After the emotional roller coaster of 2020, whether you’re working remotely or slowly inching back into the office, it might be challenging to bring your best self to work. Months into the COVID-19 outbreak, a study found that the mental health of almost 42% of respondents declined since the COVID-19 outbreak. Even before COVID-19, the World Health Organization officially recognized burnout as an occupational phenomenon

Although it is unrealistic to think everyone can be positive all the time, it makes work a lot easier to have a positive attitude. If you’re struggling to adapt in the current climate, you’re not alone. Understanding what makes for a negative attitude is the first step. These 10 tips will help you with positive thinking in the workplace. 

Preview of positive thinking in the workplace tips

Tip #1: Report problems quickly and professionally

As fun as commiserating with co-workers can be, complaining can quickly become counterproductive. If you have specific problems that make you dread your work, speak with your manager or HR partner. Approach these conversations not only with complaints, but also with proposed solutions that can work for everyone. And try to stay patient; change doesn’t happen overnight. However, serious issues like harassment and inequity should be handled swiftly by your employer.

Tip #2: Treat your coworkers with respect

The office isn’t the set of a game show to find your next best friend, but building positive relationships with coworkers will help you keep a positive mindset. To maintain cordial relationships with your colleagues see things from your coworkers’ perspective, treat them how you’d like to be treated, and give them the benefit of the doubt. If you’re really at an impasse, try to limit the amount you interact with that person by moving desks or, in extreme cases, changing teams. 

Tip #3: Get enough sleep

Stress (like a global pandemic) is a major factor in our ability — or inability — to get enough restorative sleep, which is key in bringing our best selves to work. When you’re short on sleep, every annoyance, big or small, creates frustration. You’re more likely to be in a good mood and have a clear mind if you get enough sleep, period. Eight hours of sleep a night can do wonders for staying calm and positive at work. 

Tip #4: Identify negative thoughts

The more self-awareness you bring to your thoughts, words, and actions, the easier it is to identify times stressors like doubting your abilities or getting annoyed by simple tasks. As you reflect on your thoughts and behaviors, ask yourself how these might refer to a negative thought cycle. Try to replace negative words with positive ones when they come up. You can’t change every negative emotion you have, but overcoming a bleak outlook starts with bringing awareness to these emotions.

Tip #5: Work on your overall stress level

Our attitudes at work often can carry over from what we’re going through at home. If you’re stressed about your personal life, it’s understandably hard to maintain a positive attitude at work. The opposite is true as well — if work puts you in a bad mood, it is easy to take that stress home. Look at your overall stress levels at work and home to identify the things in your life that make it hard to have a positive attitude. A holistic approach to understanding your stress can help you start to enjoy your job (and home life) more.

Here are four tips to lower your stress throughout the work day:

  1. Step away: Stand up from your desk and take a walk away (outside!) from your computer when possible.
  2. Deep breathing: Mindful breathing tricks your body into calming down when adrenaline spikes.
  3. Schedule your day for energy and focus: Daily routines where we know what to expect throughout the day help our bodies manage stress.
  4. Advocate for more support: if your stress level persists, talk to your manager about delegating tasks or reprioritizing projects. 

Tip #6: Work toward a new job

Once you’ve taken all the steps you can to reduce workplace stress and you still find that you’re struggling to see the bright side of your work, it may be time for something new. Look for a new employer that prioritizes employee wellbeing, health, and satisfaction. Or, if it’s a new industry or role you’re after, enroll in courses to build skills that will help you change your career. 

Tip #7: Set goals

It can be tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re feeling overwhelmed at work. One of the best ways to maintain a positive attitude is to set some realistic and challenging goals. Goals are the proof you have a plan, and you’re working towards something. Don’t worry if you don’t meet every single goal. Goals are in place to help you reach for the stars, but you can always adjust goals that no longer fit your needs.

Tip #8: Alter your responsibilities

Is there a work task you dread? It could be worth talking to your manager about lessening the load or having it taken off your plate entirely. It never hurts to ask, as long as you do so respectfully.

Tip #9: Smile!

As triggering as it can be to be told to ‘smile,’ it does have mood-boosting effects. We don’t always “feel” the emotion we want. Sitting around waiting for the emotion to happen is a sure way to make yourself miserable. Sometimes, we just have to fake a good mood until the real deal arrives. More often than not, the real emotion will show up. 

Tip #10: Remember that a job is just a job

Your job does not define you. Yes, it would be great to have a job you enjoy and you should work towards that. But in the meantime, you don’t have to feel pessimistic about your situation. Most people have had at least one or two jobs they didn’t like before finding a job that’s a better fit. Your job is only one part of your life. So stay as positive as possible and remember that these negative feelings won’t last forever.

Take a deep breath

Many factors contribute to workplace stress, especially right now as so many of us navigate working during a pandemic. Our 2021 Workplace Learning Trends Report can help discover other skills and attitudes vital to success in the modern workplace.