Last week was about as good as it gets at work. On Tuesday, we had a brief visit from our local zoo and had a chance to hold baby animals. On Wednesday, we volunteered as a team at a local community center. On Thursday, we hosted the semi-final round of our indoor golf tournament. All the while, we were productive, engaged, and meeting or exceeding our goals. Needless to say, I was a happy camper. Even if I stripped away the fun trips and baby animals, there are some core reasons why I’m happy at work.

1) Family comes first – The culture of the team I am on is that the work will get done and we take care of our families first. This means that I eat breakfast and dinner with my family every day. I’m learning not to stress out about 15 minutes here and there, because those 15 minutes with my family matter more in the long run than 15 more minutes at my desk. This also means that I respect the circumstances of my team members and peers. A sick kid – take care of him. Parent-teacher conferences – be there.

2) We know and care for one another – I consider my peers, team members and leaders my friends. So much so that most of us are connected on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. We understand that there is more to us than our work life. We know what football teams people cheer for, what sports their kids play and how they spend their free time. This creates a level of trust and connection that goes beyond our 8 hours together each day.

3) Continuing education is supported – Over the 8 years I’ve been at my company, I have identified training and courses that would help me gain new skills and increase my business acumen. This type of training has been encouraged. On my team, there are individuals who are fully supported so they can finish their bachelor’s degrees and others have completed masters degrees with company support.

4) Arbitrary rules are becoming extinct – Even though I work in a very traditional company, many of the archaic and arbitrary rules are going away. Exhibit #1 is that we can wear jeans everyday. This might seem like something small for those of you working at a startup or in Silicon Valley, but for a midwestern financial services company, this is a big deal. And guess what? Productivity hasn’t slipped. Compare this to the company of someone I know who is required to wear a full suit every day, even though he never has a client-facing interaction. The thought of that dry cleaning bill is enough to make me cringe. In addition to the jeans, office doors are open, leaders are approachable, and executives have lunch in the cafeteria next to everyone else.

5) I am able to do things beyond my role that align to my passions – You often hear about Google’s 10% or Zappos’ Holacracy where associates can pursue their passion for the betterment of the company. While you won’t find associates painting a mural in conference rooms at my company, you will find them facilitating development courses and leading community volunteer efforts. I lead the 3,500 member Women’s Associate Resource Group. As someone who has gravitated toward elected leadership roles throughout my education and career, it felt natural for me to serve in this capacity. I am personally enriched because I am able to bring this passion to my workplace.

BONUS: My spouse values my professional goals and shares the load – This is probably one of the main reasons I am happy as a professional. My husband not only values my professional drive, but also has a great deal of flexibility with his employer to take over when I have a business trip, training class, or early morning meeting. His job is equally as important as mine and we have found ways to support one another. This is the trend we need to support for the happiness of all of our associates. We can’t expect mothers to take care of all of the doctor’s appointments and sick days. We have to let fathers know that they can and should play this role, too.

Here is one of my favorite pieces of evidence that we are all in this together:


You can read hundreds of studies about employee engagement or pay a consultant thousands of dollars to help you figure this out for your company, but for now, ask yourself the following questions.

About your organization or business unit:

  • What arbitrary rules are still in place that could go away tomorrow?
  • How well do your associates know one another?
  • How flexible is your work environment?
  • What opportunities exist for people to stretch themselves beyond their job responsibilities?
  • How do you ensure mothers and fathers in your company are able to share parenting responsibilities?

About you as an employee:

  • What rules have you imposed on yourself because you *think* you should be following them?
  • How do you bring your passions and gifts to life at work?
  • What are you doing to go above and beyond your job description?
  • How do you ask for help at home?

What action are you going to take today to be happier at work?



Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.

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