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Seven Ways to Make Your Job More Fun

By Marty Nemko

Stressed out at work? Try these antidotes

By Marty Nemko

Let’s face it: Many employers’ efforts to inject fun into the workplace are feeble: Serve birthday cake? Allow workers to throw Frisbees? Keep the break room fridge stocked with soda? Gimme a break.

While the following ideas may not turn your workplace into a barrel of laughs, they’re more likely than the company picnic to make your worklife more pleasant.

Telecommute: Sometimes, an answer is to just get the hell out of there. Would you enjoy playing tennis with friends during the day? Rolling on the floor with Fido? Watching daytime soaps or CNBC’s stock ticker? Yet could still manage to get your work done? Pitch your boss on telecommuting and if he resists, offer to go on a short leash; for example, agree to submit twice-a-day work progress reports. Tip: If you’d enjoy working in the buff, do not agree to a WebCam leash.

Propose a special project: Examples: Love to travel? Propose doing a feasibility study on opening a branch in Hawaii. (Site visits essential, of course.) Love to talk with people? Offer to create a collection of how-to-succeed-at-work tips and tricks derived from interviewing employees in the company and maybe even at your competitors.

Become the House Mentor: Let it be known that you enjoy mentoring people. You’ll likely find yourself with at least one or two people who’d appreciate having someone with whom to hash out work problems. You might even end up cross-mentoring.

Tweak your job description. Do you like some aspects of your job and hate others? See if you can trade tasks with a co-worker. Your drudgery might be another’s relaxation; your weakness, another’s métier. For example, I know a lawyer who loved holding forth in a courtroom but couldn’t stand the detailed research work. He found another lawyer in the firm who felt the opposite, whereupon they agreed that, where possible, they’d trade work.

Make your workspace feel more like home. Want to put an oriental rug under your desk? Your favorite small painting on your cube wall? An aromatherapy zen fountain on your desk? All accompanied by your favorite soft music? And to make your workplace even more like home, might your boss allow you to bring in a fish tank, hamster, or even the aforementioned Fido? (Leave the fleas home.)

Use at-your-desk stress busters. Just a minute of slow, deep breaths, or tightening and loosening sets of muscles from neck to feet can reenergize you. Or try a five-minute at-your-desk yoga session:

Make a close friend. Find someone--ideally your boss--with whom you can become close. That can take the edge off work stresses. Ask your potential bud out to lunch and talk about things more intimate than the ballgame score--everyone has important hopes, dreams, and fears. Unearth those and share your own, and you’re halfway to developing the sort of intimate relationship that can soften the edges of even the hardest workplace.

Does work still suck? Maybe it’s time to look for a better job? For advice on how to best do that see

The San Francisco Bay Guardian named Marty Nemko “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach.” His book, Cool Careers for Dummies (brand new 3rd edition) was rated, in a Readers Choice Poll, the #1 most useful career guide. He is Contributing Editor for Careers at U.S. News & World Report. 500+ of his published articles are free at

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