Making Work Personal: How to Create Little Joys in Your Workday

After years of the seemingly never-ending carousel of crises in higher ed, have you taken the time to find joy in the daily tasks at work?

By: Lauren Nihill

In today’s post-COVID workplace, I think it’s more important than ever to find something we enjoy about our careers and to find joy in work through everyday tasks. People have been through a lot, and higher ed is still trying to navigate this very strange time during which work isn’t defined in the same terms that it used to be. 

As most professionals know who work in the field, social media is a group effort. I have been brought onto the social media team at Drexel University a few different times to write content, plan content, capture photos and manage posts. 

I understand the workload involved, and I always try to help the main manager. If they need me to take photos, internally, I’m jumping for joy. I enjoy photography, and these tasks give me a chance to work on my skills and develop them further. 

I have an affinity for taking pictures and framing, but I also love editing them afterward in all sorts of photo apps, applying filters, making slight adjustments and adding effects. Photography has always been a medium to express myself, and I prefer when the photos are interesting. More importantly, I make it a point to include photography with my regular job duties to ensure I stay centered. 

My favorite time of year is when students break out their tents along Lancaster Walk. They’re carving out a little moment of peace and relaxation for themselves in the chaotic, bustling city.

In early spring, I found myself strolling through campus trying to capture the moments that were the most captivating and spoke to me. When I was younger, my mom and I would sit and people-watch, so I’m naturally inclined to observe people in situations. I always wonder what a person is thinking or where they are going in such a rush. 

Lauren Nihill finds joy in work by taking pictures for the university's social media accounts.

Drexel University students set up tents and hammocks in early spring to relax.

Listening to music through my headphones puts me in my own little world and allows me to block out and focus on the task at hand. That day’s music selection was Elijah Nang’s “Nang Soul, Vol. 1.” I had been tasked with taking pictures for social media of “students doing something” or “students in the background.” It was not much direction, but just enough to spark my creativity when looking for interesting subjects to capture. 

People in higher ed, especially, understand what it means to wear many hats and be strapped for time and resources. It’s a constant battle in our world, but I’ve seen many of my coworkers express themselves creatively or offer their hidden talents as part of their job, and it delights me to notice these tiny details. 

While working on our website’s content management system, I noticed that my colleague, Steven Deniscevicz, included photos of his pets. I enjoyed this and asked him why he chose to do so.

“I think surviving any job long-term requires you to bring some of yourself to the role,” said Denisevicz. 

Steven Denisevicz’s pets, Lily and Esther, are given top billing in Drexel University’s training material.

Steven’s daily tasks as the instructional designer for university marketing and communications at Drexel require him to write and upkeep the documentation, perform multiple trainings each week, and help the web community at Drexel grow and flourish. 

“A lot of that work though is me staring at the blank page trying to explain complex topics to our users,” said Denisevicz. “That, in itself, is an interesting challenge but can get tiring if long stretches of work are required.”

It is in these moments that Steven brings pieces of himself, such as his humor and love of silly pet and animal photos, into the mix.

“Instead of using the same old dull marketing campaign photos for my documentation and trainings I use photos of my dogs Lily and Esther, along with various animal and location photography I’ve taken over the past decade to demonstrate various pieces of the web systems,” he said. “These photos make it fun for me to access and modify the knowledge-base materials, and everyone who encounters the content will smile when they see the silly and cute photos all over the documentation.”

Steven believes doing so helps him to be more motivated and to allow the readers to not feel as stressed when trying to read through the documentation. Luckily for our team and our morale, he is not the only one of my colleagues to find ways to inject their passions into our daily tasks.

We recently went through a merger and started a Fun Planning Committee to get to know each other and build a team that works more effectively. We now hold a March Madness & Snacket competition for our colleagues, which has been highly successful. In past years, we included a summary each week for the March Madness, but this year our digital accessibility coordinator, Matt Mignogna, took it to a whole other level. 

“After every round concluded, I would send a little write-up of some of the matches to explain what had happened in a fun way,’ said Mignogna. “It was a creative and fun outlet to write at work—which is not normally required for my position—and a bunch of people remarked to me how much they enjoyed and were looking forward to future write-ups!”

These are just a few examples because there are so many people I work with who offer their talents as part of their day-to-day. Ultimately, these tiny gestures unite us and make working at Drexel a great experience for everyone, and when professional staff are happy that carries over to our overall work for the university.  

“Making work at Drexel fun and interesting is the first step to creating a good environment for our students, which should always be our focus no matter what role, job or department,” said Denisevicz.

Find something about your job that aligns you with what you truly love, and you’ll go far and learn a lot. A lot of us are overwhelmed most of the time and taking on a lot of responsibilities, but if you can carve out a little time in your day with something you enjoy it’s all the reason to keep going. 

Lauren Nihill

Lauren Nihill


Lauren S. Nihill, MBA is a digital content designer at Drexel University’s Office of University Marketing & Communications. She is also a guest lecturer on the topic of content marketing for undergraduate and graduate students at the LeBow College of Business. Her hobbies include photography, cooking and spending time with her family.

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