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Don’t Just Work Hard. Work Smart.

Unlock the secrets to being happier and more productive at work by combining these career lessons from around the world. No major switch-ups required, promise!

For many of us, the grass is always greener on the other side. In 2014, a survey of employees by global HR services company Randstad found that Singapore’s workforce was one of the most dissatisfied in the region, falling second only to Japan in the entire Asia Pacific. The problem? Slightly less than half of us don’t see our current positions as the “perfect job”, while 75 percent of us see our professions as nothing more than a means to make a living.

Given that most of us spend at least 40 hours a week working, this level of dissatisfaction seems unhealthy, to say the least. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that happier employees aren’t just more motivated, but more effective too. But rather than radically re-hauling our careers, perhaps the solution lies in revamping our mind sets, instead. At the end of the day, we should ask ourselves: do we truly hate our jobs, or are we simply caught up in a vicious cycle of complaining? To get off the demotivation train, we’ve sussed out the choicest work habits from seven countries around the world for you to apply right now.

 

The United States of America

In general, US work culture is lauded for its emphasis on creativity. But no other place makes creativity and ingenuity a greater priority than the tech companies of Silicon Valley, which are also purported to house some of the happiest workers in the world. From Google’s design-your-own-worktops to Yahoo’s motivational speaker series, workplace practices are engineered to cultivate employees’ imaginative and curious sides, leading.

Bring it home: You don’t have to wait for someone else to arrange for Marissa Mayer to give a speech in your office, especially when TEDTalks has a YouTube channel that’s full of inspiring ideas, just a mouse click away. Just set aside 10 minutes to relight your creative fire.

 

Australia

A 2014 study showed that three out of four Australians are satisfied at work. While there could be several explanations, one reason could very well be the Australian culture of authenticity that downplays hype and values forthrightness instead. Research from the University of Montreal suggests that there is a positive relationship between well-being and authenticity at the workplace. The more honest and open you are able to feel at work, the more meaning you derive from the hours between 9-5.

Bring it home: In theory, being honest and not sugar coating the bad news is simple, but it’s way harder to express yourself authentically in practice. First, assess your professional and personal images. What do people think of you? How would you like them to see you? From there, work towards aligning the two.

 

Sweden

Researchers at the Department of Economics in Sweden’s Göteborg University say that “the capacity to engage in lifelong learning has been crucial for Swedish workers for a long time.” The Swedish workforce is highly encouraged to continue their education well into adulthood, and classes range from those that help to develop work-related skills, to those that cultivate personal hobbies and interests.

Bring it home:  It’s pretty obvious how improving your communication or software skills can have a direct effect on your performance rating. But even taking a class in something that’s not related to your field of work can give your career a boost. Studies show that learning stimulates the brain and contributes to a general sense of competence, which means that even mastering the salsa can give you the confidence you need to hit that next sales target.

 

Spain

The Spanish aren’t too fond of mixing their business with pleasure – at least, not when it comes to food. Meals in Spain are taken seriously and the time is set aside to relax and get out of the office. But don’t mistake this devotion to lunch hour as slackitude – according to Professor John Trougakos at the University of Toronto, taking breaks are key to ensuring long-term productivity and avoiding burn-out.

Bring it home: Get strategic about your lunch hour. Schedule a mandatory “switch-off” period in the beginning of your day, and remember that lunching at your desk doesn’t count. For a complete decompression, take a few deep breaths before your meal to ease yourself into “break mode”, and resist the urge to check your e-mails and messages.

 

Norway

Another high-ranking country on the OECD Better Life Index, Norway has a work culture that’s typically characterised by a flat structure and empowered employees who have a high degree of autonomy and independence. But what does this have to do with work performance? Well, a study conducted at the California State University found that interesting, autonomous work didn’t just keep workers going in spite of fatigue, it actually replenished their energy and boosted their morale for upcoming tasks as well.

Bring it home: It can be hard to be free with freedoms when you’ve got key objectives to hit, but there are ways you can create the feeling of autonomy amongst your team while still holding onto the reigns. To increase motivation, experts suggest focusing on goals instead of the small things. In the words of Machiavelli, the ends justify the means; the how doesn’t matter as long as the job gets done.

 

Denmark

Danes rank as some of the happiest workers around. While this might be attributed to the amazing benefits Danish workers receive, it might also have to do with the fact that in Northern Europe, “a high level of job satisfaction goes hand in hand with the fact that people are well-matched for their position,” reports the Randstad Workmonitor. While a survey found that almost half the employed workforce around the world feels overqualified to do their jobs, only 28 percent of Danes agreed with this statement.

Bring it home: If your job isn’t challenging enough, don’t just sit around waiting for a juicier role to drop into your lap. It’s always possible to look for growth opportunities within your current job scope. For instance, instead of always working in the background, volunteer to spearhead a project. Challenges are where the rewards lie!

 

By Kit Chua, CLEO, February 2015

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