedback, or you may have to cancel plans to work late. When this happens, remember the good parts of the job; the people you like; the projects that are fun to work on. Put things in perspective, and move past the bad times.

5: Spend More Time With People Who Make You Happy

Most of the time, it’s interactions with certain people who bring us down. This is just human nature; some people rub each other the wrong way. So, do what you can to avoid those people, and instead find ways to spend time with the co-workers who make you laugh, inspire you, or make you think. You’ll be way happier.

6: Switch Off Completely When You Get Home

It’s not easy. Your phone is your connection to the world, and you can get emails and texts at midnight when you’re trying to get some sleep.

The ad business does not keep regular hours, but you will drive yourself nuts if you keep yourself tied to your work when you’re not in the office. Create boundaries. If you must do some work at home from time to time, do it in a specific spot. But the bedroom, the living room, the garden, these are places you should keep free from work, and you can use them as your escape.

7: Don’t Take on Too Much Work

A common problem when first starting out in advertising is the eagerness to please, and impress. You can find yourself taking every job thrown in your direction, simply because you want to make a name for yourself. Well, think carefully before you say yes. You will not do yourself any favors by taking on too much work. You’ll either spend too little time on the project, which will show, or you will be working around the clock. There is no shame in saying no to work if you are genuinely busy.

8: Stay Organized

Stress can often come from organization issues. From missed deadlines, to poorly-handled scheduling and lost information, your organizational skills (or lack of them) can quickly lead to major headaches and misery. So, use technology to stay on top of everything. Take advantage of digital calendars and file storage. Have a system that includes methodical note-taking, and refer to it often. You can take a lot of the stress off yourself simply be being prepared.

9: Don’t Take Things Personally

This needs to be spray-painted on the walls of every company that is in the business of ideas. If someone says “oh, that is a terrible concept, what else have you got” they are not calling you terrible. It’s a bad idea, big deal. Everyone has them, and they often have to be put on paper before good ones come about. No one is saying you are bad at your job, or you’re a bad person, because of a bad idea. It’s just honesty. Sadly, there’s a lot of tiptoeing that can turn this into a long, drawn-out, unnecessary process. Hurt feelings should not be attached to ideas.

10: Remember: at the End of the Day, It’s Just a Job

People will instantly come back at that piece of advice with “yeah, but it’s a job that eats up most of your week, so it’s more than that.” Well, yes and no. Ideally, we'd all love to work at a job that makes us extremely fulfilled, and has us jumping out of bed with excitement on a Monday morning. But we don’t live in an ideal world. So, we do a job, and we do it to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothing on our backs. Be happy knowing you are employed (many people would kill to be in your position), and are providing for yourself and your family.